Introduction. Background. Social Work in Europe. Volume 5 Number 3

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1 12 The Development of the MACESS Post-graduate Programme for the Social Professions in Europe: The Hogeschool Maastricht/ University of North London Experience Sue Lawrence and Nol Reverda The authors are co-directors of the European Institute of Comparative Social Studies, University of North London. Introduction The direct and indirect outcomes of the ERASMUS programme (1987 to 1996) for the social professions were debated at a conference held in Koblenz in July, (Seibel & Lorenz, 1998). The main findings included reference to initiatives which have resulted from curriculum development funding, which were identified as being grouped into three main types: the first grouping described was where comparative material had been incorporated into existing courses; the second group identified was where whole modules with a European focus were developed to be included into existing course frameworks; and finally, a group of complete courses were identified, which were built upon and around a European focus. This third group of specialised programmes was found to be mainly at postgraduate or post qualifying level. In this context, a Masters Programme in Comparative European Social Studies (MACESS) developed by the Hogeschool Maastricht and validated by the University of North London was given as an example (Seibel & Lorenz, p.140). Discussion amongst providers of European Dimension courses and programmes continued at the ECSPRESS (Socrates Thematic Network) seminar in Italy in 1997 (Bradley & Firth, 1998). Common social problems in Europe, (e.g. poverty, social exclusion, racism, etc.) and the diversity of responses of social professional educators to such issues are always prominent items in such fora. In this paper, the authors will chart the development of the MACESS programme which has just entered its fifth academic year and discuss some of the ways in which the structure and content of the programme has responded to these important issues and debates within the context of diversity. Background The Erasmus Network ICP 2055/14 began in 1991 with six co-operating institutes from Belgium, France, Germany and the UK, co-ordinated by the Hogeschool Maastricht in The Netherlands. In the early years of the network, lecturers exchanged ideas and information about their different systems of higher education, the structure and content of their courses, particular forms of student supervision and the structure of the social professions in their countries. This intercultural sharing and exchange took place with a view to promoting and supporting student mobility amongst a group of representatives from those institutes who were committed to the ideals, philosophy and objectives of a more united Europe (Reverda p. 239). The richness and diversity, both cultural and professional, within the Erasmus network coordinating group, and the expanded awareness and knowledge gained by the students who took part in the initial exchanges, demonstrated further possibilities which needed to be explored. In order to facilitate this process, various strategies were employed, e.g.: time was set aside at network meetings for delegates to give presentations outlining the main focus and features of their institution and the social professional education and training programmes offered; the venue for network meetings was rotated in order that delegates could visit as many of the member institutions as possible; delegates were encouraged, wherever practicable, to visit their exchange students in their host agency to gain first-hand experience of practice agencies in that country; optional social programmes were constructed during two day network meetings to enable delegates to share cultural visits and experiences and build up trust and confidence amongst the network membership. Building on this shared experience, with a growing appreciation of the cultural identity and context of their countries and valuing their different cultural heritages and backgrounds, the group members began to understand the applications and impact of

2 13 different styles, structures, ideologies and histories of the social professions of the European countries involved. Within this context, group members were constantly striving to learn where the areas of cooperation and common interest existed or could be created in order to share both the commonality and diversity of their experience. The development of the group demonstrated that despite the fact that their professions had been structured differently within their various countries, their common ground lay in a commitment to develop the European dimension for the social professions. In that commonality they appreciated and understood that insights into social issues could be deepened by applying such a cross-cultural perspective. Course development The task was then to translate this approach to learning into a structured and coherent programme. It was felt that to maximise the opportunities afforded, the students would need to have already gained a grounding in an appropriate academic and professional field and therefore would need to be at a post-graduate and post-qualifying level of study. A curriculum development group was formed out of the Erasmus network, with representatives from Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands and the UK. Several preliminary meetings had produced the decision that a modular framework would offer flexibility and compatibility with systems in a number of participating countries. It was also decided that a programme of six modules plus a dissertation based upon comparative research would provide a useful and standard structure within which to offer the subjects under discussion. The six original areas of study identified were: European Institutions and Policy: to provide the opportunity for students on a European programme to gain knowledge and understanding of the main