Globalization and Higher Education Organization in Romania

Subject: Globalization
Pages: 8
Words: 2421
Reading time:
9 min
Study level: PhD

The globalization process has affected every facet of today’s social lives including politics, culture, economy and education in Romania. Effect of globalization in Romanian education can be seen by the changes that the Bologna Accord brought to its higher education systems. This Accord was meant to create a European Higher Education Area through making academic degree quality and standards relatively compatible and comparable throughout Europe. In creating this compatibility of academic degrees, some organizational changes had to be done in the Higher Education institutions. According to Vaira (2004), the impact of these changes on Higher Education institutions is ambiguous and open to divergent and different interpretations in relation to the globalized and globalizing age (p. 483). Among these interpretations are the convergence and the divergence theses. This paper discusses and analyzes Vaira’s arguments in light of higher education in Romania.

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Introduction

Bergan (2007) asserts that the beginning of the twenty-first century witnessed a flurry of activities in academia as a result of globalization and harmonization of institutes of higher learning in Europe (p. 127). This period saw seminars after seminars being conducted to examine the potential impacts of globalization on higher education and how the European education system can be harmonized to accommodate any of their students. It is in this period of time that the Bologna Declaration (1999) was signed by a number of ministers in charge of higher education of twenty-nine European countries. According to Silova (2005), this declaration was meant to create a European Higher Education Area through making academic degree quality and standards relatively compatible and comparable throughout Europe (p. 41).

In Vaira (2004) opinion, the formation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) entailed a number of Higher Education institutions organizational changes (p. 483). In respect to Romania, the impacts of these changes are ambiguous and open to different types of interpretations when viewed in reference to globalized and globalizing age. This paper discusses and analyzes Vaira’s arguments in light of higher education organization in Romania.

Arguments Presented by Vaira

Vaira (2004) outlines a theoretical framework of addressing Higher Education organizational change in the globalized and globalizing age. In this framework, he describes the trends that define the global landscape and their relationship with Higher Education institutions and policies (p. 483). This further assumes that even though the global landscape trends are soundly known, their impacts on Higher Education institutions are to a given extent ambiguous and susceptible to various forms of interpretations. He singles out two interpretations; the convergence and the divergence theses interpretations of the outcomes of globalization. The convergence thesis emphasizes the homogenization processes whereas the divergence thesis puts an emphasis on different, pluralistic, and localizes reactions to the process of globalization.

Globalized and Globalizing Age

The globalized and globalizing age in Vaira (2004) is described as the contemporary state of today’s world in which all the facets of life have been influenced by the globalization process (p. 483). Lechner and Boli (2004) refer to globalization as the specific path that the world has followed in the direction to becoming singular (p. 98). Bradley et al., (2000) on the other hand perceives globalization as a meta-myth that brings together an assemblage of other myths that are associated with it (p. 56). This meta-myth is often used at economic, political, cultural, and day-to-day life, to make meaning of the various social transformations and taking action in accordance to globalization.

In this respect, globalization can be defined as an institutionalized cultural account that describes reality, structures the way actors and institutions operate, and makes sense about how the world works (Fairclough, 2006, p. 65).

Vaira (2004) argues that the concept and idea of globalization is multifaceted and contentious in that there is no neat and univocal definition of its fundamental contents, features and outcomes (p. 484). This scholar further pinpoints that the debate on globalization is structured around two major streams of thought; the convergence and divergence theses. The convergence thesis places an emphasis on the progressive and ineluctable trend of globalization towards homogeneity. This thesis is founded on the linear, top-down and deterministic causal explanation. The divergence thesis on the other hand, emphasizes the heterogeneity of the effects of globalization and its outcomes at the local level that is national, regional, and organizational.

