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Higher Education Reform
In Europe

(Brief Summary)


Introduction

The Bologna Process is a joint effort by European countries towards higher education reform to increase the international competitiveness of the European system of higher education.

Twenty nine European states signed the Bologna Declaration at an EU meeting in Bologna in 1999 and declared their aims of establishing a common European Higher Education Area (EHEA) by the year 2010. The Declaration set the goal of increasing the mobility of students and research staff and the comparability and mutual recognition of qualifications in the European institutions of higher education. Follow-up conferences have been held every two years since then and important objectives have been set and followed by the EU states.

Date Milestone Details
25 May 1998 Sorbonne Declaration The Education Ministers of Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom declared their will to remove existing barriers and to establish the basis for improved European cooperation in developing their universities.
19 June 1999 Bologna Declaration 29 European states declared their aim of establishing a common HEA by 2010. Six objectives were set in the areas of: qualification framework, two-cycle degree system, credits system, mobility, quality assurance and European dimension in higher education.
19 May 2001 Prague Communiqué The communiqué followed up on the six objectives stated in the Bologna Declaration and added three new objectives: lifelong learning, participation by students and attractiveness of the EHEA (33 states)
18/19 Sep 2003 Berlin Communiqué Three intermediate priorities were set for the next two years: quality assurance, two-cycle degree system (undergraduate/graduate) and recognition of degrees and periods of studies. Doctoral training was added as a new objective. (40 states)
19/20 May 2005 Bergen Communiqué Additional priority areas were set for the next two years: doctoral programmes, the social dimension, mobility and attractiveness of the EHEA. (45 states)
May 2007 London Communiqué Progress of the implementation of quality assurance, qualification framework will be reported. Two areas will be particularly looked at: joint degrees and flexible learning paths in higher education.

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Summary of the Main Documents

The Sorbonne Declaration (1998) focused on the “harmonization of the architecture of the European Higher Education System” and deliberated on the following:

  • A progressive convergence of the overall framework of degrees and cycles in an open European area for higher education;
  • A common degree level system for undergraduates (Bachelor’s degree) and graduates (Master’s and doctoral degree); and
  • Enhancing and facilitating student and teacher mobility (students should spend at least one semester abroad); removing obstacles for mobility and improving recognition of degrees and academic qualifications.

The Bologna Declaration (1999) laid the basis for establishing a European Higher Education Area by 2010 and promoting the European system of higher education world-wide. The following were agreed upon by the ministers:

  • Adoption of a system of easily comparable degrees;
  • Adoption of a system with two main cycles i.e. “two-cycle system” (undergraduate/ graduate);
  • Establishment of a system of credits (such as ECTS);
  • Promotion of mobility of students, teachers, researchers and administrative staff by overcoming obstacles;
  • Promotion of European co-operation in quality assurance by establishing a common framework of reference and to disseminate best practice;
  • Promotion of European dimensions in higher education by increasing the development of modules, courses and curricula at all levels with “European” content, orientation or organization.

The Prague Communiqué (2001) reviewed the progress achieved in the six objectives stated in the Bologna Declaration. It also emphasized the following elements of the European Higher Education Area:

  • Promotion of lifelong learning;
  • Involvement of students in the establishment and shaping of the European Higher Education Area;
  • Promotion of the attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area to students from Europe and other parts of the world (including the aspect of transnational education).

The Berlin Communiqué (2003) defined three intermediate priorities for the next two years and specific goals were set for each of them:

  • Quality assurance – to develop mutually shared criteria and methodologies on quality assurance at institutional, national and European level. It was agreed that by 2005 national quality assurance system should include:
    • A definition of the responsibilities of the bodies and institutions involved;
    • Evaluation of programmes or institutes;
    • A system of accreditation, certification or comparable procedures; and International participation, co-operation and networking.
  • Degree structure: adoption of the two-cycle system – to elaborate a framework of comparable and compatible qualifications for higher education systems, which seek to describe qualifications in terms of workload, level, learning outcomes, competences and profile.
  • Recognition of degrees and periods of studies – to ensure every student graduating as from 2005 receive a Diploma Supplement which describes the content and context of the qualification received in standard format automatically and free of charge.

In addition, it was agreed that the doctoral level should be included as the third cycle in the Bologna Process and to promote closer links between the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and the European Research Area (ERA).

The Bergen Communiqué (2005) reported the progress made in the three priority areas – the degree system, quality assurance and the recognition of degrees and periods of studies. The following were also highlighted:

  • The inclusion in the doctoral phase structured doctoral programmes which promote interdisciplinary training and skills which meet the needs of the employment market;
  • Social interests of students, particularly of those from socially disadvantaged groups;
  • Removal of obstacles to mobility by facilitating the delivery of visa and work permits and by encouraging participation in mobilty programmes;
  • Promotion of the attractiveness of European Higher Education Area and cooperation with other parts of the world.

The conference also called for progress reports on the following at the next conference in London in May 2007:

  • Implementation of the standards and guidelines for quality assurance agreed in Bergen;
  • Implementation of national frameworks for qualifications;
  • The awarding and recognition of joint degrees, including at the doctorate level;
  • Creating opportunities for flexible learning paths in higher education, including procedures for the recognition of prior learning.

The following is a summary of the objectives formulated by the Bologna Process so far:

  1. Elaboration of a framework of comparable and compatible qualifications for their higher education systems at national and European level (qualifications framework)
  2. Introduction of the bachelor’s/master’s study structure
  3. Establishment of a system of credits (ECTS)
  4. Promotion of mobility
  5. Promotion of quality assurance at institutional, national and European level
  6. Promotion of the European dimension in higher education
  7. Participation of students in the Bolonga process
  8. Promoting the attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area on a global level
  9. Inclusion of doctoral training
  10. Award and recognition of joint degrees, including at doctoral level
  11. Incorporation of lifelong learning: flexible learning paths and recognition of prior learning

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References

Sorbonne Joint Declaration: Joint declaration on harmonisation of the architecture of the European higher education system. (1998, May 25). Retrieved May 18, 2006, from Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research Website:

http://www.bologna- bergen2005.no/Docs/00-Main_doc/980525sorbonne_declaration.pdf

The Bologna Declaration of 19 June 1999: Joint declaration of the European Ministers of Education (1999, June 19). Retrieved May 18, 2006, from Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research Website:

http://www.bologna-bergen2005.no/Docs/00-Main_doc/990719bologna_declaration.pdf

Towards the European higher eudcation area: Communiqué of the meeting of European Ministers in charge of Higher Education in Prague on 19 May 2001. (2001, May 19). Retrieved May 18, 2006, from Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research Website:

http://www.bologna-bergen2005.no/Docs/00-Main_doc/010519prague_communique.pdf

Realising the European Higher Education Area: Communiqué of the Conference of Ministers responsible for Higher Education in Berlin on 19 September 2003. (2003, Sep 19). Retrieved May 18, 2006, from Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research Website:

http://www.bologna-bergen2005.no/Docs/00-Main_doc/030919Berlin_Communique.pdf

The European Higher Education Area – Achieving the Goals: Communiqué of the Conference of European Ministers Responsible for Higher Education, Bergen, 19-20 May 2005. (2005, May 20). Retrieved May 18, 2006, from Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research Website:

http://www.bologna-bergen2005.no/Docs/00-Main_doc/050520_Bergen_Communique.pdf

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