institutions, treaties and policies of Europe; Comparative Social Policy: to equip students with knowledge of the theories, debates and developing methodologies for comparing and critically analysing the social policy context in which European social professional practice was situated; Comparative Social Research: to give students the opportunity to study comparative research methodologies, based upon different scientific traditions and theories, which they would need to be able to apply, in order to undertake their dissertation; Social Professional Practice in Europe (originally entitled Emerging Trends in Social, Youth & Community Work): to enable students to explore theories, methods, understandings and trends in practice in different areas of Europe; Managing change in organisations: to facilitate students understanding of change management, because within the context of a changing Europe, the environment within which the social professions are situated is dynamic; International network development: to enable students to conceptualise the complexity of linkages and developments in national, intra-national or international work. Intercultural theory was seen as an integral part of this module. A range of different assessment instruments were chosen which would test different areas of academic knowledge and skill and reflect assessment practices in the participating countries in relation to the above programme. An unseen examination (for European Institutions), seen examination (for Comparative Social Policy), oral examination (for Social Professional Practice) and the preparation of a research proposal (for Comparative Research), were chosen for the first four modules. Written course work was required for the remaining two original modules and also for the three option modules, developed in 1996, (see below), to give students the opportunity to explore an area of specialist interest in essay form. The dissertation was constructed to give students the opportunity to undertake an extended study of twenty thousand words, based upon research, which should be both comparative and contain a European dimension. The comparative element required students to chose a country other than their own, or a European institution, in which to base their research, the focus of which should be of relevance to the social professions. The European element would depend upon the subject area, but at the very least should explore the impact and relevance of European Treaties, policies or institutions on the chosen topic in the countries in question. During the first year of the course, students could choose to -submit their work either in English, or in their own language, with an abstract in English. However, due to difficulties this created with assessment and quality assurance, and based upon feedback from the students, who had

3 14 been studying in English for six months, subsequent cohorts were required to write their dissertation in English. Finally, the course team invited a member of the Youth Directorate of the Council of Europe to join the group, for his knowledge and experience of European policy and practice trends in social, youth and community work. The team was thus complete, having chosen six module convenors and a coordinator. Validation The team recognised that some existing national frameworks, structures and legislation within the systems of higher education, were not always conducive to such ventures, with institutions teaching the social professions in Belgium, Germany and The Netherlands unable to offer courses at postgraduate level (CE, 1995). The group therefore began to look beyond the often rigid national systems within which the education of the social professions are situated, and worked at creating new structures within which a pan- European post-graduate programme could be developed. The solution was found when the management and validation of the programme were considered. The Dutch system offered flexibility and resource enough for the development and delivery of such a programme, and Maastricht, as the site of the European Treaty seemed both geographically and symbolically appropriate. The Hogeschool Maastricht, which had coordinated the Erasmus network had also made the original suggestion that curriculum development should be an outcome of the network s activity. The choice of home for the programme therefore seemed obvious. The possibility of a roving programme, delivered in different sites, was discounted as being too complex to manage and regulate, and expensive, both for students and providers. The Dutch system, however, was one which did not allow Masters courses to be validated within the context of the Hogescholen, the institutions of higher professional education responsible for the education and training of the social professions (van der Laan & Ploem, 1998). The British system of education for the social professions offered greater flexibility, being sited predominantly within Universities, many with experience of validating and regulating overseas programmes. Of the British Universities willing to validate, the University of North London, as an existing partner in the course team, was chosen for its clear, comprehensive and developmental systems of validation and quality assurance. These decisions were taken in December, The target date to begin the programme was September, 1994 and the work schedule that intervened was considerable. The course team met regularly from January to May in 1994 debating the programme content and structure and assembling the required documentation for validation: the philosophy and practice of intercultural learning; the pragmatics of bringing guest lecturers from around Europe to Maastricht within the framework of timetabling requirements; the recruitment and selection of students; the selection of appropriate assessment instruments; and, of course, language. The consideration of a language for the programme was indeed a challenge, with all course team members agreed that the knowledge of