Cooperation: City University of New York and Austrian Universities Join Forces

When contemplating the benefits of the right balance between globalization and regionalization in higher education, one can imagine a flourishing inter-institutional knowledge network. In Vienna, further steps have been taken to realize this goal: On July 5th, 2005, Matthew Goldstein, Chancellor of the City University of New York (CUNY), and Elisabeth Gehrer, Austrian Federal Minister of Education, Science, and Culture (BMBWK), signed an agreement supporting and expanding the exchange opportunities between several Austrian institutions for higher education and CUNY. On the Austrian side, the various universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen) and nine major universities specializing in liberal arts, business studies, the sciences, and engineering, support the agreement. CUNY, considered to be the largest university system in the U.S. with 19 sub-universities, represents the American partner.



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The "Statement of Cooperation" is intended to facilitate two-way acceptance of university degrees and thereby eliminate a major obstacle to the success of exchange programs for undergraduate students, graduate students, and professors. Before this, the Austrian master's degree program (Magisterstudium) was only recognized as a bachelor's degree at U.S. universities. For Austrian graduates seeking additional education in the U.S., this meant a decisive devaluation of their educational achievements.

This negation of Austrian academic degrees was due to the fact that the U.S. student credit system was not matched by an equivalent Austrian system of course requirements. With the introduction of the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) at Austrian universities (in 2001, according to the Bologna declaration of 1999), the basis for international comparison was established. The new agreement actually legalizes this form of comparison for overseas: The CUNY bachelor's degree (B.A.), with a minimum of 120 credits, is equivalent to the 180 ECTS credits required for the Austrian baccalaureate degree program (Bakkalaureatsstudium). Identical agreements were made for the levels of master's degrees and doctoral programs.

For degree holders, the mutual recognition of university degrees will provide the possibility of continuing their university studies at cooperating universities abroad. Additionally, this cooperation treaty will facilitate the opportunities for lecturers to teach at partner universities. This legal situation is a necessary prerequisite for effective and versatile exchange programs. As a result, there is the prospect that the several exchange programs with CUNY will continue to develop and improve.

The cooperation between educational institutions in New York City and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science, and Cultural Affairs is based on the academic exchange program created by Dean Alfred S. Posamentier, when he was a Fulbright Professor at the University of Vienna in 1990. Since that time, 220 Austrian teachers have taught in New York City, and gradually, the exchange program has spread to additional institutions. At the present time there is the "Austrian Junior Visiting Professorship" program, established at the City College of New York (CCNY, a part of the CUNY network) in 2003, and the "Junior Scientists Conference" in which Austrian students and graduates participated this year in NYC, and which will be held in Vienna in 2006.

In addition to the "Memoranda of Agreement" between Austrian universities and CUNY, the "Statement of Cooperation" officially recorded the decision to establish a "Joint Degree in English and American Studies in the Alps Adriatic Region," which already started in November 2004. Several universities located in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the UK, and the U.S. have agreed to establish a supra-regional study program in order to increase the range of studies. This can be seen as another attempt to internationalize the structure of Austrian higher education.

Both the recognition of university degrees and the newly-established joint study degree program provide promising forecasts for the future of globalized higher education systems. The "Statement of Cooperation" can be seen as an overall agreement to exchange regional knowledge and form a basis for vital interaction of university institutions. Of course, the agreement should only signal the beginning of cooperation with a broader range of American universities in the future, with the goal of benefiting from existing educational structures.

Sources:
- Rosen, Pola (2003) 'CCNY-Austria Educational Collaboration' in: Education Update, Online Publication (data retrieved on July 13th 2005)
http://www.educationupdate.com/archives/2003/nov03/issue/col_ccny.html
- National Academic Recognition Information Centre, NARIC (2005) 'Austria - City University of New York: Statement of Cooperation in Science and Research' at the Homepage of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture (data retrieved on July 13th 2005)
http://www.bmbwk.gv.at/medienpool/12668/14542e_statement_coop_newyor.pdf
- N.N. (6.7.2005) "Österreichische und US-Studienabschlüsse sollen gleichgestellt werden,' Article of the Austrian Press Association (APA). (data retrieved on July 13th 2005)
http://select.cms.apa.at/cms/bmwb/site/einzel_wb.html?channel=CH0067&doc=CMS1120649839738
- N.N. (6.7.2005) "Österreichische und US-Studienabschlüsse sollen gleichgestellt werden,' Press Release of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. (data retrieved on July 13th 2005)
http://www.ots.at/presseaussendung.php?schluessel=OTS_20050706_OTS0045&ch=panorama

Additional Information:
- Information to the call for bids of the CCNY Junior Visiting Professorship:
Homepage of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture (data retrieved on July 13th 2005):
http://144.65.2.1/nurtext.asp?isIlink=1&bereich=7&l1=&l2=&l3=&OID=11247
- Call for bids of the CCNY Junior Visiting Professorship:
i.e.: Homepage of the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Vienna (data retrieved on July 13th 2005):
http://www.boku.ac.at/fileadmin/_/H120-zib/Images/sonstiges/Junior_Visiting_Professorship_Ausschreibung.pdf{/access}