Tag: Bologna Process

Guest blogger: The Bologna Process and its withering political salience

Jens Jungblut (UiO), Martina Vukasovic (UGent), Mari Elken (NIFU)

Jens Jungblut (UiO), Martina Vukasovic (UGent), Mari Elken (NIFU)

In this post, Jens Jungblut, Martina Vukasovic and Mari Elken examine the developments in the Bologna Process. In particular, focus is on the participation at the ministerial conferences and what these can tell us about the state of the Bologna Process.

Jens Jungblut works at the University of Oslo as a researcher and is a member of the ExCID research group, Martina Vukasovic is a post-doctoral researcher at CHEGG in Ghent University and Mari Elken is a researcher at NIFU. 

The ninth and latest ministerial conference of the Bologna Process earlier this year in Yerevan was one of these events where the European higher education community likes to celebrate itself for all of its achievements during the last 17 years of close policy coordination. This positive assessment was shared by most of the press reports that followed the meeting. Anne Corbett, for example, reported in the Times Higher Education that contrary to the “conventional wisdom” that the Bologna Process is no longer of interest for ministers and is left to technocrats and stakeholder organizations, the meeting in Yerevan was characterized by deft ministerial diplomacy, especially with regard to the admission of Belarus into the process.

This optimistic evaluation of the ministerial conference in specific and the political salience of the Bologna Process in general is somewhat contradicted by some of the reports that the different stakeholder organizations presented in Yerevan. While EUA’s TRENDS 2015 report  diplomatically highlights a growing importance of national policy-making in comparison to European-wide initiatives, ESU’s Bologna With Student Eyes 2015  openly warns about a growing lack of interest on the side of the national governments in the European Higher Education Area.




News: The latest Bologna Process communique adopted in Yerevan last week

bolognaLast week, on May 14-15th of 2015 the latest Bologna Process Ministerial Conference and Bologna Policy forum was held in Yerevan, Armenia. The participants of the process met at the event, amongst else to agree upon the most recent communique that sets the agenda for the coming years, and approve new members. At the meeting, Belarus was approved as a member. The approval of Belarus was anticipated, and has been linked to recent geopolitical developments, despite frequent concerns regarding academic freedom in the country.

The 2015 Yerevan conference also marked a shift in main focus. While in 2012 in Bucharest the main topics were the “F-word” (funding) and automatic recognition, there were other themes that were in focus in Yerevan has slowly shifted closer to the core of higher education enterprise – teaching and learning. The Bologna process has arguably had more focus on the structural aspects of higher education systems this far, so one can argue that this shift is a change. One could argue that this is necessary to also create new enthusiasm for the process.

The Yerevan Communique that was adopted highlights  four key priorities, where the quality and relevance of teaching and learning is now set as the “main mission of the EHEA”. In addition to quality, the other two points concern employability and inclusiveness – illustrating how the values in the process have a dual attention on social cohesion while promoting the interests of the labour market as well. While teaching and learning have been put to the forefront, structural reforms remain one of the four key objectives, where degree structure, credits system, quality assurance standards and guidelines, as well as various cooperation in mobility and joint degrees are highlighted as the “foundations of the EHEA”.

In this context, the BFUG has received a task to review and simplify its governance structures. A number of policy measures were also adopted, amongst else the revised version of ESG (European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area), the European Approach for Quality Assurance in Joint Programmes as well as the revised ECTS users guide. It should also be noted that during the conference, a call was made to have more precise instruments to measure implementation.




HEIK seminar: The ideational background of the Bologna Process

We are pleased to share yet another session from the HEIK academic seminar series in the field of higher education, with both invited international speakers and members of the research group HEIK (Higher Education: Institutional dynamics and Knowledge cultures) here at the University of Oslo.

This lecture was recorded in April 2013 and features Klemen Miklavic (University of Ljubljana) who discusses the ideational background of the Bologna Process by highlighting three competing discursive streams.


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Abstract for the session:

Klemen Miklavic  (University of Ljubljana)

Klemen Miklavic
(University of Ljubljana)

The Bologna Process is the central political initiative in the context of Europeanisation of higher education and perhaps the most influential pan-European policy initiative addressing higher education and affecting the national-level policies. The paper is dedicated to the ideational background of the Bologna Process. The author examines and contextualises various, often opposing ideas and concepts appearing in the discourse of the Bologna Process and sheds light on the role of involved actors in generating, coordinating, legitimising and communicating discourses and ideas.

In the Bologna process it is possible to detect three ideational streams: first, pragmatic ideas on universities serving the economic development and contributing to European competitiveness; second, the invocation of the public good intertwined with the democratic values of post world war II Europe; and third, the tendency of perceiving higher education as a lucrative industry on the global market of services. Identifying the main discourses and ideas contributes to understanding the discursive meaning, role and function of higher education in contemporary European societies.