another European language was essential for the students deeper understanding of other European cultures. The team finally agreed that the course should be delivered in English, and all students should be able to study at postgraduate level in English, but they should also have knowledge of one other European language (which would effectively mean that students from the UK would need to know another European language in order to facilitate their research in another country, and limit their linguistic advantage in this area somewhat). The outcome of the decision regarding language had a considerable impact on the resources and management of the course, e.g. lecturers and students would have to be sufficiently fluent in English, or have simultaneous translation; language testing and support would have to be provided for students both prior to joining the course, as well as at the Hogeschool Maastricht; the library would need to contain an appropriate stock of books and journals in English; all standard information systems at the Hogeschool Maastricht would need to be translated into English for the MACESS course. However, within the course, the choice of language has always been understood to be a communication tool, rather than reflecting only Anglo-Saxon culture. However, the impact of the use of English as the course language obviously has to be continually monitored by the course team, to ensure that any linguistic advantage in this context is balanced by input from the variety of cultures and academic traditions represented in the wider Europe. The course team have had to remain vigilant to ensure a balanced view in this respect

4 15 and have been helped by students in monitoring this very sensitive aspect of the course. The validation process was completed in June 1994, when the MA in Comparative European Social Studies (MACESS) was approved by the University of North London for six years. A Liaison Tutor representing the University was to be responsible for issues of quality assurance and communication and to represent the University in Maastricht. MACESS coordination and management The Hogeschool Maastricht appointed a Course Coordinator to operationalise and manage the programme, in cooperation with the Liaison Tutor from the University. The European nature of the MACESS programme gave rise to some specific management tasks: Networking. An important element in the structure of the MACESS programme was, and continues to be, the Maastricht Erasmus network, which has been categorised as an example of an expansive network (Seibel & Lorenz, p.136). Such networks represent the variety of the social professional education and training which exists in Europe (social work, social pedagogy, youth and community work, social cultural work, social education, etc.). In 1991 the network began with six partners from five countries and expanded to fourteen partners from ten countries in 1995 (Seibel & Lorenz 1998:140). Currently (1998), there are twenty-seven partners from twenty countries. The network continues to meet twice a year. The expansion has been centred upon MACESS, the network being the source of lecturers and students. Recruitment and selection of lecturers. Each module in the programme is managed by a convenor, selected on the basis of expertise and organisational skills. The convenors, who also represent different regions of Europe, are responsible for attracting guest lecturers with appropriate expertise, from all over Europe, guaranteeing a diversity of social professional traditions and perspectives represented by the countries participating in the network. Recruitment and selection of students. Students are recruited through and by the network, interviewed to an agreed format by network partners, who check the appropriate national academic and professional qualifications of applicants, and nominate candidates. Although there is diversity in the length and content of professional training, the structural acceptance and respect for these differences was perceived as a positive, enriching contribution to the European nature of the course. Differences in age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, experience and academic discipline have provided one of the baselines from which to embark upon the debate of the nature of the European dimensions for the social professions. Nominees from each institution are given an English language test by the Hogeschool Maastricht. An Admissions Panel from Maastricht and North London make the final selection, aiming for a diverse but balanced group in terms of age, gender, ethnicity and professional experience. Impact on host institution. The siting of the MACESS programme in the Hogeschool Maastricht demanded various changes to that institution. The expansion of the library stock, for example, to include a range of texts in English, as well as books and journals specifically addressing social professional work throughout Europe, with an English version of the library catalogue, was an immediate, as well as an ongoing, priority. Personnel at the Hogeschool at every level, had to be made aware of, and accommodating to, the new influx of lecturers and students, who would be operating at a different academic level, in a foreign language and be a diverse group in terms of representing many different cultures and backgrounds. Assessment process. This issue has always been challenging to the MACESS programme, because of the differing practices and traditions to which students have been exposed. This can, indeed, be observed within one country or region, as different institutions have their own methods and approaches to assessment. When this is broadened to thirty students, nine convenors, thirty-five markers and moderators from as many as twenty different countries, the expectations and assumptions can give rise to confusion on a grand scale! The regulations which apply to the MACESS programme come from a combination of requirements of the University of North London and the Hogeschool Maastricht. Furthermore, these two sets of regulations refer to a range of issues which impact upon the diversity of academic traditions present within the MACESS programme. An example is that the regulations of the University require double marking of all assessment at

