The Bologna Process Implementation Report is the result of a joint effort by Eurostat, Eurostudent and Eurydice and has been overseen by the Bologna Follow-Up Group. It describes the state of implementation of the Bologna Process in 2012 from various perspectives using data collected in 2011. Thus the report provides statistical data as well as contextualized, qualitative information. Download The European Higher Education Area in 2012: Bologna Process Implementation Report.
The higher education landscape in 2012 has been transformed by the Bologna Process. All countries have made significant changes that have enabled the European Higher Education Area to emerge, and which have laid the ground for higher education that is serving an increasing range of societal demands. Higher education structures have been changed, quality assurance systems developed, mechanisms to facilitate mobility established, and a range of issues for the social dimension of higher education identified. The scale of a project that, on the basis of voluntary cooperation, agrees and implements common objectives for the higher education systems of 47 countries is unprecedented. The Bologna Process continues to evolve through turbulent times, and in recent years the challenges for higher education have intensified. EHEA countries implement reforms in very different contexts. Student numbers vary enormously. Russia alone takes up more than 25% of the student population of the whole EHEA, while students in Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Germany, and the United Kingdom comprise more than 50% of the total EHEA student population. In addition, while demographic changes are of concern to most countries, some face relatively big increases in the student population in the coming years, while other countries will experience a decline in numbers. This context needs to be taken into account when assessing the degree of progress that has been made in implementing reforms in different parts of the European Higher Education Area.
Differences also exist regarding the funding of higher education institutions. While in some countries all higher education institutions are funded primarily from public sources, in others there is a larger proportion of private institutions. In addition, levels of public expenditure vary greatly within the EHEA. Responses to the recent economic crisis also differ. While public expenditure increased considerably in some countries after 2008, there have been significant budget cuts in others. Overall, the result of the crisis so far is a decline in public expenditure on higher education.

EHEA countries have to implement reforms in very different contexts. Student numbers vary enormously. In addition, while demographic changes are of concern to most countries, some face relatively big increases in the student population, while others can anticipate a decrease. Such differences can have an impact on the main goals and the speed of higher education reform.
Differences also exist regarding the orientation and funding of higher education institutions. While all higher education institutions are funded primarily from public sources in some countries, there is a larger proportion of private institutions in others. In addition, levels of public expenditure also vary within the EHEA. Similarly, responses to the recent economic crisis also differ in the region: while public expenditure increased considerably in some countries after 2008, there have been significant budget cuts in others. Yet, the result of the crisis has been an overall decline in public higher education expenditure.

This chapter has examined structures and tools of the Bologna Process as well as the level of the implementation of the Lisbon Recognition Convention (LRC).
The analysis has shown that while the introduction of the three-cycle structure in most institutions and programmes has been one of the most significant achievements of the process, there are still programmes outside the Bologna structure in all countries. This most often applies to studies related to regulated professions (e.g. medicine, pharmacy and architecture), but other study fields are also concerned. The chapter also indicates that in many EHEA countries, short-cycle programmes have not yet been fully linked to first-cycle programmes and they are sometimes not even regarded as part of the higher education system.
Contrary to some common perceptions, there is no single model of the three-cycle structure and models vary not only across countries but also within the borders of individual countries. This applies in particular to first-cycle studies, where in many EHEA countries the 180 ECTS first-cycle model coexists with 240 ECTS programmes, as well as programmes following other structures. The situation in the second cycle is slightly more homogenous, with most programmes following the 120 ECTS structure.
The development of doctoral studies as third-cycle studies is constantly progressing. Doctoral studies are characterised by significant cross-country and cross-institutional diversity, in particular in terms of their length, institutional settings and the use of ECTS. Their character ranges from structured higher education programmes within different models of doctoral or graduate schools to supervision-based independent research.
