First students graduating from the Open University's molecular science (hons) degree to be awarded the Eurobachelor label
This spring The Open University (OU) awarded the Eurobachelor label to four students graduating from its molecular science (hons) degree. These are the first students from the OU to receive this label, which holds the promise of greater employability and mobility within Europe. Yvonne Ashmore, molecular science awards manager, in the department of chemistry and analytical sciences at the OU, told Education in Chemistry, 'We believe that the Eurobachelor label provides evidence that these students have the knowledge and skills to enable them to work and communicate effectively across Europe. This is particularly important for our graduates who are nationals of EU countries other than the UK, especially those students who live and work overseas, providing greater transparency for their OU degrees'.
In December 2008, the OU was ratified by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) to award the Eurobachelor label to its molecular science honours graduates. Students have to hold the degree in molecular science with at least two level- three residential practical courses and can demonstrate proficiency in a second major European language, eg German, Italian, French or Spanish. The latter can be accomplished through one of the OU language courses, a European language at A-level or Scottish equivalent, or if the candidate is fluent in a second language because it is their mother tongue.
The Eurobachelor qualification is part of the pan-European Bologna Process. In 1999, 29 European countries, including the UK, signed the Bologna declaration and agreed there should be a common framework of comparable degrees across Europe by 2010. Among the goals to be achieved by this process are transparency of degrees across Europe, thus increasing the mobility and employability of students and staff not just across the member states but across the world, as well as ensure that European HE is internationally competitive.
With now 45 European countries signed up to the Bologna declaration, the HE structures of the majority have a three cycle framework - bachelors, masters and doctoral-level programmes, typically taking three, plus two, plus three years respectively. However, apart from the bachelors programmes, which have to be a minimum of three years, the length of programme is not mentioned as a requirement for a particular qualification. The Eurobachelor label is indicative of a first cycle (BSc) qualification which is recognised by other European institutions as being of a standard that will provide right of access, though not right of admission (which is the prerogative of the institution), to chemistry masters programmes.
Other HEIs in the UK and Ireland to gain the Eurobachelor label for their chemistry BSc degrees are Nottingham Trent, and Dublin City Universities. With so few UK universities ratified for awarding the Eurobachelor label, we may have to wait for evidence from these pioneering students before the true value of this award is recognised by the chemistry community.