5 16 Masters level. Wherever possible, the course coordinator appoints the two markers so that they represent different regions or traditions, particularly for the dissertation, to ensure that students are not disadvantaged for cultural reasons. Such issues are raised at the annual Assessment Board meeting, attended by the MACESS managers, module convenors and the External Examiner, appointed by the University to assure academic standards and fair play particularly within the context of such diversity. Evaluation and review of programme. Because of the geographic spread and cultural and academic diversity of the course team, and to ensure coherence and comparability within the programme, twice yearly course team meetings review and evaluate the input, results and student feedback from the programme and attend to the issues of planning and preparation of the next phase. Module convenors and student representatives give a yearly report to the course team, based on criteria developed in the first year of the programme, which, coupled with the reports of the External Examiner and the Assessment Board, provide vital information both for the constant improvement and updating of the programme, and to give the required data for quality assurance purposes for the University of North London. Further course development Based on an evaluation of the first two years of the MACESS programme, certain areas were considered to be of such importance, that they needed to be expanded into full modules. This would broaden the academic programme and provide a spread of subjects which would address more appropriately the issues relevant to the European focus of the programme. These new modules were taught for the first time in the 1996/7 session: Marginalisation and Social Exclusion in Europe was discussed within the context of each of the existing modules in the original programme, Figure 1 Core Modules European Institutions & Policy Comparative Social Policy Comparative Social Research Social Professional Practice in Europe Dissertation but the team quickly realised the differing understandings of the subject within the group of lecturers and students. The team therefore identified the need for a module to specifically address issues such as racism, discrimination and oppression. Political Philosophies of Welfare was developed for students wanting to deepen their theoretical knowledge of the underpinning assumptions and theoretical frameworks of welfare policy and delivery in Europe. European Welfare Law was developed out of the debates on social issues, as the impact of the European judicial system on social professional practice increased in importance. The introduction of the three new modules provided the course managers with the opportunity to review and restructure the programme. Four of the original modules remained and become a core programme for all students, providing the context for European and comparative aspects of social professional practice and policy. Students would then be able to choose two from the remaining five modules (two original plus three new) in the new optional programme, giving them the opportunity to study specific issues in relation to their field of interest for their dissertation. The option modules were also offered as short courses to a limited number of outsiders, not registered on the programme. Two of the original modules, which were considered to have a more practice-based focus, International Network Development and Managing Change in Organisations, thus became optional. The new programme, first delivered in the 1996/7 session, therefore comprised the modules shown in figure 1 (below). The core modules are delivered from September to December, and the option modules in January and February. Work on the dissertation is undertaken between March and August, and the Assessment Board meets in October. Achievements and limitations of the Option Modules International Network Development Managing Change in Organisation Marginalisation and Social Exclusion Political Philosophies of Welfare European Welfare Law

6 17 programme The MACESS programme has been able to successfully recruit viable numbers of students since its inception, and has responded to the expressed wishes of students to draw lecturers from a diverse range of countries throughout the wider Europe. Figure 2 (below) illustrates the number of students and staff involved in the programme, with the number of successful graduates in the first three years. (The Assessment Board for 1997/8 not having taken place at the time of writing) Of those applying to join the programme, 60% have been accepted. Reasons for non-acceptance of applications are usually because of inappropriate qualifications to meet the selection criteria, failure to pass the English language admission test, or lack of funds. Funding The issue of funding has always been problematic for some applicants and has resulted in an unequal geographical distribution of MACESS students which reflects funding possibilities in some countries, and through some institutions. The course fees for the one year full-time programme for European Union citizens is Dfl (1998), with living expenses additional to this amount. Socrates funding is a possibility for some students from partner institutions in the network, although over the past five years the size of grants available has decreased, so that funding from this source pays for only a small proportion of the overall cost of fees and living expenses. A three year Tempus project meant that four students from Hungary could join the course each year 1995 to 1997, fully funded. That project, however, has now ended, and colleagues in Budapest are seeking alternative funding. Students from some countries (e.g. Norway, Denmark) have received state grants to cover costs, whilst others received sabbatical grants from employers. Many of the students from the region around Maastricht (including towns in Belgium and Germany) are in their early twenties, reflecting the age group who tend to study for their professional diploma (entry at eighteen), and still enjoy financial support from parents. All of the countries mentioned above have therefore been well represented. Very few students (seven in all) from the UK have participated, partly due to age and domestic commitments, but also due to financial limitations. The course team and the network are continuing in their attempts to secure funding for future students, and students are encouraged to seek funding possibilities in their own countries through scholarships and bursaries. Recognition of MACESS The MACESS programme is under the auspices of Daniel Tarschys, Secretary General of the Council of Europe. It is validated by the University of North London, and therefore as a Master of Arts Degree is recognised within the UK, with appropriate standing in an international context. For some MACESS graduates this has been sufficient, when presenting the award in applying for employment, or for other academic courses. Some students have found it necessary to submit further information about the content of the course, in order to have their qualification recognised (e.g. Denmark). The course team have also been asked to submit detailed information to have the award given national validation (e.g. Norway), and have had to Figure 2 MACESS: Student numbers and outcomes, staff input Year students graduates convenors guest dissertation lecturers supervisors 1994/ / / /8 29 * /9 24 * 9 * * * figures not yet available

7 18 work with partner institutions where foreign awards cannot receive domestic validation, only recognition (e.g. USA). A pragmatic approach has therefore been taken with regard to the status of the award, with any requests for information directed to the Hogeschool Maastricht or the University of North London by students, institutions or national validating bodies, being appropriately answered. The lack of a common process for recognition of awards has been acknowledged from the inception of the MACESS programme, and students have been made aware of the nature and limitations of the award. A clearer international process of recognition would obviously be helpful for international courses such as MACESS. Outcomes for students At the time of writing, there are sixty-six MACESS graduates who are all members of the alumni association, Cessnet. In order to track graduate outcomes, a questionnaire was sent to alumni in 1998, and a preliminary analysis of responses from the first twenty-six returned questionnaires revealed some interesting information. In order to measure satisfaction with the course in retrospect, alumni were asked whether they would re-apply for a place on the MACESS course, to which 88% (22) answered an encouraging yes. First destination employment after MACESS was analysed using various indicators, of which level of work and international dimension in your work were of most relevance in this context. Responses indicated that 29% (8) were in some form of fieldwork practice (mostly occupied by alumni without previous professional experience); 3 8% (1 0) described their positions as being middle management; 13% (3) were in senior management posts; 20% (5) in other employment - defined as being outside social professional work, for example: researcher, teacher, senior advisor, press agent. Nearly half of all respondents reported having an international dimension to their work (47% n. 12). When combining this information with job type, none of those in practice had an international element in their work; 55% of middle managers and 69% of senior managers did some work on an international level, and 85% of those in other work had an international dimension as an aspect of their job. The figures are not surprising, and reveal that those in more senior positions are more likely to work on an international level, as are those in jobs categorised as other - posts which will often have been chosen for the international opportunities they afford. It could, indeed, be predicted that graduates from courses such as MACESS would be more likely to want to work in an international context and it is encouraging to learn that nearly half have been able utilise knowledge and experience gained on the course towards this end. Conclusion Europe is changing economically, geographically and politically with enormous consequences for its populations and welfare systems. Whilst many Europeans are benefiting from this process, the consequences of marginalisation and social exclusion, resulting from the unification of Europe, increasingly impact upon the social professions. At the same time, Social Europe continues to occupy a relatively low position on the political European agenda, despite the widening gap between those who are included and those excluded from the benefits of European citizenship. Within this context, social professionals need to continue their debates with the aim of searching for effective methods of inputting into the policy process and developing innovative solutions at a practice level to address issues of exclusion. Education clearly has a role to play within this process at a European level. The MACESS programme gives one model of how diversity can be utilised both in the structure and content of a course which the authors hope will equip a new generation of European social professionals with the knowledge, skills and values to further this aim. Further information about the MACESS programme can be found on the web site of the European Institute for Comparative Social Studies, founded by the University of North London and the Hogeschool Maastricht to progress the work of the MACESS programme. The web site address is: socwork/eicss

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