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Vaira (2004) claims that attempts have been made to reconcile these two opposing points of view by blending the global tendencies together with the local responses (p. 485). This blending has been achieved through introducing recent concepts like glocal, glonacal, and vernacular globalization. These three concepts in this scholar’s perspective, all agree that globalization is the main structural feature of the present-day world and that its discourse has affected every aspect of higher education. The governance, policy-making, academic work, and identity aspect of higher education has been affected by globalization making the relationship between higher education and globalization acuter and perplexing.

Vaira (2004) asserts that a number of higher education institutions are witnessing a process of deep institutional changes involving de-institutionalization of their rooted value frameworks and policies and institutionalization of new ones. This has been motivated by globalization.

Arguments of Convergence and Divergence

The argument of convergence thesis places an emphasis on the progressive and ineluctable trend towards homogenization; economic, cultural, and political aspect of globalization (Vaira, 2004, p. 483). This thesis is based on a linear, top-down and deterministic causal explanation. This theory further asserts that institutions of higher education are facing growing institutional pressures to incorporate new legitimated and legitimating criterions. This precious to conform to globalization demands is mainly enacted by international organizations like the World Bank and IMF who usually bind their financial loans to the conformity they require.

The divergence thesis on the other hand emphasizes the heterogeneity of globalization effects and its outcomes on the local level comprising of the national, organizational, and regional (Vaira, 2004, p. 483). This point of view criticizes the convergence theory as being flawed since it emphasizes on a top-down and macro-process explanation of globalization as coming from above.

Analysis of Reforms in the Romanian Structure of the Degrees after the Bologna Process

According to Garben (2011), the Bologna Process had an overarching aim of forming the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) based on an international collaboration and academic exchanges that are attractive to European students and staff (p. 235). Hardman & Green (2011) define the Bologna process as a European-wide attempt initiative to rationalize higher education by developing a means of promoting mutual recognition of qualifications and facilitating the mobility of students and staff across higher education institutions (p. 195).

This Accord was signed by ministers in charge of higher education from over twenty nine European countries but is now driven by forty six countries. According to Veronesi and Nickenig (2009), this Accord had six main objectives (p. 194). These objectives are: the adoption of an easily readable and comparable degree system, the adoption of an education system that is essentially based on two cycles which are undergraduate and graduate, the establishment of a system of credits, the promotion of mobility by removing the obstacles to students, researchers, and teacher’s free movement, the promotion of an European co-operation in quality assurance, and the encouragement of essential European higher education perspective.

In order to achieve the European Higher Education Area, the member nations were required to make several changes in the higher Education system. According to Matei (2000), Romania made tremendous adjustments by reorganizing its entire education systems as it moved towards achieving the European Higher Education Area (p. 50). These tremendous adjustments led to the establishment of a new education structure, which was accepted in 2003 by National Rectors Council. After the approval, it was released at a Declaration of National Higher Education Conference in the same year.

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In Matei’s (2000) perspective, this new legislation stipulated the restructuring of the university studies in agreement with the demands made by the Bologna declaration in three main cycles (p. 56). These three cycles were the Bachelor or undergraduate, Master or MS, and Doctoral or PhD levels.

Vaira (2004) perceives the concept and idea of globalization to be multifaceted and contentious in the view of the fact that there is no neat and univocal definition of its fundamental contents, features and outcomes (p. 484). The effect of globalization in Romania higher education systems can be explained using two streams of thought; the convergence and divergence theses. The convergence assumes that the effects of globalization on higher education follows a linear, top-down and deterministic causal explanation. In this thesis it is understood that coercive pressure from the top is used to bring about the changes in the Education system. The divergence thesis on the other hand asserts that changes in the institutions of higher education does not come from top-down but are also influenced by other local responses.

Actual Change In the Romanian Structure of Degrees

According to Nistor (2008) the changes in the Romanian higher education structure were done to reflect the demands of the Bologna Declaration (p. 67). These changes began by the implementation of a new legislation which started with the 2005/2006 generation of students studying in the Romanian institutes of higher learning. These students received short-term higher education that consisted of 180 ECTS taking three years, and then obtained a long-term higher education, that consisted of 240 to 360 ECTS and took four to six years.

