Prague, May 2001
commissioned by the Follow-up group of the Bologna Process
The follow-up group of the
Bologna Process commissioned the rapporteur to present this report as a
contribution to the meeting in Prague, in May 2001, of the European
Ministers in charge of Higher Education of the countries that signed the
Bologna Declaration in June 1999. The report gives a short overview of the
follow-up, reviews succinctly the developments since Bologna and dwells on
scenarios for the future.
The organisation of the process was decided
by the EU Ministers in September 1999 and a work programme was established
by the follow-up group in November 1999. This work programme has included
international seminars on three topics (“Credit Accumulation and Transfer
Systems”, “Bachelor-Level Degrees” and “Transnational Education”) and the
Convention of European Higher Education Institutions, all leading to the
preparation of the Prague Conference. ESIB organised a Student Convention to
create input to this meeting.
A move towards a
“bachelor”/”master” structure is continuing, both in countries where it
started earlier, but also in new ones, with examples in all disciplines.
However, some professionally oriented degrees remain long and leading
directly to a “master”.
Mobility and the instruments of
recognition and transparency of qualifications (ECTS, Diploma Supplement and
Lisboa Recognition Convention) are receiving unanimous support. Awareness of
the employability issue is raising and more degrees with a clear
professional orientation are being implemented. Competitiveness is rated
highly, but awareness of transnational education challenges still seems to
be low and lifelong learning is a priority only in a limited number of
The introduction of ECTS-compatible
credit systems is spreading and the acceptance of ECTS units as a basis for
a European credit system is increasing. A subject-related approach to
identify common learning outcomes was identified as necessary to overcome
difficulties concerning both credits and degree structures.
More countries are creating or
willing to create quality assurance systems and accreditation is on national
and international agendas, at least as a topic for discussion.
With the aim of building the
European Higher Education Area, the Bologna Declaration indicates three main
goals (international competitiveness, mobility and employability), and six
instrumental objectives. However, higher education has broader aims of the
social, cultural and human development and the European Higher Education
Area will also be the result of shared values and a common social and
A number of factors
contributing towards the goals may be identified. Among these factors are
the readability of degrees, acceptance and recognition of qualifications and
periods of study, clear information on objectives and learning outcomes, as
well as relevance of the programmes, quality assurance and accreditation,
dissemination of European knowledge, friendly student services, visa
policies and support for mobility.
The main goals and the specific
objectives of the Bologna Declaration have received wide acceptance and
reforms are under way, both at national and institutional level. However,
some issues require clarification, others may be pushed forward and some
just need monitoring. Social issues were raised, namely by students, and
issues like lifelong learning and transnational education are gaining
renewed or new visibility.
A question, which is becoming
more apparent as the process progresses, is that of which values and
concepts, concerning higher education, are common or to what extent are they
shared among the signatory countries. A study on the values, concepts and
terminology would facilitate discussions and communication in the future.
The development of a
comprehensive credit system, allowing for accumulation, has proven
difficult, although a consensus has grown around basing it on ECTS units.
Generalising the use of ECTS units and adopting ECTS compatible national
systems is a step forward. National degree structures are converging, but
difficulties have been identified in some subject areas. Both difficulties,
concerning credits and degree structures, suggest that further work by
subject area at European level is required and could lead to identify
relevant reference levels, expressed as learning outcomes (including
knowledge, competencies and skills). Common reference levels will also
facilitate the development of joint degrees, involving institutions from two
or more signatory countries.
The development of national
quality assurance systems, besides pursuing national objectives, should aim
at building mutual trust in the European Higher Education Area and
world-wide through European co-operation. The discussions on accreditation
suffered from differences in concept and approach, requiring further
clarification before any concrete agreement on future action may be reached.
Instruments for recognition,
either academic or professional, and transparency, such as the Lisboa
Recognition Convention and the Diploma Supplement already exist, just
requiring being fully developed and/or generalised. Although recognition is
essential for mobility, there are still other obstacles. The Mobility Action
Plan endorsed by the European Council is a useful reference for future
Lifelong learning has been on
the international agenda for some time and there are some experiences. The
development of national policies could benefit from sharing experiences and
good practices and, besides raising the levels of education and
employability, may improve attractiveness of European higher education.
Transnational education is
growing and challenging traditional education. Policies geared towards
transparency and quality of qualifications should contemplate the
transnational offer. On the other hand, the signatory countries may adopt a
pro-active approach by offering programmes outside the European Higher
Education Area and joint efforts to this effect could be promoted.
To establish the European
Higher Education Area, easily accessible information on programmes and
institutions, including the conditions offered to students, is essential and
can be done using ICT. This information should be available in a form that
is relevant for candidates and students, but also for employers and society
Attractiveness of higher
education institutions, besides ensuring quality and relevance, require that
institutions are aware and respond to the diversity of needs of candidates
and students. Such needs are different depending on the student being
national or foreign, young or mature, graduate or post-graduate, etc.
To monitor the progress of the
European Higher Education Area as a whole, as a basis for future decisions
for the Bologna Process, data collected in the various signatory counties
should be comparable. If the decision is taken to collect such comparable
data, a technical study is required. Besides data, background studies will
be needed to prepare future discussions and to support decisions.
The Bologna Process has been
conducted on a rather informal basis. This has certain advantages but is
also a fragile arrangement, with some risks to the memory of the process.
The organisation and mandate of the follow-up structure for the future
should, in consequence, be considered.
The present report was prepared as a contribution for the meeting of
the European Ministers in charge of Higher Education in Prague on the 18th
and 19th of May 2001. The follow-up group decided that, besides
the contributions coming from the stakeholders and the outcomes of the
seminars and meetings, a specific report should be prepared for the
Ministers of Education and commissioned the rapporteur to present this
The report includes, besides the Introduction, two parts. The first
one, Developments since Bologna, aims at giving a succinct overview of the
trends that may be observed in the European higher education systems, of the
outcomes of the events organised in the framework of the Bologna Process and
of the issues involved in the main goals of the Bologna Declaration. The
second part, Scenarios for the future, analyses the main issues that have
been discussed and makes suggestions on directions for future action. These
suggestions, although discussed in the follow-up, are the responsibility of
To ensure that the work, necessary to achieve the objectives set by
the Bologna Declaration, was done, the European Union’s Ministers, assembled
in Tampere in September 1999, decided to establish two groups. These are the
steering (or restricted) and the enlarged follow-up groups. The enlarged
group is composed of the representatives of the 29 signatory countries, the
European Commission, the Confederation of EU Rectors’ Conferences and the
Association of European Universities (CRE).
This group met for the first time in Helsinki, on the 16th
November 1999, under Finnish Presidency, and defined a draft programme of
events. These events, their themes and outcomes are described below.
The steering group is composed of representatives of the EU enlarged
troika countries (the Presidency, the previous and the two successive
presidencies), the Czech Republic, the European Commission, the
Confederation of EU Rectors’ Conferences and the Association of European
Universities (CRE). This group met for the first time in Lisbon, on the 31st
of January 2000, under Portuguese Presidency.
The mandate of these groups did not explicitly include accepting
other countries or organisations as part of the enlarged follow-up group.
Nevertheless, it was the understanding of the groups that it would fall
under the mandate of the enlarged group to accept the participation of other
organisations as observers. In 2000, the Council of Europe, a Student
Platform and EURASHE were added, as observers, to the enlarged group. Any
other decisions concerning the participation in the follow-up groups will
have to be taken by the Ministers in Prague. If the procedure adopted by the
follow-up groups is to be revised, an appropriate mandate from the Ministers
The work programme agreed in Helsinki included, besides the Prague
Conference, three international seminars. The first one was held in Leiria,
Portugal, in November 2000, on the issue of “Credit Accumulation and
Transfer Systems”. The second one was held in Helsinki, Finland, in February
2001, on “Bachelor-Level Degrees”. And the third one was held in Malmö,
Sweden, in March 2001, and was on “Transnational Education”.
The steering group agreed that, unlike the Bologna Conference
academic day, the meeting of the academic institutions should be held in
advance of the Ministers’ conference. In this way, the discussions of the
academic institutions could be taken into consideration by the Ministers
and, therefore, have an impact on the outcomes of the Prague Conference. The
CRE and Confederation offered to jointly organise what became the Convention
of European Higher Education Institutions, held in Salamanca, Spain, at the
end of March 2001. This convention was also the opportunity for the formal
constitution of the European University Association, a merger of the two
Numerous other seminars and conferences, international or national,
have taken place in the time mediating from Bologna to Prague. Specific
reference to all these events is not possible in a short report, as this one
has to be. However, the large number of events related to the Bologna
Declaration and those where it has been specifically mentioned, is the best
indicator of its impact on European higher education.
This section aims at giving a very succinct overview of the
developments since Bologna, in June 1999. The Trends II report
will give a fuller account of such developments. Some of the developments
that are mentioned would have taken place anyway, others are a direct result
of the Bologna Declaration, but one may say that most have, to some extent,
been influenced by its objectives. The general goals, competitiveness of the
European higher education system, mobility and employability, are common
concerns of governments and institutions alike. The six objectives,
established in Bologna for the first decade of this century, have received a
wider acceptance from the academic community than was possible to anticipate
in June 1999. But differences in understanding of the Bologna Declaration
and, especially, what it implies for the future, are still significant.
The adoption of a system essentially based on two main cycles,
graduate and post-graduate, is one of the objectives of the Bologna
Declaration for which a consensus proved more difficult to reach.
Nevertheless, the move towards a “bachelor”/”master”
structure has continued, both in countries where it had started earlier, but
also in new ones. There are examples of such a structure in all disciplines,
although few in medicine. There is a significant trend to the introduction
of three year “bachelor” programmes, but there are many examples of four
year programmes. There is a trend towards professionally oriented “bachelor”
degrees, in spite of some being considered as intermediate qualifications
and as a platform for options in terms of further study. At the same time,
in several countries, certain professionally oriented degrees remain
organised as long, one-tier programmes, leading directly to a “master”
The objective relating to the degree structure, is the one objective
that has proved more controversial, involving governments and higher
education institutions, as well as professional associations, and has given
way to the greatest diversity of interpretations.
Mobility is receiving unanimous support, including a strong support
for the instruments of recognition and transparency of qualifications, such
as ECTS, the Diploma Supplement and the Lisboa Recognition Convention.
Awareness of the employability issue is rising, although a difference
in emphasis may depend on the type of institution, wherever different types
exist, and the understanding that being “relevant to the European labour
market” does not have to imply that programmes are geared towards a specific
professional occupation. But new “bachelors” and “masters” with a clear
professional orientation are being implemented.
Competitiveness, mainly understood as attractiveness, of the higher
education systems is rated highly, although only a limited number of
countries have comprehensive plans. On the other hand, awareness of the
challenges raised by transnational education still seems to be low.
Lifelong learning is far from being generally identified as an
integral part of higher education and is a priority only in a limited number
The introduction of ECTS, or of ECTS-compatible credit systems, is
spreading. The understanding that the introduction of such credit systems
does not compel the institutions to recognise all imported credits, nor that
it is a threat to curriculum coherence, is also growing, contributing to
The need for a subject-related approach, in what concerns the
identification of relevant reference levels in terms of learning outcomes
across Europe, has emerged as an issue. It is viewed as enabling greater
co-operation and comparability and a way of overcoming some of the
difficulties that have been found in a general approach, for instance in
what concerns credits and degree structures.
Quality assurance is moving forward, with more countries creating or
willing to create new quality assurance systems and agencies, as well as, at
international level, with the creation of ENQA. There seems to be a move
towards the introduction of national accreditation of programmes and/or
institutions, whatever the meaning given to the word “accreditation”. In
fact, what is meant by this word is far from being consensual, even among
The outcomes of the events included in the work programme are
reviewed succinctly. The Convention of European Higher Education
Institutions has reached a number of conclusions and proposals for Ministers
when they convene in Prague. This report does not and cannot replace the
detailed conclusions and proposals included in the annexes.
The first of the international seminars of the work programme, held
in Leiria, Portugal,
discussed the issue of credit accumulation and transfer systems. The Bologna
Declaration states as one of the objectives the “establishment of a system
of credits – such as in the ECTS system (…)”. By aiming at “widespread
student mobility” and indicating that “credits could also be acquired in
non-higher education contexts, including lifelong learning”, it called for a
system of accumulation of credits, rather than just of transfer, the
objective of ECTS.
The “ECTS Extension Feasibility Project Report”, of February 2000,
commissioned by the European Commission, provided the basis for the
discussions. The general report of the seminar is available,
but some conclusions may be singled out. A European credit system, providing
for accumulation and transfer, is an important instrument for mobility and
for the comparability of learning acquired in various settings. Such a
system should be built upon ECTS, given that it is already widely known and
used. Having concluded that it is difficult to discuss credits and reference
levels in an abstract context, it was put forward that, as a contribution to
a general approach, work would have to be developed within broad subject
areas, at European level.
The seminar on bachelor-level degrees, held in Helsinki, Finland,
dealt with the item of the Bologna Declaration that has given way to a
spectrum of interpretations and to discussion between the advocates of
increased convergence towards a Bachelor-Master-Doctorate structure and
those reacting to a strict convergence process. In fact, the Bologna
Declaration states that one of the objectives is the “adoption of a system
essentially based on two main cycles (…)” and that “access to the second
cycle shall require successful completion of first cycle studies, lasting a
minimum of three years”. This has been often considered as indicating that
the first degree should correspond essentially to three years of study and
that longer programmes would be the exception, with the upper limit of four
years. However, in some subject areas, as medicine or engineering, and in
many countries, a full professional qualification requires longer studies.
This was taken into consideration in the Conclusions and Recommendations,
indicating also that it may be worth developing intermediate qualifications,
even if not directly relevant for the labour market.
Two specific conclusions are worth emphasising, which are independent
of the discussion on the degree structure. The first one is the importance
of clarifying, for each programme, the orientation and profile and the
learning outcomes, as an instrument of transparency. The second one, the
fact that all programmes should aim at developing the transversal skills and
competencies required by all active citizens.
The theme of the seminar held in
was transnational education.
This topic is not specifically identified in the Bologna Declaration, but,
as awareness rises, it is becoming a common concern of the signatory
countries and is, in fact, related to most of the issues. As a rapidly
growing phenomenon, it cannot be simply ignored. Transnational education has
been considered both as very positive and very negative. Positive as it is a
way of widening the access to higher education to students that otherwise
would not have that possibility, but negative as alongside good quality,
there is also low quality and even fraudulent offers.
An idea has emerged from the seminar,
that transnational education challenges national higher education and, in
doing so, its growth is often a sign that the national systems are not
responding to the needs of potential students. The relevance of the code of
practice prepared by the ENIC network of the Council of Europe and UNESCO
was emphasised. Concerted action by the signatory countries related to
quality assessment and recognition policies regarding transnational
education was considered necessary and it was suggested that it could be
promoted through the association of the NARIC/ENIC network and ENQA.
The Convention of European Higher Education Institutions, held in
had the objective of formulating the views of the European higher education
institutions on the Bologna Process and to convey these views to the
Ministers of Education.
The convention expressed the determination to build a European Higher
Education Area and discussed six themes: freedom with responsibility;
employability; mobility; compatibility; quality; and competitiveness. As the
resulting theses will be presented to the Ministers, what follows is a
succinct presentation of the main items.
In the first theme, “Freedom with responsibility: empowering the
universities", the main message is that the universities need autonomy and
want to be held accountable. Furthermore, if mutual trust between government
and universities on a partnership basis is required, nursing intellectual
autonomy is essential.
The second theme, “Employability in the European labour market”, lead
to the view that employability of the graduates is important and that
universities should prepare students to cope with the labour market and
their future professional role. The universities should contribute to
transparency and recognition of qualifications by specifying the learning
outcomes in a way that is meaningful for students, employers and others
concerned. Diversity and flexibility of programmes and learning experiences
have been considered positively.
The “Mobility in the European higher education area” was the third
theme. Mobility, both horizontal and vertical, was considered a central
value, requiring full implementation of recognition instruments, such as
ECTS (extended to accumulation and lifelong learning), the Lisboa
Recognition Convention, the Diploma Supplement and the ENIC/NARIC networks.
The benefits for staff, students and researchers and the need to remove
administrative barriers to mobility were emphasised.
The fourth theme was “Compatibility: a common but flexible
qualifications framework”. The first degree (“Bachelor”) after 3 to 4 years,
or 180 to 240 credits, was indicated as the rule, although the possibility
of 5 years integrated programmes leading to a “Master” degree should
admissible. The importance of ECTS, quality assurance and thematic networks
has been indicated.
Under “Quality assurance and accreditation”, the fifth theme, the
establishment of a European platform to disseminate good practice and advise
on appropriate procedures was proposed. The objective is to foster mutual
acceptance of quality assurance decisions in Europe, preserving national and
subject differences and institutional autonomy.
In the sixth theme, “Competitiveness at home and in the world”, the
views expressed were that it is good for students, as it promotes quality,
and that it requires more openness and transparency, as well as the European
higher education institutions being perceived as welcoming institutions. It
calls for strategic networking and to the development of educational
trademarks and brands.
As a global conclusion, it was emphasised the willingness and
capability of the universities to lead the effort to renovate and redefine
higher education at a European scale.
