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The Bologna implementation report 2018 was published on 23 May, just ahead of the Bologna Ministerial conference in Paris, 24-25 May. It was presented by David Crosier of Eurydice on 24 May, focusing on some of the main findings and trends in the implementation of the commitments in the Bologna process.
The two first key words may be said to be ‘consolidation’ and ‘underfunding’. Namely, the reform process, since its inception, has achieved good results and despite uneven implementation, most countries have been working on reforms with relative success. However, public expenditure on higher education has throughout remained the same (1.2% GDP on average) despite the overall increase in student population, which adds to the challenge of the reform process.
The implementation of the three key commitments yields mixed results. The 3-cycle degree structure reform has been implemented steadily, but it remains a challenge in some 10 out of the 48 EHEA countries. Particular complexity surrounds short cycle degrees, which exist in around half of the EHEA countries but with different levels of recognition of learning outcomes. On the other hand, the picture is brighter when it comes to quality assurance. The 2015 Standards and Guidelines for European Quality Assurance (ESG) have been well respected and improvements are noted on several indicators. According to the report, all higher education institutions are required to have policies for quality assurance in 20 HE systems, in contrast with 15 systems where there are no such legal requirements for higher education institutions. Where improvements are still needed is in the involvement of students in quality assurance processes and the quality assurance of joint programmes, where progress is slow due to limiting national legislation in many countries. Special attention in recognition is paid this time to the post-2015 issues many higher education systems have been facing, namely, the recognition of qualifications of displaced and refugee persons, and support for the highly skilled to continue education or enter the labour market.
Internationalisation is said to be on increase across the EHEA countries albeit in different forms and degrees of engagement. In terms of degree mobility, the observed trend is mobility within the EHEA, not so much outside. Despite uneven mobility flows across the EHEA, the report indicates progress when it comes to measuring and monitoring student mobility.
Fostering shared values and strengthening the social dimension of higher education was echoed strongly and repeatedly at this year’s Bologna Ministerial conference. But despite the consensus on their relevance, the need for more inclusiveness and openness for disadvantaged groups persist as a challenge in the Bologna Process. Particularly difficult, it was noted in the presentation, is it to assess values across higher education systems. Still, the ministers agreed in Paris that academic freedom, institutional autonomy and stakeholder participation in HE governance are the foundation of higher education - and have been seriously challenged in some EHEA countries in the past period.