The TEPE Network was established in 2006 at Umeå University (Sweden) and the first TEPE conference was organised at the University of Tallinn (Estonia) in February 2007. Annual conferences have been organised every year since that time. The network built on earlier initiatives that can be traced back further over a period of more than ten years.
Prior to the 1990s, Teacher Education in Europe was rarely discussed as an issue of European or international co-operation in higher education. At a practical level, a new era was marked by the introduction of the European Union’s Erasmus, Socrates and Leonardo programmes in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Direct collaboration between education institutions from EU countries increased substantially as a result. The 1990s were, at the same time, the beginning of a period of European Union enlargement. It was also very important for Teacher Education that special EU co-operation programmes were launched which supported broader co-operation in education among EU (Erasmus) and non-EU countries (Tempus; Erasmus Mundus).
The Socrates-Erasmus programme opened new perspectives for European co-operation in general education and made good progress in the early 1990s, particularly through the programme action on ‘university co-operation projects on subjects of mutual interest’. Similarly as in other areas of higher education, a thorough evaluation of Teacher Education was prepared in this context during the mid-1990s. In 1994, within a larger framework of investigating the Erasmus programme’s effects, the European Commission funded a pilot project in this area: the Sigma – European Universities’ Network. Within this network, 15 national reports (from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom) were produced for an Evaluation Conference which took place in June 1995, the proceedings of which were edited by Sander (1995) and published by Universität Osnabrück. These reports presented an extremely fragmented picture of the teacher education systems in the EU-15 of that time. Reports focused on initial teacher education as well as on in-service training in national contexts, but also reflected on new needs and perspectives in Europe.
In addition, a special report was included in a publication dealing with European co-operation in Teacher Education of that time, particularly regarding perspectives on the Erasmus Programme in the area of Teacher Education (Delmartino and Beernaert 1998). This publication was based on the lessons learned from the elaboration of the RIF (Réseau d’Institutions de Formation – Network of Teacher Training Institutions) which developed steadily from January 1990 onwards, following organisation of the first European Summer University for teacher educators in October 1989 at the Hogeschool Gelderland, Nijmegen (NL) within the Erasmus Programme. This publication is one of the most relevant information sources on European co-operation in Teacher Education for the period up until the mid-1990s. It may also be seen as part of a wider effort regarding research on Teacher Education in Europe, which began in Osnabrück in 1995 and as such represents the very first major trans-national research programme in Teacher Education across Europe.
Subsequently, the European Commission supported 28 Thematic Networks in the 1996/97 academic year with the aim of enhancing the European dimension of university studies as part of the Socrates-Erasmus Programme (Action 1). The Thematic Network on Teacher Education in Europe (TNTEE) was the only network devoted exclusively to teacher education. Its main objective was to establish a flexible multilingual transnational forum for the development of Teacher Education in Europe by linking together as many universities and other institutions as possible. The network was co-ordinated by the Board of Teacher Education and Research, Umeå University, Sweden. The sub-networks of the TNTEE focused on: (1) the culture and politics of professional formation; (2) the development of innovative strategies of co-operation between TE institutions, schools and education services; (3) promoting lifelong learning in and through teacher education: evolving models of professional development; (4) Teacher Education as a powerful learning environment – changing the learning culture of Teacher Education; (5) searching for a missing link – subject didactics as the sciences of a teaching profession; (6) developing a ‘reflective practice’ of teachers’ work and teacher education by partnerships between researchers and practitioners; (7) intercultural education in Teacher Education; and (8) gender and Teacher Education.
The TNTEE had a close relationship with the European Educational Research Association (EERA) as well as national research associations across Europe from its inception. This close relationship has since been maintained with the TEPE Network. In relation to the former, its work was launched in the EERA through a TNTEE-sponsored symposium within the Teacher Education Research Network at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) in September 1997 at the University of Frankfurt. Another evaluation study of Teacher Education in EU countries was conducted within the TNTEE at the end of the 1990s (Sander 1999). Further, the network organised a conference that was held at the Catholic University of Lisbon in May 1999. However, the most significant output of the TNTEE was the Green Paper on Teacher Education in Europe (Buchberger et al., 2000), which was the first policy paper on Teacher Education in Europe produced in collaboration between experts from European Teacher Education institutions.
