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The Bologna Process and Higher Education in Europe

The Bologna Process - Amio Cajander
The Bologna Process - Amio Cajander
The Bologna Process is a group of resolutions and projects to improve the structure and availability of higher education throughout Europe.
In the United States, the structure of higher education is becoming increasingly complex, with technical schools, community colleges, liberal arts colleges, and large state universities providing access to higher education. Students enrolled in post secondary education also have to deal with the financial aid process for college, earning scholarships and grants, and applying for and repaying student loan debt.
However, in Europe, the structure of higher education is vastly different and varies from country to country. In an attempt to unify Europe's higher education system and provide more accessibility and mobility among Europe's higher education institutions, The Bologna Process is working towards creating a structured and unified university system in participating European countries.

History of The Bologna Process

The beginnings of The Bologna Process started in 1998, when ministers of education from Germany, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom issued the Sorbonne Declaration. The Sorbonne Declaration was meant to announce the desire to create a "frame of reference" in the proposed European Higher Education Area.
In 1999, twenty-nine European countries came together to express willingness and cooperation in creating a unified, structured system of higher education in the European Higher Education Area. This became the Bologna Declaration, says the official website of The Bologna Process.
Throughout the first decade of existence for The Bologna Process, more countries joined in an attempt to create a more widespread European Higher Education Area. The Prague Communique, issued in 2001, also emphasized the goals of The Bologna Process, which include reforming higher education in Europe and making it more attractive to students and faculty:
  • promote lifelong learning
  • involving students as partners in higher education
  • increasing accessibility and mobility of students, faculty, research, and curricula
  • increasing the attractiveness and competitive nature of European higher education
Since then, participating countries and non-government organizations (NGOs) have met on several occasions to discuss various aspects of The Bologna Process, including the goal date of 2020 to improving mobility throughout the European higher education system. 

European Degree Structures and The Bologna Process

Prior to 2005, the structure of college and university degrees in Europe was not necessarily unified. However, with the implementation of the provisions in The Bologna Process, the degree structure at European higher education institutions has been reconfigured to be somewhat similar to the system of degrees awarded in the United States and Japan. 

The new degree system is focused on three cycles of academic study and achievement: bachelors degrees, masters degrees, and doctoral degrees. By creating a new framework for each level of academic achievement, it makes the recognition of academic and professional qualifications easier for potential employers and other academic institutions if someone wishes to purse an advanced degree.

Criticism of The Bologna Process

Despite the expansive effort to reform European higher education, The Bologna Process has received criticism from those within the higher education community.
As outlined in a September 19, 2010, article in the global edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, the goals and processes in which to achieve them are fuzzy at best. Education analysts also note that current educational policies and the newer goals of The Bologna Process are inconsistent with one another, creating confusion as to how to meet which set of benchmarks.
In addition, despite cooperation from participating countries, educational ministers and institutions are also meeting reluctance to comply with new structures brought on by The Bologna Process. Some opposition is in regards to adopting the new thee cycle degree system, due to the compressed amount of time students spend on their initial degree (an average of three years) and the bachelor's degree not being held in high-enough regard for graduates to gain employment or advanced educational opportunities.
The Bologna Process, first introduced in 1999, is meant to reinvent the structure of higher education throughout Europe. However, as the policies created by participating countries throughout the European Higher Education Area are implemented, the changes sought by education policy makers and institutions are being met with some resistance.