The Bologna Process acknowledges that one of the biggest assets of European higher education is its diversity. The Sorbonne Joint Declaration argues for diversity in the service of society: "we owe our students and our society at large, a higher education system in which they are given the best opportunities to seek and find their own area of excellence." The Prague Communiqué (2001) makes this normative more explicit: "programmes leading to a degree may, and indeed should, have different orientations and various profiles in order to accommodate a diversity of individual, academic and labour market needs." The Leuven/ Louvain-la-Neuve Communiqué (2009) specifies that not only the diversity of study programmes is a response of the higher education institutions to the needs of the society, but the HEI's themselves are responsive to the wider needs of the society through the diversity of their missions.
Coordinating a diverse system requires vision and sensitiveness to subtleties in issuing judgements on the degree in which a higher education institution or a study programme is reaching its societal purpose. In order to overcome the oversimplifying approach "one size fits all", the ministers committed in Leuven/ Louvain-la-Neuve (2009) to "uphold the highly valued diversity of our education systems" in their strive to create a EHEA whose basic principles include quality and transparency, as stated in the Bergen Communiqués (2005). This normative will be realized through public policies which will "fully recognize the value of various missions of higher education, ranging from teaching and research to community services and engagement in social cohesion and cultural development", as explained in the Leuven/ Louvain-la-Neuve Communiqué (2009).
The Bologna Process has always been concerned with making the diversity of the EHEA more transparent. Quality assurance, qualifications framework and recognition, together with the tools designed to facilitate their implementation, such as Diploma Supplement, ECTS and Lisbon Recognition Convention, have contributed substantially to this goal. The ministers noted in Leuven/ Louvain-la-Neuve (2009) that, besides the above mentioned instruments, "there are several initiatives designed to develop mechanisms for providing more detailed information about higher education institutions across the EHEA to make their diversity more transparent". "Such mechanisms, including those helping higher education systems and institutions to identify and compare their respective strengths, should be developed in close consultation with the key stakeholders. These transparency tools need to relate closely to the principles of the Bologna Process, in particular quality assurance and recognition, which will remain our priority, and should be based on comparable data and adequate indicators to describe the diverse profiles of higher education institutions and their programmes."
Transparency tools often referred to include:
- Registers offering comparable information on higher education institutions/study programmes. More...
If you have questions concerning the recognition of your qualifications, please contact the national information centre in the country concerned. You will find a complete list of national information centres on the ENIC-NARIC website.
The purpose of recognition is to make it possible for learners to use their qualifications from one education system in another education system (or country) without losing the real value of those qualifications.
The main international legal text that aims to further the fair recognition of qualifications is the Council of Europe/UNESCO Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region (Lisbon Recognition Convention).
Like any legal text, the Convention must be put into practice. The recognition of qualifications falls within the competence of each country. In most cases, this means that higher education institutions are responsible for the recognition of qualifications for the purpose of further study whereas professional bodies or employers are responsible for recognition for the purposes of the labour market.
Tools that facilitate the recognition of qualifications are the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) and the Diploma Supplement (DS).
To help develop good practice and a common understanding of recognition, the Council of Europe, UNESCO/CEPES and the European Commission coordinate the ENIC and NARIC Networks. The Networks develop good practice and policy, whereas individual member centres may provide information on the recognition of qualifications as well as the qualifications frameworks and education systems of the countries for which they are responsible. You may find a list of all centres as well as a description of the Networks and much other useful information on the ENIC-NARIC website. This site also contains links to other resources. You may also access an information disk on the Bologna Process, which contains valuable information on recognition, too.
In 2007, all countries of the Bologna Process submitted national action plans to improve the recognition of qualifications. An ENIC/NARIC working party has analysed the national action plans and produced a very detailed report with recommendations for the various actors involved on how to further improve recognition procedures and practice:
Report to the BFUG on the Analysis of the 2007 National Action Plans for Recognition, prepared by Andrejs Rauhvargers and Agnese Rusakova. More...
One of the purposes of the Bologna Declaration (1999) was to encourage European cooperation in quality assurance of higher education with a view to developing comparable criteria and methodologies. The European Ministers of Education adopted in 2005 the "Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG)" drafted by the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) in co-operation and consultation with its member agencies and the other members of the “E4 Group” (ENQA, EUA, EURASHE and ESU).