Although the Bologna communiqués emphasise the importance of the completion of each cycle giving access to the next cycle, the issue of progression between cycles is still very much alive. Obstacles can be observed both between the first and the second cycle, and between the second and the third cycle. However, in some contexts, and particularly where there is a strong binary divide in the higher education system, an "obstacle" such as a bridging course may be better understood as a system feature facilitating progression. It can also be noted that the size of the actual cohorts of students progressing from one cycle to another varies greatly between countries. In some countries the high levels of progression between the first and second cycle could be an indication that the first cycle has not been developed as a qualification giving access to the labour market.
Even if the chapter acknowledges the lack of reliable data on the level of the implementation of joint degrees and programmes, available information suggests that the situation across the EHEA is very uneven. While in some countries, nearly all institutions offer at least one joint programme, in other instances, none or only a few institutions are involved. Available data also indicate that students of joint programmes are rarely awarded a joint degree.
With regard to the implementation of Bologna tools – i.e. national qualifications frameworks, the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) and Diploma Supplement – optimal functioning of these instruments depends on the understanding and implementation of the learning outcomes approach. This is far from being achieved and the progress in this field is being slowed down by various factors. For example, the concept of learning outcomes is still subject to various interpretations and higher education staff do not always have access to training in this field.
Finally, the analysis of the implementation of the Lisbon Recognition Convention (LRC) shows that despite its signature and/or ratification by most of the EHEA countries, actual implementation needs to be enhanced. This process could be facilitated by the inclusion of the recognition of foreign qualifications and/or periods of study abroad into higher education quality assurance systems.
3. QUALITY ASSURANCE - Conclusions
This report provides strong evidence that the wave of quality assurance activity that gathered momentum after the launch of the Bologna Process in 1999 continues today. Despite the common Standards and Guidelines for the EHEA, systems nevertheless remain quite diverse in their orientation. The vast majority of QA systems now focus both on institutions and programmes. This suggests that while in the early stages of developing external QA systems the focus tends to be on programme evaluation, over time this often evolves to an institutional focus. However, the attention to programmes rarely disappears completely, and hence systems may become quite complex in attempting to respond to a variety of societal demands. As complexity increases, it will also be important to remain vigilant with regard to the impact of quality assurance on higher education institutions themselves. In particular, it is vital to ensure that the position expressed in the Berlin Ministerial Communiqué 2003 – that the primary responsibility for quality assurance rests with higher education institutions themselves – is viable in practice.
The scorecard indicators that have been used for this report reflect the main issues of the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG), and look forward towards 2020. While the outcomes confirm the impressive changes that have taken place in the landscape of higher education quality assurance since the Bologna Process began, there is still considerable room for improvement. In particular stakeholder involvement in all relevant aspects of quality assurance is an accepted principle, but it is still far from being a commonplace reality. The report also shows that, despite the establishment of the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR), many countries remain reluctant to devolve responsibility for external quality assurance beyond national boundaries.
Starting from the analysis of statistical data on the participation of different societal groups in higher education, this chapter has examined the social dimension of higher education looking at policy approaches through which the EHEA countries address the under-representation.
Available data on higher education participation and attainment show that the goal of providing equal chances for all has not yet been achieved. This does not mean that no progress has been made, but it is rather that there are still areas where supplementary effort is needed. In particular, the parental educational background still strongly influences chances to achieve a higher education degree and, in many countries, a migratory background also limits the odds to study at this educational level. Yet, a positive point is that almost all EHEA countries claim to work towards increasing and widening participation in higher education. Most of them address this issue through the combination of a general policy approach with measures targeting specific under-represented groups. Policy actions through which the under-representation is addressed take a variety of forms. They often include financial support measures, special admission regimes, outreach programmes as well as the provision of guidance and counselling services. However, the effect of these policy actions is not always monitored and even if the monitoring takes place, its impact on the policy development is not always visible.
