Bologna process

The Bologna Process aims to create a European Higher Education Area by 2010, in which students can choose from a wide and transparent range of high quality courses and benefit from smooth recognition procedures. The Bologna Declaration of June 1999 has put in motion a series of reforms needed to make European Higher Education more compatible and comparable, more competitive and more attractive for Europeans and for students and scholars from other continents. Reform was needed then and reform is still needed today if Europe is to match the performance of the best performing systems in the world, notably the United States and Asia.

The three overarching objectives of the Bologna process have been from the start: introduction of the three cycle system (bachelor/master/doctorate), quality assurance and recognition of qualifications and periods of study.

In the Leuven Communiqué of 2009 the Ministers identified these priorities for the coming decade:

  • social dimension: equitable access and completion, lifelong learning;
  • employability;
  • student-centred learning and the teaching mission of higher education;
  • education, research and innovation;
  • international openness;
  • mobility;
  • data collection;
  • multidimensional transparency tools;
  • funding.

Every second year, Ministers responsible for higher education in the 46 Bologna countries meet to measure progress and set priorities for action. After Bologna (1999), they met in Prague (2001), Berlin (2003) and Bergen (2005), London (2007) and Leuven/Louvain-La-Neuve, Belgium (April 2009).

After more than ten years of intensive reforms, the Ministers met on 11/12 March 2010 in Budapest and Vienna to officially launch the European Higher Education Area, as decided back in 1999.

Steered by European Ministers responsible for higher education, the Bologna process, is a collective effort of public authorities, universities, teachers and students, together with stakeholder associations, employers, quality assurance agencies, international organisations and institutions. Although the process goes beyond the EU’s borders, it is closely connected with EU policies and programmes. For the EU, the Bologna Process is part of a broader effort in the drive for a Europe of knowledge which includes:

  • lifelong learning and development,
  • Strategic framework for the Open Method of Coordination in Education and Training, ET2020,
  • the Copenhagen Process for enhanced European co-operation in Vocational Education and Training, and
    initiatives under the European Research Area.

The EU supports a broad range of measures to modernise the content and practices of higher education in the 27 Member States and the EU's 28 neighbouring countries, including with the support of the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP), the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA), the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) and the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), the Tempus programme and the EU's programme for worldwide academic cooperation: Erasmus Mundus.

The EU also works to support the modernisation agenda of universities through the implementation of the 7th EU Framework Programme for Research (European Research Area) and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme as well as the Structural Funds and loans from the European Investment Bank.

To establish synergies between the Bologna process and the Copenhagen process, which concerns vocational education and training, in co-operation with Member States, the Commission has established a European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning (EQF). The EQF is linked to and supported by other initiatives in the fields of transparency of qualifications (Europass), credit transfer (the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System for higher education - ECTS - and the European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training - ECVET) and quality assurance (European association for quality assurance in higher education - ENQA - and the European Network for Quality Assurance in Vocational Education and Training - ENQA-AVET).