In 2007, the European Ministers of Education, having received the E4 London report agreed that the E4 should proceed to setting up the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR). The Register was set up on 4 March 2008 as the first legal entity to emerge from the Bologna Process. EQAR listing has the ESG as criteria and thus provides information on quality assurance agencies that are in substantial compliance with this common European framework.
The E4 Group also organizes European Quality Assurance Fora annually, to discuss the latest developments in quality assurance.
The influence of the European Standards and Guidelines for quality assurance in higher education (ESG) is spreading and they are gaining acceptance as a shared reference point for all actors in European higher education. Currently EQAR is listing 24 agencies in 23 countries, compliant with the ESG, which can perform evaluations in any country of the EHEA.
Though, the fundamental responsibility for quality continues to rest within the higher education institutions. Internal quality assurance is a duty of the institution, and the development of an effective “quality culture” is clearly linked with their degree of operational autonomy.
External quality assurance fulfils different needs: it combines both accountability for the reassurance of the public by providing information about quality and standards as well as an objective and developmental commentary for institutions. In this respect, the external evaluations are focusing either on study programmes, on institutions or on a combination of both.
Quality assurance is far from being a closed point of discussion in the EHEA. The ongoing debates include, amongst others: how to balance accountability and improvement within higher education institutions, on the one hand, and the shared responsibilities of higher education institutions, quality assurance agencies and policy-makers, on the other; how to make real the roles of different stakeholder groups (students, the business world, etc) and how to provide these groups with an adequate level of information; how to handle the increasing diversity across higher education (diversity of pedagogies, of institutions, of students, of expectations, of missions) and across national quality assurance settings; how to face the current economical constraints: budgetary cuts and pressures for commercialization of higher education.
Quality assurance has been a priority for the Bologna Process, but its mechanisms are not perceived as an end in themselves. Their ultimate goal is to enhance the quality of teaching and research and, in this respect, quality assurance agencies act as a support for institutions in their continuing development and, equally, have a key role as protectors of the public interest. More...
"Higher education institutions have gained greater autonomy along with rapidly growing expectations to be responsive to societal needs and to be accountable. Within a framework of public responsibility we confirm that public funding remains the main priority to guarantee equitable access and further sustainable development of autonomous higher education institutions. Greater attention should be paid to seeking new and diversified funding sources and methods." (the Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve Communiqué, 2009, par. 23)
The above paragraph launched the debate on funding and governance within the European Higher Education Area. Yet, there are also other referred to concepts that undergird the discussion on higher education institutions' financing and governance: the public good approach and public responsibility, social dimension, accountability, institutional autonomy and development (the 2001 Prague Communiqué, the Berlin Communiqué, the 2005 Bergen Communiqué, the 2007 London Communiqué, the 2010 Budapest-Vienna Declaration and the 2012 Bucharest Communiqué).
In Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve, the Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the values of institutional autonomy and academic freedom (Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve Communiqué, 2009, par. 4). The translation of these principles in financing policies leaves room for higher education institutions to find appropriate and diverse responses to the challenges their societies are facing, under a frame of public responsibility. Strong higher education institutions, which are diverse, adequately funded, autonomous and accountable, are a premise for "strengthen(ing) Europe's attractiveness and competitiveness" (London Communiqué, 2007, par. 1.3).
On 8-9 September 2011, the first major international conference on funding of higher education in the framework of the Bologna Process was organised by the Ministry of Education and Science of Armenia under the auspices of the Polish-Armenian Co-Chairmanship of the Bologna Process in Yerevan. The conference pointed at the “funding gap” (understood as a policy gap) existing between the EHEA scope of the developments in higher education and the mostly scattered, national efforts to support/respond to these developments and associated challenges by putting in place appropriate funding policies and mechanisms.
Further on, as the outcome of the conference, two recommendations were put forward: a) to reaffirm the public responsibility  for funding of higher education in the context of the Bologna Process; and b) aiming to bridge the policy gap, to stimulate the creation of a European space for dialogue in the area of financing of higher education.
In Bucharest, on 17-19 October executive Unit for Financing Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation (UEFISCDI) held an international conference "Future of Higher Education - Bologna Process Researchers' Conference (FOHE - BPRC 2011)". It brought together researchers closely related to higher education, personalities from academia, students and policy makers directly involved in research related to the Bologna Process. The conference, that focused, inter alia, on the issues of governance, financing and diversification in higher education, reaffirmed the need to further investigate these issues given their importance for the future of higher education institutions (HEIs) in EHEA.
Finally, in Bucharest, the Ministers reconfirmed their commitment to maintaining public responsibility for higher education and acknowledged the need to open a dialogue on funding and governance of higher education. Furthermore, they stressed the importance of promoting the development of appropriate funding instruments, and more efficient governance and managerial structures at HEIs. Reiterating their commitment to autonomous and accountable HEIs that embrace academic freedom, the Ministers committed to support the engagement of students and staff in governance structures at all levels (the Bucharest Communiqué, 2012).
For the period 2012-2015, seminars/peer-learning activities will be organised to discuss the ways of further developing appropriate funding instruments and improving governance and managerial structures of HEIs. At a later stage, based on the outcomes of the seminars, the BFUG will decide whether there is a need to set up an ad-hoc working group on the issue.
Public responsibility does not imply that funding must come exclusively from public/state sources. Rather, it implies that the state should be responsible for a regulatory framework that ensures efficient mobilisation, allocation and use of financial resources in higher education, consistent with larger policy goals and principles. More...
Older national reports: Austria 2001 - available
*National report submitted by Kazakhstan for the admission to the EHEA in March 2010.
Older national reports: Austria 2001 - available
*National report submitted by Kazakhstan for the admission to the EHEA in March 2010. More...
With the development of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) a growing interest in the Bologna Process and the emerging European Higher Education Area can be witnessed world-wide (see for instance the 2007 working group report).
At the Ministerial conference in May 2007 in London, Ministers adopted the strategy "The European Higher Education Area in a Global Setting", encompassing the following priorities:
* improving information on the European Higher Education Area,
* promoting European Higher Education to enhance its world-wide attractiveness and competitiveness,
* intensifying policy dialogue,
* strengthening cooperation based on partnership and
* furthering the recognition of qualifications.
In April 2009, a report on the overall development at the European, national and institutional levels was published, including reports on the implementation of the strategy (download the full report)
To facilitate the implementation of the strategy, the 2005-2007 working group had prepared a list with elements for possible future actions, which was not discussed by the Ministers but can still serve as source of inspiration (download strategy and list of elements for possible future actions in one document).
To improve information on the Bologna Process and the European Higher Education Area, the 2007-2009 working group prepared an information booklet, which may be freely used and copied for non-commercial purposes (print version; version for professional printing).
Information for international students and researchers interested in studying, working or doing research at a European Higher Education Institution is available for each country participating in the Bologna Process on the country pages.
In cooperation with other regions of the world the "UNESCO/OECD Guidelines for Quality Provision in Cross-Border Education" play an important role. A seminar on "Quality Assurance in Transnational Education - from words to action" was organised by ENQA in December 2008.
Views from around the world
The growing interest in the Bologna Process also beyond Europe is reflected in a growing number of reports and initiatives, some of which are listed here:
Australia and the broader Asia-Pacific region:
Brisbane Communiqué initiative of the broader Asia-Pacific region
Report prepared by the Quality Assurance Subcommittee of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC) (May 2008)
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada: statement on the Bologna Process (June 2008); background document (April 2008).
New Zealand and the Bologna Process
The Bologna Process from a U.S. perspective - Institute for Higher Education Policy, Washington
NAFSA Special Focus Network: Bologna Process. More...
The Leuven/ Louvain-la-Neuve Communiqué (2009) acknowledges that higher education fosters innovation and creativity in the society, and, in the same time, higher education itself needs to be based on the current state of the art in research and development. Therefore, it is hard to imagine a higher education institution disconnected from research.
The Bologna Declaration places Europe's "scientific traditions" amongst the attractions of the EHEA, while the Prague and Bergen Communiqués underline the quality of research and education in the same respect. Leuven/ Louvain-la-Neuve Communiqué captures another dimension of internationalization: highly qualified researchers are listed as needed to be attracted to the EHEA through "attractive working conditions and career paths, as well as open international recruitment".
Vienna/Budapest Communiqué (2010) brings an integrative touch: researchers are listed, alongside with institutional leaders, teachers, administrative staff and students as part of the academic community "having the key role in making the EHEA a reality". More...
Qualifications frameworks describe the qualifications of an education system and how they interlink. National qualifications frameworks describe what learners should know, understand and be able to do on the basis of a given qualification as well as how learners can move from one qualification to another within a system.
National qualifications frameworks are developed to be compatible with the overarching framework of qualifications of the European Higher Education Area, which was adopted in 2005 and consists of three cycles (e.g. bachelor, master, doctorate). The overarching framework makes recognition of qualifications easier since specific qualifications can be related to a common framework.
For more details read the 2005 background report and visit the website for qualifications frameworks in the European Higher Education Area. This site contains important information on qualifications frameworks, which have become an essential instrument in developing the European Higher Education Area, and provides updates on relevant events and developments at European, regional or national level.For more information on the third cycle, read our section on doctoral education.
Qualifications frameworks outside of the EHEA
Sources and resources
Qualifications frameworks: conferences and events
Referencing of the Malta Qualifications Framework (MQF) to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and the Qualifications Framework of the European Higher Education Area (QF/EHEA). More...
When Ministers met in May 2007 in London, they identified employability as one of the priorities for the period leading to the next ministerial conference in April 2009. Employability has been one of the main goals to be achieved with the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) from the very start but many concerns still exist - among employers, students, academics, higher education institutions and governments.
Hence, in April 2012 in Bucharest, the Ministers committed “to enhance the employability and personal and professional development of graduates throughout their careers”to serve Europe’s needs (the Bucharest Communiqué, 2012). The Ministers stressed the role of cooperation between employers, students and higher education institutions in achieving this goal. Furthermore, lifelong learning was acknowledged as one of the important factors in meeting the needs of a changing labour market; and it was also highlighted that higher education institutions play a central role in transferring knowledge and strengthening regional development.
Finally, the Ministers pointed at the learning mobilityas essential to ensure the quality of higher education, enhance students’ employability and expand cross-border collaboration within the EHEA and beyond.
What is employability?
There are many definitions of employability. For the purpose of the Bologna Follow-up Group, employability is defined as the ability to gain initial employment, to maintain employment, and to be able to move around within the labour market.
The role of higher education
Today’s graduates need to combine transversal, multidisciplinary and innovation skills and competences with up-to-date subject-specific knowledge so as to be able to contribute to the wider needs of society and the labour market (the Bucharest Communiqué, 2012). The role of higher education in this context is to equip students with these skills and attributes (knowledge, attitudes and behaviours) that individuals need in the workplace and that employers require, and to ensure that people have the opportunities to maintain or renew those skills and attributes throughout their working lives. At the end of a course, students will thus have an in-depth knowledge of their subject as well as generic employability skills.
2012-2015 Work Programme
For the period 2012-2015, the working groups, ad-hoc working groups and networks, in addition to the specific tasks defined by their respective Terms of Reference, will aim through the policy recommendations developed at the end of their mandate to enhance employability, lifelong learning, transversal, innovative and entrepreneurial skills and stimulate student-centred learning of the graduates.
2007-2009 Work Programme
After the Ministerial Meeting in London in May 2007, the Bologna Follow-up Group set up a working group to provide a report to Ministers for their 2009 conference on how to improve employability in relation to each of the three cycles (with a particular emphasis on the first cycle) as well as in the context of lifelong learning.
Suggested themes to be covered by the report include
* awareness-raising among employers of the value of a bachelors qualification and associated learning outcomes;
* involving employers in devising curricula and curriculum innovation based on learning outcomes;
* provision of careers and guidance services;
* employment and career structures within the public service that are fully compatible with the new degree system;
* recognition of degrees in the labour market across Europe;
* the role of higher education in lifelong learning and continuing professional development.
As one basis for the report, late 2007/early 2008, the employability working group conducted a short informal survey on the issue of employability among the members of the Bologna Follow-up Group.
For preliminary results and an overview of the state of affairs by the end of October 2008, read the employability working group update prepared for the Bologna Seminar in Luxembourg.
"Employability: The Employers' Perspective and its Implications", Luxembourg, 6-7 November 2008
"Enhancing European Employability", Swansea, 14-16 July 2006
"The employability and its links to the objectives of the Bologna Process", Bled, 22-23 October 2004
* International comparative surveys of graduates provide valuable information about the relationship between higher education and employment, e.g. REFLEX project; Careers After Graduation
* The European University Association has initiated a project dealing with employability in the context of doctoral education: DOC-CAREERS Project (2006-2007)
* In 2007, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) coordinated an international project on
University-Enterprise cooperation. More...
CLifelong Learning has been recognised as an essential element of the European Higher Education Area since the Ministers met in Prague in 2001. The Prague Communiqué signals that in a Europe built on a knowledge-based society and economy, lifelong learning strategies are necessary to face the challenges of competitiveness and the use of new technologies, and to improve social cohesion, equal opportunities and quality of life.