Numerous other events have taken place that were motivated by the
Bologna Declaration or, in spite of having been programmed independently,
were significantly influenced by the process. Although it is not possible to
refer to all, it is important to note that a student convention, organised
by ESIB (The National Unions of Students in Europe), was held in Göteborg,
Sweden, from the 22nd to the 25th March. With the
specific objective “to create input to the Ministers’ Meeting in Prague” and
a Student Göteborg Declaration was produced.
The convention concluded that the Bologna Declaration failed to
address the social implications of the process for students. Furthermore, it
is stated that students are not consumers of a tradable education service
and that it is the governments’ responsibility to guarantee that all
citizens have equal access to higher education.
The student declaration takes a stand for a system of credits based
on workload, a common European framework of criteria for accreditation and a
compatible system of degrees. It argues that a two-tier degree system should
guarantee free and equal access to all students. Co-operation of the
national quality assurance systems is seen as needed to guarantee and
improve quality and accreditation is understood as a tool to promote
The positive impact of physical mobility of students, teaching staff
and researchers is indicated, leading to the need to remove both academic
and social, economical and political obstacles. It is considered that the
creation of a genuine European Higher Education Area will lead to expanded
mobility, higher quality and increased attractiveness of European education
and research. The need for all relevant higher education information to be
available is seen as a requirement.
Finally, the role of students as partners of the Bologna Process has
The overall aim that led to the Bologna Declaration was to build the
European Higher Education Area. To that end, several issues were identified
as requiring specific action and it is generally accepted that the main
goals of the Bologna Declaration are international competitiveness, mobility
and employability. The six objectives set out in the declaration are
instrumental to these more general goals. However, higher education has
broader aims of the social, cultural and human development and an
irreplaceable role in a Europe of Knowledge. The European Higher Education
Area will be the result of shared values and a common social and cultural
heritage, but also of the goals established in the Bologna Declaration.
This section aims at reflecting on factors with impact on the main
goals of the Bologna Declaration and, thus, setting the scene for the second
part of the report where scenarios for future action will be considered.
International competitiveness may be analysed from, at least, two
different perspectives, although intertwined: the competitiveness of
European diplomas in the international scene and the capacity to attract
students from outside the European Higher Education Area. Several factors
impacting upon international competitiveness may be identified, such as:
readability of degrees by employers, institutions and individuals at large;
acceptance of qualifications in academic and professional terms; clear
information on the objectives and learning outcomes of the programmes;
friendly student services, both educational and non-educational;
dissemination of European knowledge production, including textbooks,
specialised magazines and research results.
One of the main ideas is that European degrees must be clearly
understood world-wide, in terms of the knowledge and competencies they
document. This requires that the learning outcomes are clearly stated and
that they are credible and easily identified as relevant qualifications.
Acceptance of the European diplomas by employers and higher education
institutions world-wide is important, not only because it means the
acceptance of European graduates, but also because it induces the interest
of potential students from outside the European Higher Education Area. A
precondition for these objectives being achieved world-wide, is that degrees
are mutually accepted within the European Higher Education Area, which
involves their readability and comparability, as well as credible quality
There are European higher education institutions that have a
world-wide reputation and, therefore, do not have any difficulty in having
their degrees accepted. Others may have their reputation in a given region
of the world, due to special relations between the country to which they
belong and that region of the world. These facts may be a positive asset for
international competitiveness of Europe, but European higher education
institutions are also competing among themselves and a more co-operative and
coherent European Higher Education Area may be seen as a threat to some of
these specific advantages.
International competitiveness may be induced through the promotion of
European knowledge production. Diffusion of textbooks, specialised magazines
or research results, by conventional means or using information and
communication technologies, with world-wide visibility, will enhance the
prestige and attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area. Prestige
is not an immediate result of quality, but of a continuous perception of
Once the interest of potential students from outside the European
Higher Education Area has been aroused, the decision to move depends also on
the information and the friendliness of the conditions offered to them.
Providing the potential students with comprehensive information on academic
and living conditions will make the decision to come to Europe easier, as
many will be driven away by the unknown. On the other hand, friendly
services and guidance to help students to solve day-to-day problems, within
and outside the higher education institution, are also a contribution to the
decision to move. These facts are, in fact, also important for mobility
within the European Higher Education Area.
Having graduates of European higher education institutions around the
world also has an impact on the acceptance of the European diplomas
world-wide. They will tend to act as “ambassadors” of the institutions they
attended, provided that they were given access to a good quality education
and well supported in the course of their studies.
Transnational education is part of the equation when discussing
international competitiveness, although it is an issue in itself.
The global educational services market is growing fast, questions the
traditional institutions and can no longer be ignored. Regulatory measures,
of a consumer protection nature, may be required to control low quality or
even fraudulent offers. However, quality transnational education may be a
way of widening the access to higher education to publics that otherwise
would not have that possibility. European institutions already participate
in this market and the offer will naturally grow. The offer of European
programmes available world-wide, through in campus or distance learning, is
also a way of making European degrees known, which is potentially good,
provided that quality of the offer is assured.
In discussing international competitiveness, in a global world, it
should be clear who are Europe’s competitors. The leading competitor is
clearly the United States, as the main international provider of educational
services. It should also be clear what are the limits to competitiveness and
the role of solidarity with the developing countries. In fact solidarity and
competitiveness need not be mutually exclusive. By co-operating with
institutions of higher education in the developing countries, the European
institutions will help to improve their capacity and, at the same time,
compete with the main international providers of education offering locally
Mobility may be considered within the European Higher Education Area
and between this area and other regions of the world. The Bologna
Declaration focuses specifically on the mobility within the European Higher
Education Area that, besides being considered a priority, will establish
practices and attitudes that will favour a wider perspective, as the
obstacles hindering both types of mobility are similar. Some of the factors
influencing mobility are: recognition of qualifications and periods of
study; valorisation of periods of study, teaching, researching and training
in a European context, both in academic and professional terms; clear and
favourable visa policies for these target groups; friendly services and
financial support for mobility.
Recognition of qualifications and periods of study is unanimously
recognised as essential for mobility. There are two fundamental questions
for recognition: trust and flexibility. Trust, in the sense that the
institution recognising the qualification or the period of study can trust
the quality and the procedures of the institution issuing the qualification
or certifying the period of study. Flexibility, as qualifications and
programmes are not strictly equal and, therefore, what should be considered,
in the process of recognition of qualifications or periods of study, are
core knowledge and competencies. The issue of recognition arises not only at
international level, but also at national level. It is not uncommon that
qualifications and periods of study obtained or followed abroad, in a
similar institution, are more easily recognised than those attended at a
national institution, but belonging to a different subsystem of higher
The European Union Directives on professional qualifications
provide a framework for professional mobility within the European Union. The
objective is professional rather than academic recognition, by regulating
the access to professions. Another question is that of academic recognition
The approach used by the Lisboa Recognition Convention, an initiative
of the Council of Europe and UNESCO (Europe Region) signed in 1997, was that
recognition should only be refused on the basis of substantial differences
and that refusal has to justified. The approach used in the Bologna
Declaration is that of promoting convergence, transparency and mutual trust.
The two approaches complement each other in making recognition easier within
the European Higher Education Area.
The development of systems “essentially based on two main cycles”,
rather than long programmes leading to a “master” degree will facilitate
mobility, especially at the conclusion of the first degree. The
“implementation of the Diploma Supplement”, by providing information on the
content of a degree and improving transparency, will also contribute to
recognition and mobility. A generalised “system of credits”, introducing a
common metric, will contribute to the portability of periods of study.
Finally, the development of “common criteria and methodologies” in quality
assurance will promote trust and, therefore, recognition of qualifications
and periods of study.
Valorisation of periods of teaching, researching and training in a
European context, as important as they may be as an incentive to the
mobility of teachers, researchers and administrative staff, is strongly
dependent on the statute of these professionals in each country. Many other
policy issues, like visa policies or financial support for mobility, were
considered in the European Union context, in the form of a Mobility Action
Plan that was endorsed by the European Council in Nice.
This document may be a useful reference for the discussions on mobility
within the European Higher Education Area.
Clear information and guidance to the students on all aspects of
mobility, from academic matters to lodging, health problems or visas, are a
contribution to the integration in a different environment, to overcome the
cultural differences and make the most of the stay in a foreign country. All
this, with minor variations, is applicable to both mobility within and from
outside the European Higher Education Area.
Employability is the most elusive of the three main goals of the
Bologna Declaration. Some of the factors impacting on employability are:
quality assurance; relevance of programmes; clear information on objectives
and learning outcomes of the programmes; and accreditation.
It should be stressed that the role and importance of employability
in higher education programmes is not consensual. A range of opinions may be
found. These opinions have an impact on the design of the programmes and
results in diversity of their objectives and learning outcomes, even if they
are not explicit. Diversity is not, however, a problem in itself, if there
is clear information on what is being offered to the candidates and if the
effective learning outcomes match those announced by the institutions. In
the case of programmes that are financed by the national budget, it is a
matter for governments to decide whether they wish to finance programmes
with given objectives and learning outcomes.
