Academic journal article College and University

Understanding the Bologna Process for Admissions Officers

Academic journal article College and University

Understanding the Bologna Process for Admissions Officers

Article excerpt

In Spring 2008, senior members of the international admission and credential eva uation community met to deliberate over the admission and placement of Bologna Compliant degree holders into U.S. graduate programs. This group comprised several individuals holding top leadership positions in NAFSA, AACRAO, and closely allied groups involved in international education. The decisions that grew out of the meeting are reflected in the Educational Database for Global Education (EDGE) profile on the Bologna Process and in the Advice to Admissions Offficers section of that profile.

In the 1980s Europeans decided to ease transition from upper secondary to post-secondary education across Europe by deliberating (under UNESCO auspices) and declaring all individual upper secondary university-bound leaving certificates to be comparable. This decision enabled holders of the French Baccalauréat (for example) to access British universities, German Reifezeugnis holders to enter French universities, etc. Thus, mobility among European participants was guaranteed in theory without changing a thing. It also was agreed at the time to reform higher education as well.

In Bologna, Italy, in June 1999, 29 ministers of education from various European countries met to create the European Higher Education Area (ehea), which subsequently became known as the Bologna Process.1 As of 2007, the number of participating ministers of education had grown to 46. At that first meeting, it was decided to reform European higher education, not as had been done with secondary education some fifteen years previously, when all leaving certificates, however named and at whatever length, were deemed comparable, but by actually altering significantly the existing national systems of education to conform to an agreed upon model. In effect, they created a European educational 'euro.'

Several things were decided at that first meeting in Bologna:

* A new system of degrees of three levels, or cycles, spanning higher education would be created, with each degree leading to the other. These degrees had no mandated names but over the years have become known as bachelor, master, and doctor. No length of time to the first degree was stipulated, but it could not be less than three years. The second-level degree would last for as many years as necessary so that the time to the two degrees together would total five years. Thus, one could have 3+2 or 4+1 for bachelor/ master. The vast majority of signatory countries have opted for the 3+2 model.

* The new degrees would be based on a credit system; founded in 1989 for the Erasmus programs on student mobility, the European Credit Transfer System (ects) was adopted. This system is based on a full annual load of 60 ECTS (30 per semester) and includes lecture, lab, tutorials, and outside-of-class work time. A typical 3+2 system would require 180 ects for the bachelor, 120 for the master, or 300 total.

* A document enumerating the degrees and credits and other pertinent information about the education system of the country would be issued upon completion of the degree(s). This Diploma Supplement would be in English as well as the indigenous language of the country and would include information on grading and the country's overall education system.

* A system of quality assurance or accreditation that extended among all institutions and countries involved in the Bologna Process would be instituted.

These four features of the Process would be implemented in each of the countries over time, with 2010 as the date set for full implementation. The biannual Ministers' Conferences began in 2001 to assess progress toward full implementation; progress has been recorded in communiqués and reports (Trends I-V through 2007). The ministers have met at the following sites: Prague (2001), Berlin (2003), Bergen (2005), and London (2007); the 2009 meeting is scheduled to take place in Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve (Belguim). …

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