FONTE: CE - Brussels, 16.12.2005
1. The Learning Agreement is the indispensable basis for Erasmus recognition:
If it is accepted that appraisal of the student’s (academic) performance is made for the purpose of confirming that he has completed, or the extent to which he has completed, the agreed study programme and that Erasmus does not provide for any procedure whereby the study programme completed by an Erasmus student is evaluated for the purpose of granting academic recognition, then the role of the Learning Agreement becomes paramount in Erasmus recognition procedure.
It follows therefore that any properly undertaken Erasmus student mobility will be preceded by a Learning Agreement which has been accepted by the three participating parties: the Student, the Home and the Host institutions. In the interests of transparency, certainty and proper administration all Learning Agreements should be in writing and signed by all parties. This requirement is stated explicitly in the Socrates Guidelines referred to below.
It is possible to amend a Learning Agreement if circumstances require that changes be made, but any such changes must be formally agreed to and signed by the three participating parties.
2. Principle: There can be no breach of the Learning Agreement by the Home Institution:
In order to remove any doubt regarding the home university’s obligation to honour whatever has been agreed in the Learning Agreement, the first principle to be established is that there can be no breach of the agreement by the home university.
The basic obligations of the three parties to an Erasmus mobility may be seen as follows:
1. The student undertakes to follow and satisfactorily complete an agreed academic programme. Force majeure, eg onset of illness, may excuse the student’s failure to do so.
2. The host university undertakes to provide the student with agreed academic instruction and support. Force majeure, eg illness of a teacher, may excuse the host’s failure to do so.
3. The home university undertakes to give credit to the Erasmus student in a manner or amount specified in the Learning Agreement. It is difficult to see any circumstances which would excuse the home university’s refusal to implement its agreement with a compliant Erasmus student.
3. Requirements for the creation of a Learning Agreement:.
Clearly the detailed academic content of an LA is a matter to be agreed between the three parties concerned. However, if the mobility is to meet the Erasmus requirement of “full recognition” some Erasmus imperatives will need to be observed.
An integral part of the home study programme
The EUROPA – Education and training website states that the Erasmus study period is “an integral part of the programme of study at your home university”. This means that the academic programme specified in the learning agreement must include studies which can be integrated into the students home programme and thereby ensure the student’s progress toward his/her degree /diploma. The question is, does ensuring that the Erasmus period is an integral part of the home programme guarantee that there will be no loss of time or credit as a consequence of the mobility?
Replacing a comparable period of study
The Socrates Programme Guidelines(2004) for Applicants, pg 62 – Eligibility, states that full recognition implies that “…the home university is committed to ensuring that the period of study undertaken abroad … is recognised as replacing a comparable period of study … at the home university.” The ECTS User’s Guide (1995) – Chpt. C repeats that definition of full recognition. (Both sources refer to “full academic recognition”).
The effect of this requirement is that the student must undertake a volume of work while at the host university which is equivalent to the amount of work which would have been undertaken for the same period at the home university if the student had not gone on the Erasmus mobility. This requirement is further reinforced by the prohibition on a student undertaking a mobility on a part-time basis. If a student must be full-time while abroad then his/her workload should be at least equal to the workload at home.
The ‘no loss of progress’ principle:
The combination of the ‘integral part of the home study’ requirement with the ‘replacing a comparable period of study’ requirement seems to guarantee that there can be no loss of time or credit as a consequence of the Erasmus mobility. This may be stated as a general ‘no loss of progress’ principle as follows:
An Erasmus student shall not suffer any loss of progress toward the achievement of the degree or diploma being pursued at the home university, in terms of time lost, credit lost or in any other way, as a consequence of satisfactorily completing an Erasmus mobility period.
There would be no objection to additional studies or activities being undertaken as long as these did not impinge on the completion of an ‘equivalent workload’ or the achievement of .equivalent credit.
4. Erasmus Recognition requirements and the Learning Agreement
An Erasmus Learning Agreement should include as a minimum a study programme that will ensure that the Erasmus period is both an integral part of the home programme and sufficiently comprehensive to ensure no loss of progress toward the achievement of the degree or diploma for which the student is studying at the home university.
Studies/ activities undertaken by an Erasmus student which do not contribute toward progress to the home degree or diploma should be included in the student’s transcript of studies with credit value noted as appropriate, but are not relevant to the recognition of the Erasmus mobility period.
It is clear that there is sometimes substantial divergence between the theory of Erasmus recognition and the practice of Erasmus recognition. It is equally clear that the solution to the problem lies in the construction and implementation of the Learning Agreement. In order to solve the problem, it is necessary introduce a rigorous programme that ensures that
1 Before the study period commences:
A clear, comprehensive individual learning agreement is put in place before any Erasmus mobility commences. The content of the learning agreement may be modified after the student arrives at the host institution if circumstances justify this, but any modification must be formally agreed by all three parties involved (Home, Host & Student), and be properly recorded. The initial learning agreement must be put in place before the student leaves the home university.
2. After the student returns home:
There are no grounds which justify a home institution’s non compliance with a Learning Agreement, which means that there can be no loss of progress toward the home degree/ diploma, for a student who has completed an Erasmus mobility satisfactorily.
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