The Bologna Process and the creation of the European Higher Education Area
The Bologna Process is a coordinated set of activities in the field of higher education policy aimed at realising a fully operational European Higher Education Area by 2010. It is driven by European governments (both EU and non-EU) in the form of a political cooperation at European level and the implementation of agreed policies and actions at the national level.
There are currently 46 countries signatories of the Bologna agreements; the European Commission is an “additional member”. The Process encompasses a close cooperation with major stakeholders, represented through European organisations, namely the European University Association (EUA), the European Students’ Union (ESU), the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE) – representing professionally-oriented higher education institutions – and the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) – representing quality assurance or evaluation and accreditation agencies. They have a role of consultative members, together with other important stakeholders, enterprises (represented by BusinessEurope) and Unions, represented by Education International (Pan-European Structure). Also consultative members are the Council of Europe and UNESCO-CEPES, the European Centre for Higher Education Studies based in Bucarest.
There is also a status of “partner” member of the Bologna Process, which is enjoyed by EuroScience since 2008. Other partners are Eurodoc, Eurocadres and EAIE.
The Bologna Process activities are scheduled within (so far) bi-annual work programmes, ending up with a Ministerial Meeting where political decisions are taken. In-between, a “Bologna-Follow-Up Group” (BFUG) made up by representatives of Ministries and of consultative members is tasked with political discussions and relevant structured work. A Secretariat is hosted by the country where the next Ministerial Meeting will take place.
The work programme comprises thematic “Bologna Seminars” organised across Europe with the participation of all stakeholders; the official Conclusions and Recommendations are forwarded to the Bologna Follow-Up Group. Specific working parties of the BFUG are charged with the elaboration of documents and reports to be presented at the Ministerial Meeting. The Communiqué itself of the Ministerial Meeting is worked out carefully in advance by the BFUG.
The Bologna reforms aim at making more compatible and comparable the different national systems of higher education, by adopting similar degree structures, appropriate systems of quality assurance, a credit system for transfer and accumulation of educational experiences, and adequate support policies. Detailed information of the objectives and the methods of the Process are available from the official web site.
The next Ministerial Conference will take place in April 2009 in the cities of Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve, whose Universities share the legacy of the ancient University of Louvain.
EuroScience has been following closely the latest developments of the Bologna Process, including taking part in various Bologna Seminars, and will be present at the next Ministerial Conference. The Governing Board, in its Meeting of December 2008, has confirmed the support and the endorsement of EuroScience for the Process.