The Social Dimension is one of the overarching Bologna Process themes, appearing for the first time in the Prague Communiqué (2001) where “…Ministers reaffirmed the need, recalled by students to take account of the social dimension in the Bologna process...”. At the following ministerial conferences, the social dimension was described as an integral part of the EHEA and a necessary condition for enhancing the attractiveness and competitiveness of the EHEA (the Bergen Communiqué, 2005).
With the London Communiqué of May 2007, Ministers responsible for higher education agreed on a common definition for the objective of the social dimension: “We share the societal aspiration that the student body entering, participating in and completing higher education at all levels should reflect the diversity of our populations”. Further on, Ministers concurred in setting national strategies and policies, including action plans and reports on their progress at the next ministerial meeting. It was also recommended to work towards defining comparable data and indicators for the social dimension of higher education.
In Leuven/Louvain-La-Neuve, Ministers committed further on to "…set measureable targets to widen participation of underrepresented groups in higher education, to be reached by the end of the next decade…" (the Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve Communiqué, 2009).
In Bucharest, acknowledging that “…widening access to higher education is a precondition for societal progress and economic development…” the Ministers agreed “…to adopt national measures for widening overall access to quality higher education”. The Ministers also committed to step up their efforts towards underrepresented groups through developing the social dimension of higher education, reducing inequalities and providing adequate student support services, counselling and guidance, flexible learning paths and alternative access routes, including recognition of prior learning (the Bucharest Communiqué, 2012).
Furthermore, the Ministers undertook to develop a system of voluntary peer learning and reviewing by 2013 in countries which request it and initiate a pilot project to promote peer learning on the social dimension of higher education which will assist EHEA countries in developing, implementing and monitoring social dimension policies and support structured and systematic peer learning among countries and institutions.
The BFUG agreed to streamline 2012-2015 work structures by reducing the number of working groups. The new structure would allow the BFUG to play its role for strategic policy guidance, while concentrating on the key policy areas and, at the same time, it would allow a close interaction between and better implementation of the interlinked policy issues that are arranged under one working group. Hence, for the period 2012-2015, the Working Group on the Social Dimension and Lifelong Learning will deal with the respective two policy issues of higher education.
Further background information can be accessed at:
- Report from the Bologna Process Working Group (2007) - Key issues for the European Higher Education Area – Social Dimension and Mobility;
- Annex 2 of the 2007 working group report - Template for National Strategies;
- Bologna Process Stocktaking Report (2009);
- The Bologna Process in Higher Education in Europe (2009): Key indicators on the social dimension and mobility – Eurostat & Eurostudent;
- Focus on Higher Education in Europe (2010): The Impact of the Bologna Process.
Catalogue of good practices in Social Dimension implementation in Higher Education . More...