The Bologna Process: The Reform of the European Higher Education Systems

By Szolár, Éva | Romanian Journal of European Affairs, March 2011 | Go to article overview

The Bologna Process: The Reform of the European Higher Education Systems


Szolár, Éva, Romanian Journal of European Affairs


Abstract:

The Bologna process is the comprehensive reform initiative of the European higher education systems, with an unprecedented political support and commitment for changes. In Central and Eastern European countries the Bologna process is not only strongly connected to the overall political transformation, but provides for the higher education policy makers an opportunity for the Europeanization of the sector. The implementation of the three-cycle system (the reform of organizational dimensions) creates a demand for other reforms, and under this agenda have been released a numerous fundamental questions and debates on higher education systems. In a narrow concept, the Bologna process at the present implies systemic (e.g. core functions and role of different higher education institutions, the future of university and non-university sector), programmatic (e.g. at different program levels different curricular emphasis, arrangements and functions; vocationalization of the academic curriculum), procedural (e.g. new modes and arrangements of teaching) changes, and shift from accent on horizontal to vertical differences (e.g. the set up of stratified and hierarchical national systems based on reputation and prestige, especially in research quality), and from input to output oriented higher education. In a broad sense, and on the basis of national implementation experiences, we can also conceptualize the Bologna process as governance or recently finance reform. As the concepts behind these reform initiatives suggests, the original objectives of the Bologna process is reinterpreted and overwrote, by the Lisbon Strategy and several national higher educational policy objectives.

Keywords: higher education reform, education policy, Bologna Process.

JEL classification: I2/I21, I23, I28.

Introduction

The structural reform becomes the most visible initiative of the Bologna process. However, today the reform serves as an umbrella for comprehensive reform processes in national systems of higher education. As Huisman et al. (2009, p. xi p) argue, the Bologna shortly after the Declaration it transformed into an even more puzzling, multi-stakeholder process, involving various supranational and national agencies. The analysis1 addresses the question of (1) what objectives has the Bologna process, (2) what kind of change initiatives - already in course of implementation - it brings together, and (3) how they were changed the European higher education systems.

The Bologna Declaration (1999) has been set up to create the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), where ministers of education affirmed their intention to: (1) Adopt a system of easily readable and comparable degrees; (2) Implement a system based essentially on two main cycles; (3) Establish a system of credits; (4) Support the mobility of students, teachers and researchers; (5) Promote European cooperation in quality assurance; (6) Promote the European dimension in higher education (in terms of curricular development and inter-institutional cooperation). The Bologna Declaration also formulates the objective of increasing the international competitiveness ofthe European system of higher education and stresses the need to ensure that this system attracts significant attention from around the world (EURYDICE 2009).

On the basis of the above revealed features of Bologna process we will discuss the origins, nature, purpose and dimensions of the reform initiatives. We structured our analysis corresponding to the original schedule ofthe Bologna, what in the present approach accord ingto Teich 1er (2007) can be summarized as a (1) structural and curricular, (2) management and steering reform, and (3) internationalizing ofthe sector. Based on the review of relevant higher education literature there we present - in contrary to the thematic studies - an alternative analysis from holistic perspective, however, with its constraints. There we focus on the above mentioned initiatives ofthe Bologna, but we leave out of consideration, those aims that were added only in the recent ministerial meetings (e. …

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