Since then, there has been growing awareness of the need to embed lifelong learning within higher education, if we are to meet the challenges of the future. This includes the particular challenges arising from the changing demography of EHEA.
Increasingly, lifelong learning is seen as a cross cutting issue, inherent in all aspects of the Bologna Process. The following steps were deemed necessary for the implementation of lifelong learning:
* widening access to higher education;
* creating more flexible, student-centred modes of delivery;
* improving the recognition of prior learning, including non-formal and informal learning;
* developing national qualifications frameworks;
*improving cooperation with employers, especially in the development of educational programmes;
The 2007 London Communiqué reports that some elements of flexible learning exist in most countries, but a more systematic development of flexible learning paths to support lifelong learning is at an early stage. Ministers have therefore asked the Bologna Follow-up Group to increase the sharing of good practice and work towards a common understanding of the role of higher education in lifelong learning.
The Leuven/Louvain-La-Neuve Communiqué further specified the concept of lifelong learning, stating “lifelong learning implies that qualifications may be obtained through flexible learning paths, including part-time studies, as well as work-based routes”. The Ministers also acknowledged that successful policies for lifelong learning would include basic principles and procedures for recognition of prior learning on the basis of learning outcomes. Further on, the Ministers aimed to have national qualifications frameworks implemented and prepared for self-certification against the overarching Qualifications Framework for the European Higher Education Area by 2012 (the Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve Communiqué, 2009).
The 2012 Bucharest Communiqué reaffirmed the role of lifelong learning as one of the important factors in meeting the needs of a changing labour market, and stressed the central role of higher education institutions in transferring knowledge and strengthening regional development, including by the continuous development of competences and reinforcement of knowledge alliances.
For the period 2012-2015, the Working Group on the Social Dimension and Lifelong Learning will address this policy area.
Lifelong Learning Charter
At its autumn conference in Rotterdam, EUA officially presented the new icon pdf document European Universities’ Charter on Lifelong Learning. The Charter, developed at the request of the French Prime Minister François Fillon, is based around a series of 10 commitments made by universities in addressing the development and implementation of lifelong learning strategies, with a set of matching commitments proposed for governments and regional partners. The Charter is also available in French.
On 26 November 2008, EUA President Georg Winckler presented the Charter at an informal meeting of the Ministers in charge of Vocational Education and Training and the Ministers in charge of Higher Education in the context of the French Presidency of the European Union (for more information consult the website of the French Presidency).
Further background information on lifelong learning in the context of the European Higher Education Area can be found on the website of the European University Continuing Education Network.
ALLUME ( A Lifelong Learning University Model for Europe)
The LLL perspective is the backbone of the European education and training strategy. This strategy has been reinforced by additional initiatives aiming to contribute to the results of surveys (Treds V, Beflex) show a contrasted situation between countries and institutions. There is no common understanding, no real commitment from a majority of rectors, no clear vision of what has to be done. However, the universities' commitment is crucial to reinforce the contribution of education and training to achieving the Lisbon objectives. Access and participation in HE of young generations but also of populations already engaged in working life is crucial. EUA presented in 2008 a ULLL Charter addressing the implementation of LLL strategies in HEIs. But a Charter is not enough. The challenge is now to make this Charter a reality. To carry out the Charter requires the elaboration of shared and integrated strategies at institutional level and the provision of flexible learning opportunities, organisations, and services. ALLUME intends to contribute in this implementation process on the basis of best practices at work in universities having already developed successful LLL strategies. ALLUME intends to define and promote guidelines to assist European universities to become LLL institutions.
For more information related to this project, please visit the website http://www.allume.eucen.eu/ or view theproject description.
OBSERVAL is a European project granted by the Leonardo da Vinci programme. EUCEN, the European University Continuing Education Network, is the leader of this project. Partners are teams in 24 countries of the European Union representing the different educational sectors (higher education, vocational education and training, adult education).
The main objective of this project is to create a database on validation of non formal and informal learning in European countries, which will be regularly updated, available in a European Observatory and accessible by Internet. The perspective is to provide documents useful for a large range of actors (decision makers at national and institutional level, social partners, human resources managers, people in charge of validation,…) which are usually confidential or limited in use and dissemination outside the country or the Region or the institution where they have been produced. The project aims at presenting them on common formats in a way that facilitates understanding and allows comparison.
For more information related to this project, please visit the website http://www.observal.org/. More...