POLICY FORUM: Other side of Bologna

The second Bologna policy forum took place late on Friday at the venue of the ministerial conference in the patriarchal Hofburg of Vienna. Taking a stand for better global cooperation in higher education, the forum was described as a great success by representatives from the more than 60 nations that attended.

Last year's forum in April, after the education ministers met in Leuven in Belgium, set the basis for promotion, practical exchange and knowledge transfer between the various stakeholders of the European Higher Education Area and their international counterparts.

The forum was established to promote European tertiary education reform in the global education market and to strengthen the ties to countries which could not fully participate but are nonetheless interested in exchanges of experience and cooperation.

With the official launch of the European Higher Education Area, the education ministers and representatives of all continents noted the Bologna process, the biggest education reform ever in Europe, had helped redefine higher education in the 46 participating countries.

Therefore this year's forum was an active dialogue on systematic and institutional changes in developing the global knowledge society, and increased cooperation between the Bologna countries and the rest of the world. The goal was to meet today's demands and expectations and to improve the mobility of staff and students as well as the balance between cooperation and competition.

Besides exchanging experiences, the implementation of concrete measures within the Bologna reforms, such as the introduction of qualification frameworks, credit points and transfer systems, quality assurance and the cross-border authentication of qualifications, were of special importance to the international guests - because they are the basis for global student and staff exchanges.

The expertise of the European countries in output-oriented learning, which was presented during the forum's workshops, had considerable significance for the delegates. Another hot topic was the transformation of brain drain into "brain circulation" which was in most cases successfully promoted by European structural funds and incentives for reintegration, as a way of bringing academics from abroad back to their home countries.

The forum stressed the importance of adapting to the great societal challenges by increasing global cooperation between higher education and research systems, while respecting the autonomy of the participating institutions and nations.

To achieve this, all countries represented will appoint a contact person who will be a point of reference and liaison, not only for information flow and joint activities but also for evaluation and preparation of the next policy forum in 2012.

A special focus of the delegates' message was on the creation of a global student dialogue, recognising students as one of the main elements in successful cooperation. The partnership between governments, higher education institutions, staff, students and other stakeholders is seen as the core of the Bologna process. Delegates agreed this should be reflected at the next meeting.

"This dialogue is reasonable and viable", said Dr. Siegbert Wuttig, speaking on behalf of the German National Agency for European Higher Education Cooperation. "It still is another question how the countries can be included in the actions in the long run."

* Karl-Heinz Kloppisch Jr is a correspondent of ESNA, the European Higher Education News Agency based in Berlin. www.esna.tv