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Exploring the Future of Higher Education

The 5th edition of the Future of Higher Education – Bologna Process Researchers’ Conference (FOHE-BPRC) took place in Bucharest on 25 – 26 March 2024, bringing together more than 100 higher education researchers, policy makers and practitioners to discuss key developments in the framework of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). The event was organised by the Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation Funding (UEFISCDI), in partnership with the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (SNSPA) and the University of Bucharest, under the High Patronage of the President of Romania. 

The event has facilitated discussions on the achievements of the Bologna Process, and critical reflections on the emerging challenges in five thematic areas: (1) internationalisation, between new challenges and opportunities; (2) access, inclusion and employability; (3) fundamental values and the Bologna Process; (4) digitalisation and its policy and ethical implications; and (5) innovative teaching and learning for a sustainable student-centred learning. Rooted in a diverse selection of articles presented throughout the two days, the sessions were moderated by the experts in the field encouraging lively debates amongst the participants. Some of the key messages from the event were calls for: 

  1. Continued focus on internationalisation as an evolving transversal process, that further necessitates striking a balance between collaboration and competition. 
  2. Enhancing qualitative and quantitative data collection on existing equity groups, to be able to create a more comprehensive picture of the status quo, learn from best practices, and ultimately enhance access and inclusion. 
  3. Stronger focus on fundamental values in the EHEA, which represented a new topic at the conference. The speakers have highlighted the theoretical framework and current developments leading to a common understanding and implementation guidelines. A related monitoring framework is currently being developed under the NewFAV Erasmus+ project, and the topic will be featured in the upcoming Ministerial Communiqué.  
  4. Addressing new developments in digitalisation and artificial intelligence (AI), which are becoming increasingly integrated into educational processes, giving rise to challenges such as the ethical use of AI, or harmonised regulatory frameworks for AI, as well as new opportunities. 
  5. Creating institutional cultures built on collaborations that are essential for innovative teaching and learning, a new mindset focused on inclusiveness and diversity, new tools and pedagogical approaches, with adequate financial support. Relatedly, quality assurance (QA) agencies were encouraged to develop definitions for indicators on student-centred learning and use such indicators to encourage innovative approaches in teaching and learning. 

The conference has become a standing gathering, strategically scheduled a few months ahead of the Ministerial Conferences organised every 2-3 years in the EHEA framework, its purpose being to foster necessary exchanges between researchers and policymakers, and to inform the future developments at policy level. The next Bologna Process Ministerial Conference will take place on 29-30 May 2024 in Tirana, Albania. 

*ACA warmly thanks the UEFISCDI team for their input related to this article.