This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Danube Rectors’ Conference, a forum of Rectors from universities in Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Romania and Ukraine. Presently there are 67 higher education institutions from these 14 countries that are active members in this regional network.

As the main aims of the Annual Meetings are exchange, knowledge transfer, and networking, the Knowledge 4 All Foundation was invited to give a keynote on the theoretical and practical work underpinning the MicroHE project.

Our colleages from K4A introduced and presented the core idea of micro-credentials as a mechanism to leverage the credentialing modalities in European institutions, combined with the blockchain as a technological means to deliver the credentialing in a trustworthy way, and as a social innovation towards building networks of universities using the MicroHE Credentials Clearinghouse.

Although the presentation was meant to present, in a typical way, the usage of blockchain in education, it pivoted and made a case that one of the factors in the brain drain of talents in the Region could be traced not only to employment opportunities, but the flexibility of universities in connecting with the market place and knowing how their students learn online and outside the university.

It proposed that even though European universities are making an effort in becoming more “modular”, the US based private sector is quickly proposing online and offline solutions to recognize learning in smaller segments, from nano-degrees, to centralized skill-banks verified by standardized testing to online systems of recommendation, similar to those to peer-reviewed literature.

Therefore, the presenters argued that part of reality is that European students are using US micro-credentialing solutions as European technologies are not being given the chance to access universities. This situation begs the question on how innovative universities can be in reality, and even if interested in innovations such as blockchain and micro-credentialing, what exactly is their capacity to quickly test and implement these technologies in their work flows, no matter what solution they are delivering.

The K4A presentation was awarded with the bronze medal depicting the Danube river, designed by artist Adam Kovalčík and given to especially attractive presentations from partners and members of the Danube Rectors Conference.