Given that there are a variety of designations of higher education
institutions, degrees and programmes, it is difficult for someone not
acquainted with these to clearly identify what kind of knowledge and
competencies are documented by a specific degree. The Diploma Supplement is
an essential instrument to this effect, in the case of graduates seeking
employment or further studies. There is a case for each higher education
institution clearly defining for each programme the objectives and learning
outcomes in terms of knowledge and of competencies and skills.
It is generally accepted that most programmes have employability of
their graduates as an objective, even if it is not the only or even the
central objective. It may be more widely accepted to say that higher
education, especially at undergraduate level, has the objective of preparing
people for an active life and citizenship, that includes being employed or
self-employed. If this is so, developing competencies, skills and attitudes,
such as social skills, initiative, problem solving skills, the capacity to
learn or responsibility, are an essential part of the education process. As
a consequence, these objectives should be considered in the learning process
and included in the definition of the learning outcomes.
Given the rapid scientific and technological changes, inducing social
and organisational changes, it is increasingly difficult to pinpoint what
will be in the future a relevant body of knowledge for the labour market and
employment. The only sure values are a solid and broad scientific education,
the capacity to apply knowledge and to learn (to follow new developments, to
learn from others and from experience) and horizontal skills. This is also a
good personal basis for lifelong learning.
Quality assurance is generally recognised as an essential tool for
higher education. It has mostly a national dimension, in spite of some
experiences of international evaluation and the recent establishment of a
European network for quality assurance in higher education (ENQA), created
to promote co-operation in this field. The national procedures are diverse
and there is no need to harmonise these procedures, as long as they are all
recognised as valid.
From the point of view of employability, it is important that
trustworthy quality assurance systems are in place, but also that quality is
recognised in a public statement, that is, accredited. Accreditation covers,
however, a diversified range of concepts, as it may be applied to programmes
or to institutions as a whole and it may be academic or professional.
Furthermore, accreditation may be based on an ex-ante or an ex-post
procedure, as it may be only based on externally defined standards or take
into account the objectives defined by the higher education institution.
Employability is promoted by having learning outcomes that are
relevant for the labour market, but also by having a clear and easily
understood expression of these outcomes and some form of accreditation that
certifies that the learning outcomes are being achieved.
This part of the report focuses on scenarios for the future
development of the Bologna Process. The first section analyses the issues
and makes suggestions of actions favouring the development of a European
Higher Education Area. The second section deals with the organisation of the
The main goals and the specific objectives set out in Bologna have
received wide acceptance in the academic community and reforms are under
way, both at national and institutional level. This does not mean that no
questions have been raised or that different stakeholders do not understand
the same issues in different ways. This implies that in some questions
precisions may be required, other issues may be pushed forward and some may
just need monitoring, as they are evolving well.
The students’ organisations have raised several times the social
issues, namely whether higher education is being viewed as a responsibility
of the state or as a market. In particular, they have reacted to the use of
the words “clients”, “customers” or “consumers” to designate students, as
these words suggest that they are not an integral part of the academic
community and that they have a passive role towards higher education
provision. It is a fact that there are different types of providers of
higher education and that the role of the learner in traditional
institutions and in a commercial type of higher education provision varies
An issue that has come up in many discussions in the framework of the
Bologna Process as a relevant one, but does not seem to have been
incorporated as a priority for higher education in most countries, is
lifelong learning. However, a lot of work has been or is being done, for
instance, by the Council of Europe
and the European Union. At present, within the European Union, there is a
consultation process being conducted on the basis of a Memorandum on
presented by the European Commission, although not specific to higher
education. Given the importance that this issue is gaining, it could deserve
more attention within the Bologna Process.
The fact that employability is one of the main goals of the Bologna
Declaration does not mean that it is the only aim of higher education.
Higher education has broader objectives in terms of personal and social
development. This issue may require some precision to make it clear that
higher education is not viewed as just a way of providing the economy with
an adequately trained labour force, but also a means to personal, social and
In what follows, as indeed in the whole of the report, the expression
“higher education institution(s)” has been used throughout. It stands for
any institution of higher education, independently of being included in a
university or a non-university sector.
In some of the events that have taken place recently, for instance
when discussing transnational education, two different views were
confronted: higher education as a responsibility of the state or as a
market. Whenever the analysis of higher education provision is made on the
basis of a market approach, for instance, by referring to students as
clients or consumers, a defence of higher education as a responsibility of
the state is to be expected. Although there is a tradition of public higher
education in most signatory countries, private and transnational provision
of higher education has developed significantly. Some forms of this type of
provision may be considered as a market, although imperfect, as the students
often pay the full cost of their education and providers are competing among
themselves. From purely for profit to purely public, tuition free, higher
education, a variety of situations may be found.
The balance between the objectives of social, cultural and human
development in general and of employability is a delicate one. Differences
in understanding may vary from country to country, but they also exist
within national boundaries.
Furthermore, the traditional concept of higher education institution,
especially within a university sector, is that of institutions where
research plays a significant role. This is not always the case of, for
instance, transnational providers. This raises the question of the essential
characteristics of an institution or provider in order to be considered a
higher education institution.
Accreditation, as referred above, may cover different procedures and
objectives. Besides accreditation of institutions or programmes, there is
academic and professional accreditation, depending on whether it is related
to the award of a degree or the access to a given profession. There is a
range of approaches and, from the discussions, it was clear that the same
word or its translation into the different languages was being used for
significantly different concepts.
If the European Higher Education Area of higher education is to be
built and consolidated, it is important to know to what extent we all share
the same values concerning higher education or what are the values that are
common to the whole European Higher Education Area. Such a study could also
aim at establishing and clarifying concepts and terminology, in order to
facilitate discussions and communication in the future.
The idea of a credit system is already in the text of the Bologna
Declaration. It is developing with the aim of becoming a credit accumulation
and transfer system. How and on what basis such a system could be developed,
has been the object of a report and an international seminar. Whether the
credit system should be based on workload or competencies was questioned.
Two conclusions seem to be the most consensual: that a European credit
system should be developed as an extension of ECTS; and that a reflection by
subject area at European level is required.
In fact, discussions on what should be the characteristics of an
accumulation system have run against differences in understanding, depending
on which subject area was used for the reasoning. There is agreement that a
workload system, such as ECTS, is not enough and that other type of
descriptors of the learning outcomes sanctioned by the credits is needed. It
is, however, difficult to agree on such descriptors at an abstract level.
Nevertheless, as a basis upon which to build a more comprehensive credit
system, the generalisation of the use of ECTS should be pushed forward. This
means that national systems, if ECTS is not adopted nationally, should be
readily translatable into ECTS and that, at international level, the use of
ECTS becomes common practice.
The national degree structures are changing. The trend towards a
“bachelor”/”master” structure is growing, with “bachelor” programmes of 3 to
4 years curricular (or theoretical) duration. In some subject areas,
especially among those with a strong relation to professions and in
countries where long one-tier programmes are traditional, resistance to
adopt such a model can be found. If changes are to be introduced, they must
involve both administrations and institutions, but also professional
In what concerns the degree structure, the Bologna Declaration has
been interpreted both in a looser or a more rigid way. However, it has
induced a convergent movement, in spite of the difficulties in some subject
areas. Convergence at the level of programme duration, however, does not
always ensure convergence in terms of learning outcomes. But diversity in
objectives and profiles, even within a given subject area, may exist within
a single country and may lead to relevant and useful qualifications. These
qualifications just need to be understood and made clear for the students or
candidates, on the one hand, and for the employers and other higher
education institutions, on the other.
Therefore, given the movement that was created and that the issue is,
to some extent, subject area dependent, work by subject area, at European
level, should be pursued.
As referred to above, a European credit system, understood as a
credit accumulation and transfer system, does not result simply by using
ECTS. The discussions carried out, in order to identify the main
requirements for accumulation, have been confronted with the difficulty of
discussing across subject areas. In discussing degree systems, the same need
to confront the various national approaches within broad subject areas has
been felt. The implication is that, to move forward, it is necessary to
reach some agreement on what are the objectives and learning outcomes, in
terms of knowledge, competencies and skills, that are relevant to be
sanctioned by a degree in a given subject area.
These reference levels could be a sound basis for further
development, greater converge and readability of European qualifications. A
pilot project, supported by the European Commission, is under way and may
lead to such an outcome.
This approach could be stimulated in order to promote a common understanding
of relevant reference levels, including intermediate qualifications, notably
in the subject areas where long one-tier degrees are more often found.
The Bologna Declaration calls for co-operation in quality assurance.
ENQA is a forum for such co-operation. Most countries have quality assurance
systems or are planning the introduction of such systems. However, national
systems vary in scope and approach. A fundamental objective of co-operation
in quality assurance must be to develop mutual trust, leading every country
and institution to trust the quality of the higher education programmes of
Accreditation, in spite of the differences in concept, is a public
statement, recognising that a given institution or programme fulfils a given
set of reference standards. The reference standards may be defined at
national or international level and external to the institution of higher
education. The question of who is responsible for setting the reference
standards has proved to be a delicate and controversial one, especially if
it is considered at European level. Alongside those that firmly believe in
accreditation, even at European level, there are those that fear externally
imposed European standards, as inadequate to their national system or
reality and a restriction on the institutional capacity to innovate.
It would be already a significant step towards transparency if,
besides the institutions clearly stating the objectives and the learning
outcomes of each of their programmes, the fact that these objectives and
learning outcomes are being achieved could be certified by a credible
agency, such as a national quality assurance agency. ENQA is an adequate
forum to discuss how quality assurance could be developed, taking into
account the differences among the national quality assurance systems.
Lifelong learning is mentioned in the Bologna Declaration, in
relation with establishing a credit system and acquiring credits outside
formal higher education. However, lifelong learning is not only a specific
education and training issue, but involves also the employment policies. In
fact, a comprehensive lifelong learning policy requires that the education
and training systems are open to new publics and offer alternative learning
paths to standard qualifications, as well as, a variety of non formal
learning opportunities. But also that citizens are given the possibility of
using such offers while in employment.
From the higher education point of view, the recognition of prior
learning and prior experiential learning is one of the instruments to
promote access to furthering formal education and, therefore, raise the
levels of education attainment and of employability. Furthermore, it would
be an additional contribution to make higher education internationally
attractive and competitive. However, the procedures for accrediting prior
learning or prior experiential learning, as a means to gain access to higher
education without the formal qualifications or to obtain credits to be used
towards a degree, are complex and require a rigorous approach to be
Some countries already have experience in applying such procedures.
Through co-operation within the European Higher Education Area, this
experience and the good practices could be exchanged and shared, leading to
a wider diffusion of lifelong learning policies.
If European higher education is to be attractive for students all
over the world, it is not enough to ensure quality, the acceptance of
European degrees world-wide or the prestige of European higher education
institutions. These are relevant factors, but clear information on the
programmes and the conditions offered to attend the programmes are also
important. Similar issues to those that may be raised in the context of
The type of information required is different, depending on the level
of study. For instance, for post-graduate studies, in particular at
doctorate level, research plays a much greater role than at graduate level.
The information required by the students may be made available, as has
already been suggested elsewhere, by creating a portal of European higher
education, through which information on the national systems and
institutions may be found. Such a portal, once sufficient adhesion has been
ensured, may have an additional effect of emulation, with national systems
and institutions competing to prove the value of their offer. The EU
Commission, as has already been proposed, could contribute to develop this
portal or gateway.
Once interest has been aroused, it is necessary that the candidates
decide to move. Such a decision is easier to take if he/she knows what to
expect, in terms of costs and living conditions, including where to lodge,
what access to health care is provided or what visa formalities are
required. But what is offered must also be appealing and a number of
academic issues may be mentioned. The type of support they may expect to
have to solve problems within the institution, the recognition of his/her
qualifications or the flexibility of adapting the studies to his/her
previous learning, including the possibility of previous learning being
awarded credits towards the degree or diploma, are all relevant issues.
A flexible attitude in academic matters and an attitude geared
towards the needs of students, besides clear and ready available information
can be an effective instrument of attractiveness.
Mobility has been considered above in the context of the main goals
of the Bologna Declaration. The role of the Community programmes is widely
acknowledged and could have a greater impact if it wasn’t for the inevitable
budget limitations. There are also regional mobility programmes.
Nevertheless, the issues raised in the Mobility Action Plan endorsed by the
European Council in Nice are relevant in the framework of the European
Higher Education Area and could also be adopted as a general reference in
The European Union Directives on professional qualifications,
although only applicable within the Union, could also be used as a reference
for professional mobility within the European Higher Education Area.
Academic recognition within the European Higher Education Area may be
viewed in two complementary perspectives. The first one is that, as
convergence progresses in terms of qualifications, degrees, learning
outcomes, credits, quality assurance and quality certification, etc,
academic recognition between countries will certainly be made easier.
Nevertheless, this approach, in fact the Bologna Declaration approach as a
whole, may not solve all and every problem of academic recognition and a
more general approach will continue to be necessary. The Lisboa Recognition
Convention offers such an approach, provided that it has been signed and
ratified by the Bologna signatory countries.
Whatever the approach used, there is no substitute for a flexible
attitude on the part of who has to recognise academic qualifications, unless
it is made automatic. The criteria for recognition must be based on
similarity of level and of the core of knowledge and competencies, rather
than on strict equivalence of content.
There is still a significant number of issues that need to be addressed to
improve the effectiveness and comprehensiveness of recognition
Transnational education is growing and challenging traditional
education. The growth of transnational education may be considered as an
indicator that traditional education is unable to respond to the needs of
students, either by lack of capacity or by insufficient adaptation to the
real needs of students. Its growth increases the pressure to find a solution
to the recognition of its degrees and diplomas. The Lisboa Recognition
Convention excluded the qualifications obtained through transnational
education from its domain of application. However, a code of good practice
is being developed, as a follow-up, and may provide the basis for a common
approach to the recognition procedures of transnational education
A pro-active approach to transnational education could be adopted by
the signatory countries. Transnational education offered outside the
European Higher Education Area is a way of making the European degrees more
widely known world-wide and some signatory countries are already promoting
the offer of their own programmes abroad. Joint efforts from institutions of
higher education involving two or more countries from the European Higher
Education Area could be promoted, ensuring the quality of the programmes
with the same standards as traditional provision. As convergence progresses
and common reference levels, in terms of objectives and learning outcomes,
may be agreed, joint distance, e-learning, multi-lingual programmes could be
envisaged and promoted.
The Bologna Declaration establishes common goals and objectives for
the signatory countries. Ministers will meet regularly to monitor the
developments and to decide on further actions. Data is collected in the
various signatory countries in different forms, making it difficult to have
a quantified perception of how the process is evolving. The collection of
data for the Bologna Process, in a comparable form in all countries, would
facilitate the monitoring of progress achieved.
This comparable data, rather than comparison between countries,
should aim at translating the progress made. For instance, the number of
students from outside the European Higher Education Area studying in the
signatory countries, could be an indicator of competitiveness or
attractiveness. This is a clear case where comparison between countries
should not be made, as differences in attractiveness may simply result from
linguistic barriers. The number of students, teachers, researchers and other
staff studying or working for a given period abroad, within the European
Higher Education Area, could monitor mobility. As the number of joint
programmes involving institutions from two or more signatory countries could
indicate the development of European co-operation.
If the decision is taken to collect such comparable data for the
Bologna Process, a technical study is required before the signatory
countries reach an agreement.
Besides the development of comparable data, some topics will require
that the reality be better known, as a basis for further discussion of the
issues and of further action. In what concerns competitiveness, it would be
a useful basis for political decision to know what are the motivations of
the students to follow higher education programmes in Europe, both of
nationals of the signatory countries and students from outside the European
Higher Education Area. The motivation to follow transnational education and
for lifelong learning could be included in such a study on student
In what concerns employability, understood in a European-wide
approach, to understand the characteristics of education, such as profiles,
knowledge, competencies or skills, which favour employability, could be a
reference for higher education institutions in a European rather than just
national context. This could include a survey of regulated professions and
existing professional accreditation systems.
Mobility has been the object of previous reports and studies within
the European Union, such as the green paper on the obstacles to
transnational mobility. However, recognition of qualifications remains an
important issue. A survey of the systems and practices of recognition of
qualifications, including transnational degrees, the recognition of periods
of study, both within each country and between countries, and the
instruments for accreditation of prior learning, in an integrated
perspective and at European scale, could provide a basis for further
developments. Such a survey could draw on existing expertise, such as that
of the ENIC and NARIC networks.
The Bologna Declaration process requires that a continuous impetus be
maintained. In the first two years of the process, other countries and
organisations have been interested in joining the movement. Higher education
institutions and the academic community in general did not remain
indifferent. This is an achievement in itself. The process has been
conducted on a rather informal basis, with no clearly specified mandate for
the steering and enlarged follow-up groups, but to push the process forward.
The rotating presidency has been able to keep the process rolling and has
certain advantages, but it is also a fragile arrangement. The memory of the
process is passed on from presidency to presidency, relying on each
presidency to ensure that the chain is not broken. As the process develops,
the need for a memory of the process will certainly become more important.
Such facts point to the need to reflect on how to ensure continuity
and momentum of the process. Assuming that an enlarged group and a steering
group, or some similar arrangement, will continue to exist, their mandates
should be specified. Namely, if the adhesion of new countries and
organisations is the decision of ministerial conferences or if the enlarged
group is given the mandate to accept new adhesions. If this is the case, the
conditions for new adhesions and whether there is a limit to the
geographical reach of the European Higher Education Area, should be
The follow-up group feels the responsibility of ensuring the success
of a process that is showing great vitality and has aroused widespread
interest. As a consequence it would like to invite the Ministers of
Education of the signatory countries to reflect on the best organisational
arrangement to ensure that the process is efficiently run and the goals are
International Seminar on
Credit Accumulation and Transfer Systems
Leiria, Portugal, 24 – 25th
General Rapporteur: Stephen Adam, University of
The revolutionary forces currently
impacting on European education represent huge difficulties and challenges
for all involved in educational and training. These forces include
globalisation and advances in information technology that are leading to
rapid adjustments in national education systems. Learning is becoming more
student-centred and flexible as credit-based systems are developed. These
changes fundamentally challenge our notions as to how, what, whom and where
we teach, as well as how we assess. Those who fail to confront and adapt to
these questions face a difficult future.
The ‘ECTS Extension Feasibility Project
Report’ of February 2000 clearly concluded that the ECTS was an
excellent tool to aid transparency and convergence as envisaged by the
Bologna Declaration. The study outlined the key advantages as well as the
problems facing any extension of ECTS to a credit accumulation system within
a lifelong learning perspective. These issues provided the agenda for the
seminar workshop groups.
The workshops achieved a number of things
Workshop 1: Examined problems associated with the quantification
of credits. Understandably, it did not resolve these difficult problems but
did highlight the need for credit definitions in terms of ‘total student
workload’ as well as in terms of competencies.
Workshop 2: Considered APL and APEL. It found that learning can
take place anywhere but the real challenge is to devise rigorous systems to
accredit and measure such learning. The credit-based measurement of APEL is
particularly important for models of lifelong learning.
Workshop 3: Explored distance and lifelong learning issues.
These both benefit from credit-based approaches to provide the flexibility
that such modes and concepts require. Educational and training programmes
expressed in learning outcome and competencies were also seen to have
advantages over traditional (input-based) content descriptions.
Workshop 4: Examined the use of the Diploma Supplement and
Europass within a credit accumulation framework. Both were found to be
valuable and workable devices to enhance transparency and recognition.
The presentation by Pedro Lourtie on Credit
Accumulation and Transfer and the goals of the Bologna Declaration reminded
the seminar participants of the importance of their work in helping solve
some of the problems of competition, employment, mobility, and convergence
faced by European education.
In conclusion, the outcome of the
two-day international seminar was clear:
In Europe we are faced by enormous common educational challenges.
Higher education can no longer exist as an island isolated from
secondary, vocational and adult education. It must integrate more with these
sectors by building appropriate bridges that help create a workable system
for lifelong learning. All national education systems need to reflect on
their own structures and practices in the light of these imperatives.
There was a consensus that credits and credit accumulation are the
best devices to help create the converged yet flexible education systems
required by European education.
The proposed project ‘Tuning Educational Structure in
Europe’ was endorsed.
Building a European education area will not be easy but we have
excellent devices, such as ECTS, to help in its creation.
International Seminar on
Helsinki, Finland, 16 – 17th
Conclusions and Recommendations of the Seminar
to the Prague Higher Education Summit
Rapporteur: Anita Lehikoinen
Benefits of developing
These conclusions concern first
degrees or first cycle degrees commonly referred to as bachelor-level
degrees. For the sake of clarity, the term bachelor-level degree will be
used in this document.
European countries have, are introducing or are planning to introduce a
higher education degree structure based on a sequence of bachelor, master
and doctoral degrees. Reforms in this direction have been carried out in
countries with unitary higher education system as well as in countries with
binary or dual higher education systems.
Long first study cycles, high
drop-out rates and the lengthening of university studies are problems shared
by many European countries. Well-planned and efficiently realised bachelor
degree programmes help reduce the number of students discontinuing their
studies without any qualification and thus facilitates their placement in
the labour market while possibly contributing to shortening overall study
times. There is a considerable lack of comparability in the European degree
structures which is an impediment to mobility.
The bachelor-master (two-tier)
structure offers several advantages in comparison with the long, often
rather inflexible curricula leading straight up to the master level which
have been traditional in many countries. A main benefit is that students can
be offered programmes which allow more easily individual flexibility, which
also promotes mobility. The two-tier structure makes room for national and
international mobility by contributing to the modularisation of study
programmes. In the age of life-long learning one of the most significant
factors speaking in favour of a two-tier structure is that it allows
interaction between studies and working life.
Most of the professionally oriented
higher education institutions offer at the moment bachelor-level degrees,
and in many countries master-level degrees are being introduced to these
institutions. This development may serve the purpose of diversification of
higher education provision. It may also contribute to the efficient use of
resources because students do not need to change their orientation at the
The bachelor/master structure has
become a world standard. Its adoption will facilitate better recognition of
European degrees both within Europe and in the world and will make it more
attractive for international students to consider studying in Europe.
Framework for bachelor-level
degrees in Europe
promotion of mobility in Europe requires increased transparency and
comparability of European higher education qualifications. In order to
achieve this need some common criteria for the definition of bachelor
degrees are needed. This framework should be flexible enough to allow
national variations, but at the same time clear enough to serve as a
definition. These broad definitions should be achieved already in the
Prague Summit of Higher Education.
The following factors could be seen
as useful common denominators for a European bachelor-level degree:
Bachelor-level degree is a higher education qualification the extent of
which is 180 to 240 credits (ECTS). It normally takes three to four years of
full-time study to complete the degree. Bachelor-level degrees play an
important role in the life-long learning paradigm and learning to learn
skills should be an essential part of any bachelor-level degree.
It is important to note that the bachelor-level degrees, often referred to
as first degrees can be taken at either traditional universities or at
professionally-oriented higher education institutions. Programmes leading to
the degree may, and indeed should have different orientations and various
profiles in order to accommodate a diversity of individual, academic and
labour market needs.
to increase transparency it is important that the specific orientation and
profile and learning outcomes of a given qualification are included in its
title and explained on the Diploma Supplement issued to the student.
Information on different study programmes should be transparent to enable
the students make informed choices.
bachelor degrees which serve as an intermediate qualification preparing
students for further study should be based on a proper curriculum. They
should not only be seen as a part of a longer curriculum, as some students
may wish to change direction or to choose a graduate programme or
specialisation offered at another institution.
Labour market relevance
In the European
tradition higher education has never been an island. There is a strong need
for close interaction between higher education and society at large. Labour
market relevance should not undermine higher education’s cultural value.
There are many different ways in
which bachelor-type degrees can be relevant to the common European labour
market. While many curricula ought to be geared towards specific professions
and immediate entrance onto the labour market, others need to prepare
students for further studies and a later entrance. All curricula should
include transversal skills and competencies required from all active
citizens in Europe. This entails long-term development of educational
In European countries labour markets
expect higher education qualifications from more and more young people. This
is likely to be more difficult in countries offering only long one-tier
qualifications. The higher education system is expected to offer
independent, shorter degrees of the bachelor type geared specifically for
labour market needs. At the same time there are needs for updating and
upgrading qualifications and skills of the present labour force.
Different disciplines have
characters of their own and they have to be taken into consideration when
developing degree structures. It should be clear that in some fields which
involve professional accreditation bachelor-level degrees will not always
serve as independent qualifications leading to full labour market relevant
professional competence. However, in those fields too an intermediate
qualification may be worth developing for the reasons mentioned above.
In all fields, reasonable transition
mechanisms between bachelor and master programmes should be established,
both within the same higher education sector and between different higher
education sectors. These transition mechanisms should enhance also
Reforming structures only is not
enough. Transparency and comparability of transferable core competencies
expected from graduates of bachelor and master programmes in broad subject
areas are needed at the European level. Higher education institutions and
their European networks involving professional bodies and other stakeholders
should develop these common guidelines.
International Seminar on
Malmö, Sweden, 2 – 3rd
General Rapporteur: Rolf Hoffmann
Towards a common policy on
Transnational Education (TNE) – the need to cooperate and address this issue
together on a European level was the message which the majority of
participants took home as one of the most important results of 1 ½ days of
intense discussions. TNE is about to surface as one of the major – and most
pressing - issues in the process of internationalization of Higher Education
in Europe in the near future, in particular in countries with federally
financed systems. TNE as the most obvious manifestation of globalization in
higher education is flourishing in almost every country, it is
demand-oriented and thus introduces a commercial component that is
completely new to most higher education systems in Europe.
While the physical presence of TNE
institutions is obvious, it’s implications for the existing systems are less
visible: Higher Education, in European countries usually state-driven and
financed, based on (in the best case) federal mid-term planning and with
little need to compete, are suddenly confronted by very successful
competitors which operate client-minded, and out of the definded Higher
Education matrix. They offer international curricula and degrees which
prepare students for a global market, they charge tuition and they seem to
supply modules and degrees (and models) that state-driven systems often
lack. Students – and often the best students – choose TNE-providers over
state universities, and if they cannot find appropiate offers in their home
country in Europe they go abroad to study there, mostly in the US. Hence,
the consequences of TNE, it’s challenges of and chances for the various
existing systems in Europe, and various approaches to a coordinated response
to TNE defined the discussion of the Seminar.
All participants agreed that the
findings in the draft report being presented by Stephen Adams are a very
sound and well-researched basis to facilitate the discussion on a mutual
approach to a common policy on TNE. It was agreed that there was little to
be added, or changed to the results and recommendations. Minor suggestions
were made (such as a re-draft of 4.22) and will be incorporated by the
author. Some issue though drew special attention and were subject to very
intense, yet rarely truly controversial discussion.
There was a general concern that
much too little is known about the impact of TNE, particularly with regard
students and their motivation to choose
(and often prefer) TNE institutions and offers over state institutions in
their own country
students, their strategic goals and their
expectations with regard to higher education, curricula, degrees and quality
of existing state-driven systems
acceptance of TNE degrees (vs. recognized
state degrees) on the labor market
the current situation of intra-European and
trans-European export and import of Higher Education products
strategic options for TNE and traditional
HE models in the future with regard to the growing need for
best practices in TNE
the size and the future demand of the
potential ‘market’, in europe and on a world-wide basis.
It was very strongly recommended
that studies should be commissioned as soon as possible to address these
questions since national authorities and actors cannot develop policies
without substantial quantitative and qualitative assessment of the
It was generally agreed upon that
the issue of quality, quality assurance and it’s international transparency
would have to become the main focus of all parties involved in TNE in the
future. While some state-driven systems had long ago developed a set of
internal quality measurements which still may differ widely from country to
country they are now faced with the challenge to re-define quality and
quality assurance parameters in study and research both to position
themselves on the international HE market, and to guarantee at least minimal
common national and European standards. For example, top-seed TNE providers
(e.g branches of US Ivy League universities) which actively compete ‘next
door’ with well-established European universities for the best students may
create the need for European institutions to quickly develop and apply
comparable and transparent quality standards, as much as they need to
distance themselves at the same time from degree mills of questionalbe
It was recommended that
TNE providers (including European
institutions) should be subject to strict quality assurance on a national
level (host country; or country of home mosther institution if member on EU)
That every country should set up a proper
quality assurance system acknowleged within the EU
That Naric/Enic should be more aware of
their responsibilities with respect to TNE
That a European platform for quality
assurance could be helpful in order to provide the exchange of ideas,
approaches and – in particular - to facilitate the coordination of existing
initiatives and networks such as Naric and ENQA.
can be part of quality assurance, but it is likely to succeed only if
generally accepted quality standards are being applied. Different national
accreditation standards will multiply problems and dilute quality
transparency rather than establish it. Accreditation has become an important
tool of efforts to control TNE providers in some members states already, but
there is little, if any, coordination or cooperation among states in setting
up a commonly agreed-upon set of criteria. Accreditation as a standardized
tool to guarantee quality in TNE is most likely successful only if it is
developed on a supranational (here: European) level.
In various discussions it was
mentioned that the social issue in TNE was not being considered
appropriately. In particular there seems to be too little concern over the
impact of TNE on
the possibility of a gradual transformation
from non-fee systems to fee-based systems (‘value for money’ – approach)
the development of national and European
student loan and grant schemes in a rapidly opening international market
the responsibility of Governments for
the commercialization of higher education
when being subjected to GATS.
It was obvious throughout the
discussions that too little is known about the links between students, their
motivation with respect to their preferred field of study, the labor market
and it’s demands, and TNE providers which obviously seem to fill a certain
gap. The internationalization of labor markets require a set of new
qualifications from students that state-driven national systems cannot
easily provide without giving up traditional national positions and
protective behaviour. Students who can move freely from one institution to
another in a harmonized yet diversified European Higher Education landscape
are most likely to fulfill the requirements of future global employers. They
will look for the best education, and they will choose those institutions
which can provide this in the most efficient manner. The push-and-pull
factors have changed over the last years, and the principles of the Lisbon
agreement will further This change significantly to a configuration of rules
guarding the HE market following the principle of motivation (by students)
and attractivity (of providers).
This new global development requires
that internationally accepted quality standards are sound, transparent,
applicable to both private and state institutions and transferable.
It was generally agreed that these
standards need to be developed as quickly as possible on the broadest
Apart from the strict application of
quality assurance, there was consent that there should be as little formal
regulation of TNE providers on a national or European level as possible,
that in fact a cooperative approach would serve much more the needs of all
parties involved. The emergence and success of TNE providers in many
countries should be seen as a helpful indicator of the problems of existing
state systems, of options for future developments and even best practice
models in some cases. Institutions in some countries have already begun to
act themselves as TNE providers, and there will be an increased competition
for highly qualified students worldwide in the years to come. TNE opens the
door to a first step towards a de-regulation of European Higher Education,
and thus the need towards a common approach.
17 March 2001.
Convention of European
Higher Education Institutions
Salamanca, Spain, 29 – 30th
Conclusions of the work of thematic groups
Rapporteur: Prof. Dr. Konrad Osterwald, Rector, ETH
main purpose of the Salamanca Convention was a political one : higher
education institutions wanted to formulate in an easily readable way their
goals and intentions, the leading principles, major requirements and some of
the difficulties that need to be overcome on the way towards the European
Higher Education Area.
European universities showed that they want to shape their own future in the
new European context. They clearly expressed their will, their intention and
their determination to take up the challenge of the Sorbonne/Bologna
declaration and to be proactive in the process of building by 2010 the
European Higher Education Area.
short document – also a basis for the Salamanca Message to the
European Ministers of Education when they meet in Prague on 18-19 May 2001 –
sets out the main results of the work of the twelve groups who, during the
Convention, debated six key themes taken from the Bologna Declaration of
1. Freedom with
responsibility: empowering universities
need new freedom if they are to adjust rapidly to "environmental changes“
and to new local, national and international partners. The variety of their
new tasks calls for freedom of action as the only way towards more
efficiency. Universities have to be able to enter into new partnerships,
including with commercial partners, and they need to be able to act quickly.
This calls for new leadership, the conditions of which depend on the
institutions’ ability, flexibility and independence to plan strategically.
are not just requesting more freedom, however. They are also willing to
accept the corresponding responsibility: they want to be held accountable
for what they are doing and for how they use the freedom granted to them.
Freedom with responsibility
legal entities need autonomy in, and want to be held accountable for:
setting goals and priorities
selection of partners,
locally, nationally and internationally, in research and in teaching
selection of research
management of human
capital, in particular the hiring the professors
setting of admission
rules for students.
between government and universities on a partnership basis is a
pre-requisite. Last but not least, nursing intellectual autonomy is still
the core task and requirement of academic institutions.
2.Employability in the
European labour market
have to be valid academically and relevant to the labour market at the same
curricula and study courses, as well as diversification, respecting
different talents and employment prospects are prerequisites. Curricula must
meet well defined targets.
introduction of first cycle programmes is important because of the growing
number of students. The articulation of programmes and degrees in two main
cycles is a meaningful option if the curriculum takes care of employability
(in terms of the competencies acquired) both for students transferring to
employment after the first degree and those doing so after the second
education institutions see the employability of their graduates as an
important goal and a necessity. This requires greater programme flexibility
and the development of curricular concepts promoting the lifelong
employability and adaptability of students. Furthermore it means diversity
and multiplicity of entry and exit points of learning experiences.
in a university context means:
a well developed
the ability to
approach and to solve a problem systematically and methodically applying
the capacity to lead
structure of university programmes and each element thereof must be targeted
towards the development of the above mentioned personal skills, while
allowing for a great variety of curricular approaches and for competing
Institutions of higher education
should contribute to transparency and recognition by explaining their
curricular approach and the competencies they strive for in a way that is
meaningful for students, employers and others concerned. In other words,
they should prepare their students to cope with the labour market and their
future professional role (preparation for job search and managing one’s
career). In conjunction with their public and private partners, they should
establish career centres for such purposes.
3 .Mobility in the European
higher education area
students and staff promotes the ability to cope with a new cultural and
learning environment and to understand other cultures. It is a requirement
in view of today’s globalisation but it also promotes European coherence and
enriches the scientific outlook.
Two types of
mobility should be promoted: horizontal mobility (i.e. the student stays
with a host university for one or two terms and then returns to complete a
degree from his/her home institution) and vertical mobility (i.e. the
student finishes one period of studies at a first institution and then moves
to a second one to continue his/her studies. An ideal point for changing
institutions in this way is after the completion of one of the cycles).
conditions for mobility are:
ECTS credits used both
for exchange and for accumulation;
a more generous
approach to recognition issues;
the possibility for
both virtual and physical mobility, the former not being a substitute to the
the availability of
funding for staff and student mobility;
assurance systems in all countries and subject areas.
Mobility is a
core value of the European Higher Education Area.
instruments of recognition should be fully implemented:
ECTS (extended to
accumulation and life long learning)
Physical mobility should be promoted
as an educational experience and cannot be substituted by virtual mobility.
A common European approach to virtual mobility is needed, however. The
benefits (i.e. the added value) associated with mobility for staff, students
and researchers should be publicised. Administrative and structural barriers
and obstacles to mobility must at long last be removed. Countries party to
the Bologna process should commit themselves to abolish any law/regulation
imposing nationality requirements for holders of permanent and temporary
positions at their higher education institutions. Portable grants and loans
should be made available to students, together with other suitable
incentives to both individuals and institutions.
and development of the European Higher Education Area depends on the
recognition of the essential role of higher education institutions. They are
a driving force in the whole process. Their clear internationalisation
policy needs to take into consideration:
the crucial importance
of teaching staff with international experience;
provision (this requires the abolition of any law/regulation prohibiting
higher education teaching in a foreign language) and the provision of
certain courses in widely spoken foreign languages;
the need to offer all
students in undergraduate education, regardless of their field of
specialisation, the possibility to take a number of credits in foreign
user-friendly information of students concerning international
4. Compatibility: a common,
but flexible qualification framework
education needs to be structured in such a way that after 3 - 4 years (or
rather 180 - 240 ECTS credits) a student should be eligible for a
Bachelor-type degree. This degree should either lead to immediate employment
or provide preparation for further studies leading to a Master degree. Under
certain circumstances a university may decide to structure a curriculum as a
5-year integrated (i.e. unbroken) programme leading directly to a
Master-level degree. Professional and discipline networks have an important
role in informing such decisions.
ECTS should be
used by universities not only for credit transfer but also for credit for
by giving credits for
assessed learning gained inside or outside the university;
subject to the
requirements of regulated professions and the right of universities to
decide whether credits gained outside are acceptable or not.
assurance is an essential part of this process.
5. Quality assurance and
internationalisation of quality assurance is a necessary response to the
current globalisation trends and to the challenges of building a European
Higher Education Area. Accreditation is one answer to these challenges and
quality assurance mechanisms are a pre-requisite for good accreditation
Some kind of
European platform or clearing system needs to be organised with the full
support of higher education institutions in order to disseminate good
practice and advise accrediting bodies on appropriate procedures. It should
foster the mutual acceptance of quality assurance decisions in Europe while
preserving national and subject differences and institutional autonomy and
not overloading universities. The role of ENQA in this process should be
6. Competitiveness at home and
in the world
promotes quality and is therefore good for students. But universities need
more operational freedom and a fair financing scheme to enter true
competition. More diversity of curricula will further competition. More
competitiveness is needed to attract students from overseas. Competitiveness
and co-operation are not mutually exclusive. Competitiveness means academic
quality in the first place and cannot be reduced to a commercial concept
Europe needs to
be in a position to attract the best brains from all over the world, but
this requires the speedy removal of inadequate immigration and labour market
issues within Europe (East versus West, South versus North) and there is the
danger of an inner-European brain drain.
the introduction of
study programmes taught in major world languages;
more marketing in
non-European countries, developing educational trade marks and brands;
the development of
adequate services for foreign students and scholars, allowing European
higher education institutions to be perceived as welcoming institutions;
competition with other continents through
Higher education institutions are
willing to take the responsibility of operating in a competitive education
arena, but this requires more real managerial autonomy (going beyond
classical academic freedom), a flexible regulatory framework and fair
Competition serves the quality of
education and is good for students, higher education institutions and other
stakeholders. It must be accepted and promoted and at the same time
underpinned by reliable quality assurance and accreditation mechanisms that
are readable inside and outside of Europe.
more competitive also calls for more openness, transparency and competition
at home. It requires a revision of our service and marketing culture in line
with the realities and values of European higher education, such as cultural
diversity, research orientation and social responsibility. Universities in
certain accession countries are not yet equipped to compete on an equal
basis and need special help.
universities and their organisations are willing and capable to take the
lead in the joint effort :
to renovate and
rejuvenate higher education;
to redefine it at a
to promote the
employability of their graduates and the mobility of their students and
to further the
compatibility between institutions and curricula;
to assure quality in
the European Higher Education Area;
to be more
competitive, not excluding cooperation;
to address the
specific difficulties of universities in certain parts of Europe.
are enough freedom and appropriate funding, as well as the removal of
immigration and labour market restrictions.
European higher education
institutions want to be in a position to shape their future in the European
Higher Education Area. If they all want it, their message will be heard and
it will happen.
Göteborg, Sweden, 22 – 25th
Student Göteborg Declaration
We, the student
representatives in Europe, gathered in Göteborg at the Student Göteborg
Convention from the 22nd to the 25th of March
2001.Here we adopted the following declaration on the future of the Bologna
Process. ESIB – the National Unions of Students in Europe is and has been
actively involved in the construction of the European Higher Education Area.
In June 1999, ESIB and its
members, the national unions of students had to invite themselves to the
Ministerial meeting on “A European Higher Education Area” in Bologna. Two
years later, at the Prague Summit, ESIB is a keynote speaker. The growing
recognition of the student input in the process is the result of a strong
commitment of European students to promote a high quality, accessible and
diverse higher education in Europe.
ESIB sees the Bologna process as the
crucial step towards a Europe without boundaries for its citizens. A
European higher education area should include all European students on an
equal basis. The creation of this area is a common responsibility of all
European countries and should take into account the political and
socio-economic differences in Europe. The reason for creating a European
higher education area is the improvement of all national higher education
systems, by spreading good practices and promoting cooperation and
solidarity between the European states.
Although the Bologna Declaration
pointed out the basic aspects of the European dimension in higher education,
it failed to address the social implications the process has on students.
Higher education enables students to acquire the skills and the knowledge
they need further in life, both personally and professionally. The social
and civic contributions must be present as the primary functions of the
higher education institutions. Higher education institutions are important
actors in civic society; therefore all members of the higher education
community should be involved. Students therefore are not consumers of a
tradable education service, and as a consequence it is the governments’
responsibility to guarantee that all citizens have equal access to higher
education, regardless of their social background. This means providing
students with adequate funding in the form of study grants and the higher
education institutions with enough funding to exercise their public tasks.
As stated earlier, accessible higher
education of a high quality is of utmost importance for a democratic
European society. Accessibility and diversity have traditionally been the
cornerstones of European education and should remain so in the future. Next
to this and to ensure that all programmes of higher education institutions
are compatible and exchangeable, a system of credits based on workload
should be implemented in the whole of Europe. A common European framework of
criteria for accreditation and a compatible system of degrees is needed, in
order to make sure that credits accumulated in different countries or at
different institutions are transferable and lead to a recognisable degree. A
two-tier degree system should guarantee free and equal access for all
students and should not lead to the exclusion of students on other than
academic grounds. To guarantee and improve the quality of higher education,
a strong European cooperation of the national quality assurance systems is
needed. Accreditation, being a certification of a programme, takes into
account, among other criteria, the quality assurance process and should be
used as a tool to promote quality.
A European higher education area
promoting improvement and cooperation requires physical mobility of
students, teaching staff and researchers. Mobility is also a way to promote
cultural understanding and tolerance. Obstacles to mobility exist not only
in the academic world. Social, economical and political obstacles must also
be removed. Governments should guarantee foreign students the same legal
rights as the students in the hosting country and higher education
institutions should take the responsibility to provide students with
The creation of a genuine European
higher education area as outlined above will lead to expanded mobility,
higher quality and the increased attractiveness of European education and
research. The measures taken in the Bologna process are only a first step
towards transparency. The provision of general information must be
encouraged. To improve the level of information Europe needs a fully
implemented use of a Diploma Supplement and the creation of a readily
accessible database with all relevant higher education information.
Finally, it must be stressed that
students, as competent, active and constructive partners, must be seen as
one of the driving forces for changes in the field of education. Student
participation in the Bologna process is one of the key steps towards
permanent and more formalised student involvement in all decision making
bodies and discussion fora dealing with higher education on the European
ESIB – the National Unions of
Students in Europe, being the representative of students on the European
level, must be included in the future follow-up of the Bologna declaration.
ESIB – the National Unions of
Students in Europe will commit itself to continue representing and promoting
the students’ views on the European level.
25th March 2001.