These developments took place against the background of the Bologna Process that was initiated following the signing of the Bologna Declaration in 1999. The Bologna Process is an intergovernmental higher education reform process that includes 49 European countries and a number of European organisations, including the European University Association. Its main purpose is to enhance the quality and recognition of European higher education systems and to improve the conditions for exchange and collaboration within Europe, as well as internationally.
One of the most direct outcomes of the TNTEE network at the level of institutional co-operation was an Erasmus Advanced Curriculum Development project, which aimed to develop joint European modules at doctoral level. The project was co-ordinated in the first phase by Umeå University (2000–02) as the Europeisk Doctorat en Lärarutbildning (EDIL) project and in the second phase by the Pädagogische Akademie des Bundes in Upper Austria, Linz (2002–05) as the European Doctorate in Teaching and Teacher Education (EUDORA). The core group was based on a consortium of 10 Teacher Education institutions from various European countries. Within this project, five intensive programmes and modules were developed and conducted, each on several occasions. These consisted of the following themes and in most cases provided opportunities for students to publish their research studies:
• Educational policy analysis;
• Innovative mother tongue didactics;
• Active Learning in Higher Education;
• e-Learning in Higher Education;
• Researching the teaching and learning of mathematics;
• Researching social inclusion/exclusion & social justice in education.
Summer schools were organised in various countries from 2002 onwards, the largest of which was held in Tolmin, Slovenia in 2005. This event involved about 100 doctoral students and staff who worked in three parallel modules (EPAC, IMUN, MATHED).
It was against this backdrop that the Teacher Education Policy in Europe (TEPE) Network was established as a self-supporting academic network at a meeting hosted by members of the Faculty of Teacher Education at Umeå University in 2006. As mentioned above, the first TEPE conference took place in Tallinn in 2007 while the second conference was hosted by the Faculty of Education at the University of Ljubljana in February 2008. The second conference led to the formulation of recommendations for Teacher Education policy at the local, national and European levels, which have helped steer the work of the network since. These conclusions and recommendations are published in Hudson and Zgaga (2008) and focus on the need to improve the image of teaching and the status of the teaching profession and also on the importance of involving Teacher Education institutions as partners in the process of policy development. In particular, they highlight the need to advance research in and on Teacher Education, promote mobility and the European Dimension in Teacher Education and to support the development of cultures for quality improvement in Teacher Education.
Publications aiming to present policy-related research in teacher education have continued to be produced following the annual TEPE network conferences. The relationship with the European Educational Research Association (EERA) also continued, in particular through the financial support given by the EERA Council to help fund a colloquium on quality assurance and teacher education at University College Dublin in 2010. This event resulted in a further publication by Harford et al. (2012).
These developments led to further innovative projects in the context of European teacher education, including the Erasmus project EPTE (“European Primary Teacher Education”; 2009–11) that led to the creation of a one-year joint programme that links and integrates students and teachers from various schools and/or departments of teacher education from several European countries. The programme was accredited in several countries and is carried out annually for the groups of students at different locations. Credits acquired in this programme are fully recognised at home institutions under the Erasmus exchange principles.
This text is based on an extract from Hudson and Zgaga (2017).
Buchberger, F., Campos, B. P., Kallos, D., Stephenson, J. (eds) (2000). Green Paper on Teacher Education in Europe: High Quality Teacher Education for High Quality Education and Training, Thematic Network on Teacher Education in Europe, Umeå, University of Umeå.
Delmartino, M. and Beernaert, Y. (1998). Teacher Education and the ERASMUS Programme. Role, Achievements, Problems and Perspectives of Teacher Education Programmes in ERASMUS. The RIF: Networking in Teacher Education.
Hudson, B. and Zgaga, P. (eds) (2017). History, context and overview: Implications for teacher education policy, practice and future research. In B. Hudson (Ed.) (2017) Overcoming Fragmentation in Teacher Education Policy and Practice, Cambridge Education