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What is the Bologna Process? Print

Launched in 1999 by the Ministers of Education and university leaders of 29 countries, the Bologna Process aims to create a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) by 2010; it has further developed into a major reform encompassing 46 countries. Taking part in the Bologna Process is a voluntary decision made by each country and its higher education community to endorse the principles underlined in the European Higher Education Area.

The Bologna Process does not aim to harmonise national educational systems but rather to provide tools to connect them. The intention is to allow the diversity of national systems and universities to be maintained while the European Higher Education Area improves transparency between higher education systems, as well as implements tools to facilitate recognition of degrees and academic qualifications, mobility, and exchanges between institutions. The reforms are based on ten simple objectives which governments and institutions are currently implementing. Most importantly, all participating countries have agreed on a comparable three cycle degree system for undergraduates (Bachelor degrees) and graduates (Master and PhD degrees).

Bologna - an overview of the main elements
Further information - countries, reference documents, glossaries

Who is involved?

The main actors in the Bologna Process are:

• Education Ministers of countries that signed the Bologna Declaration
• Representatives of European universities (EUA), professional higher education institutions (EURASHE), students (ESU), quality assurance agencies (ENQA), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation - European Centre for Higher Education (UNESCO-CEPES), Education International (EI) and Business Europe
• The Process is also supported by the European Commission and the Council of Europe

All actors are involved in the Bologna Follow Up Group (BFUG) which meets regularly to further elaborate on the 10 action lines and supports the implementation of the Bologna Declaration. A ministerial meeting is held every two years to take stock of the latest implementation stage and review its course. Decisions are reached by consensus.

Background information

In 1998 France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany signed the Sorbonne Declaration on the "harmonisation of the architecture of the European Higher Education System".

In 1999, Ministers of Education from 29 European countries signed the Bologna Declaration which aims to create a coherent and cohesive European Higher Education Area (EHEA) by 2010. The main objectives outlined in this statement were as follows:

• adopt a system of easily readable and comparable degrees
• adopt a system with two main cycles (undergraduate/graduate)
• establish a system of credits (ECTS)
• promote mobility by overcoming legal recognition and administrative obstacles
• promote European co-operation in quality assurance
• promote a European dimension in higher education.

Since the adoption of the Bologna Declaration in 1999, European Ministers of Education have met every two years to further discuss and build upon the initial objectives. It is at this time that the Ministers produce a communiqué: the Prague (2001), Berlin (2003), Bergen (2005) and London (2007) communiqués each outline the progress made thus far as well as future short and long term priorities.

In Prague, it was agreed to add three more action lines:

• inclusion of lifelong learning strategies
• involvement of higher education institutions and students as essential partners in the Process
• promotion of the attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area.

In Berlin, they agreed to speed up the process by setting an intermediate deadline of 2005 for progress on:

• quality assurance
• the adoption of a system of degree structures based on two main cycles
• recognition of degrees.

Moreover, they decided to add the additional Action Line "Doctoral studies and promotion of young researchers", including specific mention of doctoral programmes as the third cycle in the Bologna Process.

In Bergen, Ministers committed themselves for their next meeting in 2007 to reinforcing the social dimension and removing obstacles to mobility, as well as to making progress on:

Implementing the agreed standards and guidelines for quality assuranceImplementing national frameworks of qualificationsAwarding and recognising joint degreesCreating opportunities for flexible learning paths in higher education

In the last ministerial meeting in London (17-18 May 2007) Ministers underlined that good overall progress has been made in the last two years in the realisation of the EHEA. However, many challenges still remain.

You can read the London Communiqué: Towards the European Higher Education Area: responding to challenges in a globalised world also in French.

The 2009 Communiqué from Leuven and Louvain-La Neuve underlines the importance of maintaining the existing stakeholder approach post 2010 – which means that students, universities, business, in tandem with governments, will share responsibility for the development of future reforms and cooperation. (A French version of the Communiqué is available here .) EUA welcomes the fact that the Communiqué takes up many of the key points stressed in its recent Prague Declaration to Ministers. In particular, the Communiqué underlines the importance of increasing the quality and quantity of mobility in Europe, together with many of the other key issues underlined in the EUA Declaration including taking forward lifelong learning, notably through the take-up up of EUA’s Lifelong Learning Charter , and improving researcher careers.

For the first time as part of a Bologna Ministerial Summit, Ministers from the 46 European countries participating in the Leuven/Louvain-la Neuve meeting were joined by Ministers or heads of delegation from 15 countries from Africa, Asia, America (North and South) and Australasia as part of a ‘Bologna Policy Forum’. Please click here to read more and to download the statement from the meeting.

In 2010, the Vienna Ministerial Conference and the 2nd Bologna Policy Forum took place.
With the Vienna Declaration, the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) has been officially launched. EUA has reflected on the achievements of the Bologna Process so far, and on the new steps to be taken in the first decade of the EHEA in its TRENDS 2010 report.

Further information is available at the official EHEA website: