The aim of the Bologna Process is to create a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) by 2010 and to promote the European system of higher education worldwide. There are a number of key areas the process is focusing on to achieve its aim.
- Removing obstacles to student and academic mobility – within Europe and to students from outside - is seen as essential to the establishment of the EHEA. Greater mobility brings increased career opportunities for students and teachers in the European employment market.
- European Ministers of Higher Education have called for European higher education sectors to adopt a system based on two cycles, at Bachelor and Master’s level. Focus has also extended beyond these two cycles so that doctoral level qualifications are now considered as the third cycle in the Bologna Process. This will enable the promotion of closer links between the European Higher Education Area and the European Research Area (ERA).
- The development of a system of easily readable and comparable degrees will simplify comparison between qualifications across Europe. The flexibility and transparency provided will enable students and teachers to have their qualifications recognised more widely, facilitating freedom of movement around a more transparent EHEA. This would be aided by the establishment of a system of credits in the form of the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) and the adoption of the Diploma Supplement by all countries involved.
- Improving the quality and ensuring high standards of higher education in Europe are key to making the EHEA attractive on the international stage. Cooperating in quality assurance at European level to develop an agreed set of guidelines and exploring ways to ensure an adequate peer review system for QA bodies will assist in achieving common high standards across Europe, and will ease the comparability of qualifications.
- Higher education institutions and students themselves have an important role to play in the Bologna Process and European Ministers of Higher Education have called upon them to become involved in forming a diverse and adaptable European Higher Education Area.
- The Bologna Process demonstrates a commitment to lifelong learning in Europe, which is essential to help meet the challenges of increased competition in the global workplace, and the use of new technologies.
- Institutions have been urged to develop courses and curricula with significant European content, to increase the European dimension of higher education. This also entails the promotion of partnership activities and curriculum development between institutions in Europe, and the establishment of joint degrees.
Key dates in the Bologna Process
1998 – Sorbonne Declaration
The Sorbonne Declaration in 1998, signed by Ministers responsible for higher education in France, Germany, Italy and the UK, identified the building blocks for the Bologna Process. This was the first step in agreeing that European higher education systems should be coherent and compatible to strengthen recognition of qualifications and international competitiveness of European higher education. The Declaration included calls for a two-cycle (undergraduate/postgraduate) degree structure and the use of credits.
1999 – Bologna Declaration
In 1999, Ministers from 29 European countries, met in Bologna and signed a Declaration establishing a European Higher Education Area by 2010. The initial broad objectives of the Bologna Process became: to remove the obstacles to student mobility across Europe; to enhance the attractiveness of European higher education worldwide; to establish a common structure of higher education systems across Europe, and; for this common structure to be based on two main cycles, undergraduate and graduate. This in turn would lead to greater transparency and recognition of qualifications.
2001 – Creation of the European University Association
At a meeting in Salamanca, Spain, the Association of European Universities and the Confederation of European Union Rectors' Conferences merged to create the European University Association (EUA). As a single organisation serving and representing the university community in Europe, the EUA provides a stronger voice and a more powerful presence for institutions in the Bologna Process.
2001 – Prague ministerial summit
Ministers from 32 Bologna signatory countries met in Prague for the first biennial summit to assess progress made according to the action lines set out in the Bologna Declaration. Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the Bologna Process. They welcomed the involvement of a number of new actors: the European University Association (EUA), National Union of Students in Europe (ESIB), European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE) and the European Commission. Ministers agreed on three new action lines to add to the six in the Bologna Declaration: a focus on lifelong learning, the inclusion of higher education institutions and students in the process, and the promotion of the attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area.
2003 – Berlin ministerial summit
The second Bologna ministerial review summit took place in Berlin in 2003. Ministers called for a focus on three intermediate priorities for the next two years: quality assurance, the two-cycle system and the recognition of degrees and periods of study. The development of an overarching European HE qualifications framework alongside national qualifications frameworks and the award of the Diploma Supplement by all HEIs by 2005 were also called for. Ministers considered it necessary to go beyond the focus on two main cycles of higher education and agreed on a new action line: to include the doctoral level as the ‘third cycle’ in the Bologna Process to build links between the European Higher Education and Research Areas. Ministers accepted requests for membership of the Bologna Process from countries in southeast Europe and Russia, expanding the Process to 40 European countries.
2005 – Bergen ministerial summit
The fourth Ministerial summit was held in Bergen, Norway in 2005. By this time, 40 countries were participating in the Bologna Process and five more joined in Bergen.
Ministers adopted the overarching Framework for Qualifications of the EHEA with the following features:
- an overarching, generic framework with three cycles (“including, within national contexts, the possibility of intermediate qualifications”);
- generic qualifications descriptors for each cycle based on learning outcomes and competencies;
- typical credit ranges in the first and second cycles;
Ministers also called for the elaboration of national qualifications frameworks to be compatible with the overarching framework by 2010. Ministers “underlined the importance of ensuring complementarity” between the overarching framework for the EHEA and the European Commission’s proposed broader framework for qualifications for lifelong learning. The UK is broadly supportive of the Framework for Qualifications for the EHEA.
Ministers adopted the report on ‘Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the EHEA’ (ESGs). The report was produced by the European Association for Quality Assurance (ENQA), in cooperation with the European University Association (EUA), European Association of Institutions of Higher Education (EURASHE), and the National Unions of Students in Europe (ESIB - now the European Students' Union, ESU), the so-called ‘E4 group
2007 – London ministerial summit
The fifth Ministerial summit was held in London in May 2007. Montenegro acceded to the Process at this summit, bringing the number of participating countries to 46.
Ministers adopted a proposal for a Register of European Higher Education Quality Assurance Agencies (REHEQA). The Register will provide information regarding the alignment of quality assurance agencies with the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESGs). The Register will be based in Brussels with a small Secretariat.
Ministers stressed the importance of social dimension of HE. They agreed to report back in 2009 on national measures to widen participation in HE. Mobility was re-stated as one of the key objectives of the Bologna Process. Ministers called upon Eurostat and Eurostudent to develop comparable and reliable indicators to measure progress in increasing staff and student mobility.
Ministers approved ‘The Strategy for the EHEA in a Global Setting’, acknowledging the importance of the global dimension to Bologna. The Bologna Secretariat will be improved to better present the EHEA to the wider world and countries are urged to improve their procedures for recognition of foreign qualifications.
Bologna+10 Ministerial Conference
On 28 and 29 April 2009, the Ministers responsible for higher education in the then 46 countries of the Bologna Process met in Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve to establish the priorities for the European Higher Education Area until 2020. They highlighted in particular the importance of lifelong learning, widening access to higher education, and mobility. By 2020, at least 20% of those graduating in the European Higher Education Area should have had a study or training period abroad.
For more details about the conference, click here or you can visit the conference website
The 10 Bologna Process Action lines
Established in the Bologna Declaration of 1999:
1. Adoption of a system of easily readable and comparable degrees
2. Adoption of a system essentially based on two cycles
3. Establishment of a system of credits
4. Promotion of mobility
5. Promotion of European co-operation in quality assurance
6. Promotion of the European dimension in higher education
Added after the Prague Ministerial summit of 2001:
7. Focus on lifelong learning
8. Inclusion of higher education institutions and students
9. Promotion of the attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area
Added after the Berlin Ministerial summit of 2003:
10. Doctoral studies and the synergy between the European Higher Education Area and the European Research Area.
Where can I obtain further information on the Bologna Process?
The following websites provide further information on the Bologna Process:
European Commission: Higher education: Bologna:
The official website of the Bologna Process (Bologna Secretariat):
Eurydice, the information network on education in Europe: