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?