GERMANY: Bologna architecture in place

Considerable progress has been made in developing the Bologna process, according to a new report released by the European University Association during Bologna's 10th anniversary events in Vienna. The report, Trends 2010, was released to coincide with the launch of the European Higher Education Area. It highlights Bologna's clear achievements regarding such aspects as new degree structures and credit transfer but also calls for greater efforts to enhance mobility and more funding for implementation.

The aim of the Bologna Process is to make academic degree and quality assurance standards more compatible in Europe while boosting performance, the desired result of the Process being a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) with greater mobility and better achievement, also on an international scale.

The Bologna Declaration was signed in Bologna, Italy, in 1999 by ministers of education from 29 European countries. Now there are 46 signatories, including countries as far apart as Iceland and Azerbaijan.

While the agreement itself has been signed by all 27 European Union Member States, it was the Council of Europe and members of the Unesco Europe Region who prepared the Lisbon Recognition Convention setting the framework for the compatibility of standards.

According to EUA President Jean-Marc Rapp, Trends 2010 "shows that after 10 years, the 'Bologna architecture' is now firmly in place to build a strong common higher education area".

The three-cycle system of bachelors and masters degrees and doctorates has now been adopted by 95% of universities. But the study notes that in some cases the change has not led to meaningful curricular renewal "but rather to compressed bachelor degrees that leave little flexibility for students".

The European Credit Transfer System , a key tool in the process, is used by 90% of all higher education institutions. And by now, 77% of institutions have reviewed curricula in all departments under the process with regard to improving teaching quality and moving towards student-centred learning.

And 28 countries have reviewed their quality assurance systems against the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance established in the process in 2005.
Implementation of new degree structures in regulated professional disciplines such as medicine, law and engineering, however, has met with difficulties although figures vary widely between the professions.

Also, problems still exist with graduate employability. This applies in particular to the bachelors degree in countries where it has been newly introduced and employers are not fully recognising it. Here, the masters degree remains the basic entry standard to the labour market.

One of the chief objectives of the EHEA is mobility. But not enough data was available for the study to assess how it had been influenced by the Bologna process. Trends 2010 concedes that many obstacles still exist in this area, such as visa or language requirements, or insufficient harmonisation of academic calendars.

The report stresses that data collection at institutional, national and European level needs to be improved. Students, academics, employers and society have to be better informed about the purpose of the Bologna Process and the benefits it offers.

Adequate funding is particularly important to achieve student-centred learning, which requires sufficient staffing as well as adequate facilities. And politicians and institutions alike have to do more to promote mobility and remove obstacles to students and staff in the new European Higher Education Area.

The European University Association represents Europe's universities and its national rectors' conferences. Its mission is to promote the development of a coherent system of European higher education and research.