Call for Papers: Bologna and beyond

The conference titled “Bologna and Beyond. Experts, entrepreneurs, users and the internationalisation of Higher Education institutions” will be held 20-21 June 2013, in Strasbourg, Maison Interuniversitaire des Sciences de l’Homme – Alsace (MISHA).

The conference is linked to the project “Rebuilding Academia. The Transformations of Central-East European Universities since 1989”, and the main themes of the conference are linked to the impact of various international and European processes on higher education in Central and Eastern Europe (including Germany), with a special focus on the Bologna Process. Papers will be expected on these four core themes:

  • Sociology of Bologna Process actors (experts, academics, etc.)
  • Analysis of international transfers of knowledge, tools, technical indicators, etc.
  • Direct and/or indirect impact of the Bologna Process on its academic “users” (students, academics, HEI technical staff)
  • Global effects of the Bologna Process on the CEE academic space (uniformisation vs. heterogeneity; consolidation of symbolic hierarchies, new power relations etc.).

Deadline for sending in abstracts: 15 December 2012

For abstract/paper guidelines and more information about the conference theme, you can download the call for papers here (.pdf).




The Bologna Process: reinventing the never-ending saga?

In this post, Hedda associate and current Hedda blog research editor Mari Elken gives a short summary of her observations during the recent Bologna Ministerial Summit in Bucharest. What were the main debates during the conference and what can we say about the future of the process?   

Just over a week ago, the Bucharest communiqué was adopted, the seventh communique in the Bologna process that started in 1999. Now encompassing 47 countries it often tends to be glorified by the actors involved as a great success and hallmark of changes achieved, whereas the research evidence tends to be more modest in terms of the actual impacts and convergence.

The presentation of the latest stocktaking report at the ministerial conference indicated a number of fuzzy areas (e.g. lifelong learning) and a number of areas where progress had not been very huge. However, there are areas that seem to be highlighted as success stories by all involved in the process. Indeed, for a number of reasons (and these varying from country to country) Bologna has arguably been an initiator for a number of reform processes in Europe and beyond, and there has been some structural convergence in terms of the introduction of the three cycles.

While the initial deadline for building the European Higher Education Area was in 2010, this did not mark an end point in the process. As the Romanian minister of education formulated it: there really are no alternatives so one needs to reinvent the Bologna Process. So – what would that entail and did the ministerial conference indicate that this reinvention is either taking place or likely to take place?




Bologna Ministerial Conference in Bucharest on the way!

During today and tomorrow the newest ministerial conference of the Bologna Process is taking place in Bucharest, Romania. During the two days of meetings of both the Bologna Follow Up Group, the Ministerial Conference and the Bologna Policy forum, by Saturday we will have the newest Communique for the Bologna process – the Bucharest Communique.

The event was opened yesterday with a reception where the Romanian prime miniester gave a speech where he emphasized both the value of human capital as a resource in global markets and expressed his wishes of the newest Bucharest Communique delivering an important message for the further development of the Euroepan Higher Education Area.

To what extent this will be the case remains to be seen. The event has attracted more than 500 participants from 80 countries, far exceeding the 47 who are official members. A few days ago it was announced that Belarus will still not be able to join the process due to their lack of reforms and intentions of respecting academic freedom. However – a large number of the ministers of education from the larger countries have opted to not join the Ministerial Conference and these countries will be represented by state secretaries instead. While in essence a technical matter, one can wonder whether this also gives an indication of the relative importance of the Bologna Process in these countries.




International Higher Education Podcast – Episode 28

Topic: The role of the Council of Europe in the Bologna process

Episode 28 of our podcast series features Sjur Bergan, the Head of the Higher Education and Research Division at the Council of Europe.  In the interview, he goes on to give his insights on the role of the Council of Europe in the Bologna process and his views on the  overall European higher education landscape now and in the future. The interview was recorded in June 2011 during the Council of Europe Conference which focused on the role of higher education in democratic processes.


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Sjur Bergan

Sjur Bergan (Council of Europe)

Sjur Bergan represents the Council of Europe on the Bologna Follow-Up Group and Board and chairs its working group on qualifications frameworks. He is series editor of the Council of Europe Higher Education Series and a frequent contributor to international conferences and publications on higher education policies. He is the author of Qualifications: Introduction to a Concept (2007). His edited volumes include Speaking across Borders; the Role of Higher Education in Furthering Intercultural Dialogue (with Hilligje van’t Land, 2010), Higher Education for Modern Societies: Competences and Values (with Radu Damian, 2010), Public Responsibility for Higher Education and Research (with Luc Weber, 2005), The University as Res Publica (2004), and The Heritage of European Universities (with Nuria Sanz, 2002).




International Higher Education Podcast – Episode 27

Topic: The Bologna Follow up Group and the future of the Bologna Process

Episode 27 th of our podcast series turns our attention to the perspectives of policymakers and features an interview with the current Head of the Bologna Follow Up Group Secretariat (BFUG), Ligia Deca. She reflects on her background as a student representative  and her further involvement in European higher education policy. Ligia also gives insights to the functioning of the BFUG Secretariat, and her thoughts of the future of the Bologna process and upcoming hot topics in European higher education.


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Ligia Deca (Bologna Secretariat)

Ligia Deca is the Head of the Bologna Secretariat. She was the the Chairperson (2008-2010) of the European Students’ Union (ESU). As a Chairperson, she was the main policy and organisational coordinator of ESU, while being the official ESU representative in the Bologna Follow-Up Group, the European Union Lisbon higher education setting and UNESCO.Her professional experience includes working in the Quality Assurance field by being active as a consultant in the development of quality management systems in various institutions (higher education institutions, public institutions and private companies) and by taking part in both internal and external institutional Quality Assurance evaluations (such as the EUA Institutional Evaluation Programme). She was also the coordinator of the Coalition for Clean Universities – a campaign aimed at fostering academic integrity and fighting corruption in the Romanian educational sector.




Bologna Process Researchers Conference

Next year, Romania is hosting the next  Bologna/EHEA Ministerial Conference, which also means that the Bologna Secretariat is for the time being located in Bucharest, Romania. The various events linked to the Ministerial Conference include more than 100 participant countries.

Linked to this, a researchers conference is held 17-19 October 2011 – Future of Higher Education – Bologna Process Researchers Conference (FOHE-BPRC). The conference is held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Bucharest, Romania. The target group for this conference includes higher education researchers, leading academics and policy makers.

The idea behind the event is to bring closer policy and practice, where researchers on higher education could share up-to-date knowledge and thus contribute to the political processes linked to the Bologna process and the construction of the European Higher Education Area. The debates during the conference will be summarised by the General Rapporteur, Sir Peter Scott from Institute of Education, University of London, and later presented during the Ministerial Conference in 2012.

FOHE-BPRC focuses on two themes:

  • the Bologna Process and its effects on the European higher education landscape (incl: EHEA principles, teaching and learning, quality assurance, mobility)
  • the efforts made to define the national policy frameworks under which the EHEA tools could be implemented (higher education governance in EHEA, higher education financing, process of diversification of higher education institutions, futures of higher education institutions)

More information about the themes can be found here, and the programme can be viewed here.

Deadline for registration to the conference is 15 September 2011. 

Please note that members of the Romanian academic communities, representatives of the European Students’ Union (ESU) or the European Council of Doctoral Candidates and Junior Researchers (EURODOC) are also eligible for grants that also cover part of the costs for travel and accomodation, you can find more information here.




10 years of the Bologna Process – the state of the art and way ahead?

This post launches a new series for the Hedda blog. Occasionally, we will review the newest and most exciting publications in higher education, usually books or special issues of major journals on the field. So, our first post on this series is a review of a recent special issue in the European Journal of Education (December 2010), written by Martina Vukasovic, a research fellow at the University of Oslo.

The Bologna Process is often see as “possibly the deepest and most far reaching higher education reform process since World War II” (the editorial by Barbara Kehm, p. 530). It has so far been the focus of numerous publications, by researchers and policy-makers alike, in Europe and beyond. Therefore, the year 2010, which was initially marked as the deadline for establishing the European Higher Education Area (see the Bologna Declaration from 1999), constitutes an excellent opportunity to try to summarise some lessons-we-have-learned and also indicate lessons-to-be-learned.

The special issue of the European Journal of Education (December 2010) includes seven contributions which focus on (a) issues of governance and policy-making (see contributions of Gornitzka and Lazetic); (b) use of standards, guidelines and frameworks and effects this has on the European and national higher education policy (Stensaker et al, Karseth and Solbrekke) and (c) the impact the Bologna Process may have on the regional, national and institutional level  – discussed through examples of Turkey (Yağci), Latin America (Ferrer) and US (Adelman).

The process can be seen as one involving a multitude of actors who often operate in policy arenas on several levels and are ideally set to act as policy entrepreneurs (Lazetic). This may lead to a sort of detachment of these actors from the grass root level and problems in implementation due to low legitimacy and lack of adequate inclusion of the main actors (academic staff and students). The Bologna Process is also in tension with other “neighbouring” sites of governance, especially in the light of its relationship to the EU Lisbon Strategy. However, this is not necessarily due to its European character, but it also reflects the process of institutional differentiation and specialisation seen on the national level (Gornitzka). In that sense, the Bologna Process with its link to the Lisbon Strategy can also be seen as an interesting case of tensions and clashes between different institutional spheres and dramatic changes that may come out from them.