Within their discussions on the social dimension of higher education, the ministers have agreed to pay particular attention to selected areas of action. Alternative access routes to higher education have been identified as one of these areas. According to the results of the BFUG reporting, alternative access to higher education, which most often takes form of the recognition of prior learning, currently exists in less than half of the EHEA countries. In the rest of the countries, access to higher education is conditioned by the possession of an upper secondary school-leaving certificate. From the geographical perspective, the countries of Western Europe are characterised by higher flexibility in terms of their entry qualification requirements than other EHEA countries. However, in order to accurately evaluate the situation of each country, it is necessary to take into account a range of factors, including the rate of early school leaving as well as the question of qualification outcomes of upper secondary education.
Another theme integrated in the discussions on the social dimension of higher education – the theme of student services – appears as a complex field characterised by heterogeneity of arrangements, both at national and cross-national levels. It is therefore difficult to provide a comprehensive picture of this area in a comparative international perspective. The information collected in the framework of the BFUG reporting indicates that in most EHEA countries, higher education institutions ensure provision of a relatively wide range of student services. Yet, the reporting does not allow to fully evaluate the extent to which these services are accessible to all students and the degree of their relevance with regard to different student needs.
Finally, the analysis looked at the main patterns of higher education funding systems, relating the most important elements of national fee systems with student support. The objective was to examine whether funding systems are being oriented to support and stimulate the social dimension policy objective of widening participation. However, as so many factors need to be considered for each particular country, it is difficult to draw clear conclusions on this matter. The results indicate that the diversity of fees and support systems is the most striking characteristic of higher education systems across the EHEA. The realities vary from situations where no students pay fees and all receive support to situations where all students pay fees and few receive support. Moreover, the levels of fees and support are also extremely diverse across different countries. Although the analysis does not provide a complete picture on this complex topic, it is evident that the way higher education funding systems are structured is likely to be having a significant impact on the social dimension of higher education.
Overall, the chapter shows that in many EHEA countries, there are already measures in place to address the under-representation of particular societal groups in higher education. The question however remains as to whether national higher education policy gives sufficient priority to these issues, and to what degree policy is responsive to the results achieved by particular measures.

Raising attainment and completion rates and improving graduate employability continue to be a challenge in the EHEA. However, limits in measuring employability and gaps in data availability hinder the assessment of the current situation.
Within the EHEA, an increasing proportion of the population is obtaining a higher education qualification. Regarding higher education completion, data availability is limited and the methodology of developing a suitable indicator is still in progress. For 2008, completion rates are available for only 22 countries, for which the median rate is 72%. Available data point towards differences between systems. The diversity of the current situation is confirmed by statistical information on net entry and graduation rates. Moreover, although the majority of the EHEA countries report that they have put in place policies to increase completion levels, there is a great variety in the scope and content of enacted measures. Only a small minority of countries have adopted comprehensive national strategies that address a range of factors for non-completion. Such strategies combine initiatives at both national and institutional level and include incentives for institutions and students. Furthermore, these measures have been supplemented by well-developed monitoring mechanisms. Other countries report that broad policy initiatives, although not directly targeting the increase of completion rates, are expected to contribute to the improvement of these rates. In other cases there are either only isolated, small-scale projects or no targeted measures to tackle this problem.
Although the notion of "employability" is widely used in policy debate, there are problems in defining the indicators that can reliably show whether the situation is improving or worsening. Instead, data usually reflect the labour market situation for higher education graduates in relation to persons with lower educational attainment levels. Statistical information on unemployment ratios shows that obtaining a tertiary qualification improves the employment prospects of young people in most countries. Similarly, persons with high educational attainment find their first job position faster than the group of people with only secondary education and they also earn more on average. However, there are differences among tertiary education graduates: recent graduates can face difficulties entering the labour market. In half of the EHEA countries, the unemployment ratio of recent graduates is higher than 10%, which is more than three times the median rate for young people three or more years after graduation. Furthermore, around 20% of graduates can be regarded as over-qualified for the job in which they are employed, with "services" graduates being the most likely to be in this situation. This percentage has remained stable between 2000 and 2010, suggesting that over-qualification rates are influenced more by labour market structures and innovation than by the growing number of students. This also highlights difficulties in evaluating the impact of employability policies, as changes in the general state of the economy are an important determinant of the availability and quality of job opportunities.
6. LIFELONG LEARNING - Conclusions
This chapter looked at six interlinked aspects of lifelong learning in higher education. First, it examined how the concept of lifelong learning is understood and interpreted across the EHEA, to what extent lifelong learning has become a recognised mission of higher education institutions and what sources contribute to its financing. The chapter then paid attention to two distinct elements of lifelong learning in higher education, namely flexible delivery of higher education programmes and the recognition of prior learning. The final section looked at how successful different higher education systems are in attracting mature students and delayed transition students to participate in formal higher education programmes.
The analysis has shown that cross-country differences in the understanding of lifelong learning in higher education are difficult to capture. This is partly related to the fact that only in a few countries steering documents covering higher education include a definition of lifelong learning. Where such definition exists, it often has a very broad character, which does not allow a full understanding of how lifelong learning in higher education is viewed and what activities fall under its concept. However, cross-national differences emerge when comparing the main forms of lifelong learning in which higher education institutions are commonly involved. While in some countries lifelong learning in higher education embraces a wide range of activities, in others, the list is still relatively limited. This could indicate that apart from promoting lifelong learning as a concept of its own right, more policy attention could be provided to the promotion of activities which are still rarely seen as a part of lifelong learning provision (e.g. tailor-made provision for industry/companies and other external partners, targeted guidance and counselling services, access provision to attract non-traditional learners, the possibility for the general public to use various higher education resources).
Despite conceptual differences in understanding lifelong learning, in most EHEA countries lifelong learning has already become a recognised mission of all higher education institutions. Yet, activity flows in this field often vary from one institution to another. Besides higher education institutions sometimes specialise in certain lifelong learning activities, whereas other elements of lifelong learning are not included in their offer. This can have various reasons, including specific legal constraints such as the lack of regulations on the recognition of prior learning or the impossibility for higher education institutions to provide formal higher education programmes under flexible arrangements.
From a financial perspective, lifelong learning in higher education commonly involves diverse sources. Higher education institutions rarely dispose of specifically earmarked budgets to cover their lifelong learning provision. Most commonly, institutions finance lifelong learning activities from their general budgets, which are often combined with other financial means. Comparable data on the extent to which lifelong learning is financed from public sources is difficult to obtain. To achieve cross-country comparability in this field it would be necessary to develop a robust methodology that would include an operational definition of lifelong learning in higher education.
With regard to distinct elements of lifelong learning in higher education, the analysis has shown that most EHEA countries recognise the need to enhance flexible delivery of higher education programmes and they address this issue through various policy actions. Around two-thirds of countries have established an official student status other than the status of a full-time student. However, studying with a formal status other than full-time often requires higher private financial investment than studying under traditional arrangements. Therefore, the existence of alternative student statuses needs to be seen in close relation to financial arrangements that apply to each category of students. It can also be noted that the absence of an alternative student status does not necessarily mean the impossibility for students to follow their studies in a flexible way.
Data on the participation of students in part-time studies indicate that mature students are those who are the most likely to study part-time. Flexible delivery of higher education programmes and lifelong learning therefore appear as two interlinked thematic areas. The analysis also shows that crosscountry comparisons related to alternative modes of study should be carried out with caution, taking into account conceptual complexity of this field.
Another element of lifelong learning in higher education – the recognition of prior learning – has been followed by a separate scorecard indicator since 2007. The main focus of the present indicator was the recognition of prior non-formal and informal learning. Similarly to previous editions, the analysis looked at two different aspects of the recognition of prior learning: access to higher education and progression in higher education studies. In addition, the indicator examined the extent to which the recognition of prior learning has become a common practice within the higher education sector. The results show that a large proportion of EHEA countries are situated at the two extremities of the spectrum: either they already have a well-established system of recognition of prior learning or they have not yet started their activities in this field. A relatively small number of countries are situated at intermediary stages, which could indicate that despite the policy attention accorded to the theme, only very little developments are taking place across the EHEA. Besides, in countries where the recognition of prior learning has already been implemented, the process is often subject to various limitations and can rarely lead to the award of complete higher education qualifications.