After completing the long-term higher education, the students could receive an engineer diploma or “diploma de inginer” which consists of 180 ECTS taking three years. Students could also receive an architect diploma or “diploma de architect” which consists of 360 ECTS taking three years. Nistor (2008) asserts that students could alternatively receive a bachelor diploma in other fields (p. 67). This bachelor diploma or “diploma de licenta” consisted of 240 to 360 ECTS and took four to six years. In most instances, the first stage of the higher education was followed by an advanced studies program that consisted of sixty to ninety ECTS in a similar field as the diploma acquired at the end of the long-term higher education. These advanced study programs were to provide the students a diploma for higher studies also known as “diploma de studii aprofundate”.

After signing the Bologna Process the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral education received tremendous changes. According to Horner (2007) the first change was reflected in the undergraduate education when it was changed to provide two types of programs which are short-term and long-tem university programs (p. 125). The short-term university education takes two to three years and is provided by the university colleges. These short term courses are finalized by the awarding of a diploma certifying the completion of studies at the specified college and the passing of the relevant related examinations. In respect to the Education Law applicable in Romania, graduates of these short courses are allowed carry on with their learning to the long-term university education. The long-term university education course takes between four to six years and is finalized by the issuance of a university diploma that is equivalent to a first degree.

From the Undergraduate education level the student’s moves to the graduate education level. The graduate education offers specialization alternatives or an extension of the progress that was provided in the short-term and long-term undergraduate courses. The graduate study programs include an advanced study which takes one to two years and are finalized by the award of a degree diploma. Graduate education also includes master studies which takes one to two years for thee university graduates. Graduate academic studies are also included in graduate education in which case the students can take two to three years in them.

The last level is the doctoral studies which is offered by research institutes and universities and takes four to six years. The aspect of creating a European Higher Education Area has enabled the provision of the university degree courses in Romania in foreign languages.

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Direction of the Change

According to Froment (2006), a number of debates have arisen concerning the main changes that need to take place inside universities and other institutions of higher education in order to create the European Higher Education Area (p. 2). In Romania, the topics in these debates have been majorly on university autonomy, new forms of responsibility towards society and recent forms of transparency towards stakeholders. Froment (2006) argues that Romanian universities have been seeking to adopt the harmonization of their structures that have been proposed by the Bologna declaration while at the same time trying to maintain their identity and avoiding excessive standardization (p. 2).

The universities in Romania were hesitant to initiate the process of harmonization of their educational structures to be in line with the Bologna declaration requirements. According to Blommaert (2010), these hesitations were experienced due to numerous internal indecisions concerning the beginning of this harmonization process at the ministry and the National Rector’s Conference levels (p. 34). These hesitations delayed the implementation of the Bologna process.

In relation to Vaira (2004), the harmonization and organizational change to create a European Higher Education Area in Europe follows the convergence theses approach in which thee change was top-bottom. This change emanated from the European Union, to the Romanian ministry of Education, the National Rector’s Conference and then to the universities (Fenyvesi, 2005, p. 45). The hesitation that was experienced at the beginning when the Bologna Declaration was being implemented was removed by coercive power from the European Union and the Romanian ministry of Education.

Conclusion

In conclusion the Bologna Process had an overarching endeavor of making a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) based on international collaboration and academic exchanges that are attractive to European students and staff. In order to achieve the European Higher Education Area the European nations including Romania, were required to make several changes in their higher Education systems and institutions. Romania in a bid to comply with the demands of this requirement made significant changes by reorganizing its entire education systems by introducing a four year undergraduate, a two year postgraduate, and a two year doctorate education system. These chances also involved the implementation of a multilingual culture in the higher learning institutions so that international students can be easily absorbed. These changes were in line with the harmonization effect on the European education system and in line with the globalization that marked the globalized and globalizing age. The changes in this respect were from top-bottom and emanated from the European Union, to the Romanian ministry of Education, the National Rector’s Conference and then to the universities.

References

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