Preparing students for a life as active citizens in a democratic society is one of the aims within the Bologna process. The Council of Europe has also stressed the importance of focus on democracy in Higher Education. Higher Education is seen as important to develop a democratic culture among students. Teaching democracy should be promoted in lessons and curricula.
It has been argued by many that practising citizenship is more effective in relation to “learning about”. Universities should rather be seen as ‘sites of citizenship’ and democracy than promotion democracy in terms of lessons and curricula (Biesta, 2005; Biesta, 2007; Biesta & Lawy, 2006; Van der Veen et al., 2007).
Creating democratic learning systems in institutions of higher education could be the answer to reaching the aim related to democracy.
A democratic learning system can be defined as a system where decisions, processes and behaviour related to learning are established through argumentation (discussion) or negotiation (dialog), voting or consensus (alone or in combination) between those affected by the decision simultaneously reaching the learning outcomes, the technical and professional knowledge and insight. In principle the participants must be equal with equal rights and feel committed to the values of rationality and impartiality (Qvist, 2005).
The Aalborg Model practised at Aalborg University is a learning system which has collaborative democratic elements built into the model.
This paper brings results from an online quantitative, questionnaire survey between nearly 200 engineering and science students in their second semester at Aalborg University.
The main findings are: Nearly 85 percent of the respondent’s state that their group uses discussions quite often or always to reach technical decisions. And a little more than 85 percent say that they use discussions to reach decisions related to project management. Almost 60 percent of the respondents state that the group is participant controlled quite often or always. Less than 4 percent are of the opinion that the group is controlled by the facilitator (quite often/always). 90 percent of the respondents are of the opinion that their group is democratic, 3 percent that it is elitist.