Finally, while policy approaches to lifelong learning in higher education differ from one country to another, the degree of participation of non-traditional learners (in particular mature students and delayed transition students) in formal higher education programmes can be used as a proxy to evaluate how successful different higher education systems are in the implementation of a culture of lifelong learning. The report shows that countries have very different profiles in terms of participation levels of non-traditional students in higher education. While in some of them mature students and/or delayed transition students represent a significant proportion of the total student population, in other instances the proportion of these students is relatively low. Countries also show different evolution patterns between the academic years 2005/06 and 2008/09: In around half of them the proportion of mature students in formal higher education programmes increased, whereas in another half it decreased. This could indicate that the EHEA countries are addressing the establishment of a culture of lifelong learning with very different degrees of intensity.
7. MOBILITY - Conclusions
In order to step up action to promote mobility, a benchmark of 20% of graduated students has been set and the first steps have been taken to monitor progress. The collection of statistical data is an ongoing process and this report reveals the first findings for degree mobility. However, more work on statistical definitions and more comprehensive collection of information is still required – particularly on credit mobility.
Currently, all but two countries show an incoming degree mobility rate of less than 10% in the European Higher Education Area. The vast majority of countries have values below 5%. This is also true concerning outward degree mobility rates of graduates inside the EHEA. The weighted average for this mobility flow is currently slightly below 2%. For outward mobility of students going outside the EHEA for study, the rate for the majority of countries is less than 1%. However, as these figures are related only to degree mobility, statistical information on credit mobility has to be added and taken into consideration when assessing progress towards the 20% benchmark. The current projection of shortterm trends in the framework of the Erasmus programme anticipates 7% by 2020, while other sources of reliable credit mobility data still need to be identified.
When looking at mobility flows worldwide, the students studying in the EHEA coming from any country abroad reach less than 4% of the total number of students in the EHEA. Meanwhile the percentage of EHEA students studying for a degree outside the EHEA is, in relative terms, very small indeed. Currently, the weighted average of incoming mobile students from outside the EHEA is 2.25%.
The reporting also reveals that flows typically follow East-West patterns both in European and global terms. In the EHEA, South and Eastern Europe tend to have more outward students and North and Western European countries more incoming students. Hardly any country can claim to have genuinely balanced mobility and even when flows reach similar numbers, the countries sending and receiving students differ significantly.
The main reasons that prevent students from benefitting from mobility periods abroad have been identified by reporting countries and Eurostudent information. However, many countries lack a clear strategy and measures to change the situation. Similarly, monitoring mechanisms are also absent in many parts of Europe.
Although staff mobility is mentioned in all Bologna communiqués, the situation – comparing to student mobility – is less clear. It is thus firstly important to agree on the scope and definition(s) of staff mobility. Currently, only a few countries set quantitative targets towards staff mobility. Based on data available from the Erasmus programme, incoming staff mobility affects relatively low numbers of staff. Better monitoring and tackling of identified obstacles is also essential if countries are to foster staff mobility across Europe.
Download The European Higher Education Area in 2012: Bologna Process Implementation Report.
See also EHEA – outcomes of the 2012 Ministerial Conference and the Bologna Policy Forum, Bologna Process Ministerial Conference outlines next steps in consolidation of European Higher Education Area, Higher Education Reform Key For Jobs And Growth, Bologna Process Ministers Are Told, Key Data on Education in Europe 2012: HIGHLY EDUCATED PEOPLE HAVE BETTER EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES BUT MANY TERTIARY GRADUATES ARE NOW OVERQUALIFIED FOR THEIR POSTS, Eurypedia - A new service for the Education community in Europe - Higher education.