The creation of the European Higher Education Area as a result of new needs related to socio-political and economic changes and internationalisation processes at different levels (European integration, economic globalisation on the European and international labour market, new communication technologies, internationalisation of education and research) introduces major changes in the European higher education sector and implies increasing interaction in multilingual and multicultural environments and the need for mutual comprehension in a context of diversity.
On the one hand, an adequate multilingual and multicultural communicative competence is now to be considered as a key competence for all students; it is a necessary resource for students and graduates to study, live and work throughout multilingual and multicultural Europe and the world and to manage a diversity of multilingual and multicultural situations in academic, professional, and social contexts. On the other hand, the Bologna process defines new European reference points applicable to all study programmes which take into account stakeholders' needs in order to develop social relevance in discipline-specific knowledge and expertise and competencies for sustainable employability, citizenship, personal development and lifelong learning. Another reference point is the application of transparency instruments (ECTS, competence-based discipline-specific and generic descriptors) to ensure international readability.
For academic language and communication studies, this means redefining learning outcomes with the objective of developing adequate multilingual and multicultural student profiles aiming at competent use of this repertoire in relation to the specific needs of students and graduates and in the perspective of lifelong learning. Another aspect is the need for multilingual and multicultural competences to be demonstrated and assessed in order to indicate to the different stakeholders what a student is able to do in this domain and how well he or she can do it.
The group addressed relevant learning outcomes for academic study in different cycles, for future career and employability, and for mobility and social integration. It took account of different purposes of assessment, integrated approaches and alternative forms of assessment, multilingual modes of assessment, and testing.
The SIG was launched on 20 August 2010 at the Université de Lausanne. The group was chaired by Brigitte Forster Vosicki (Université de Lausanne, Switzerland) and Anne Räsänen (University of Jyväskylä, Finland).