The Eurocadres blog

Bologna Process and European Higher Education Area: aiming for the sky

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The relative success of the implementation of the Bologna Process and the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) is largely explained by the favourable conditions for regional economic integration and growth in Europe at the beginning of the century. Nevertheless, the contribution of universities and other higher education institutions, as well as the involvement of regional associations in the sector, should also be thanked for the success.

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After twenty years of experience since the Sorbonne Declaration, the key challenges for higher education remain the same for all countries in the EHEA.

Firstly, the main initiatives: training mobility, credit transfer, accreditation standards, certification and recognition of skills, need to be consolidated in order to make the Bologna Process a reality that can operate in all the partner countries.

Furthermore, inclusion, equity, employability, lifelong learning and the transformation of teaching and learning practices need to be raised higher in every country’s political agenda. 

One of the main problems is that the full consolidation of the Bologna Process and the EHEA is also subject to economic and political conditions. In this sense, its implementation is at risk if economic adversities and political trends against market integration persist in the different countries. Overcoming these challenges would mean that new conditions should be set out for implanting the process entirely in the future. We hope that this will happen.

Inclusion, equity, employability, lifelong learning and the transformation of teaching and learning practices need to be raised higher in every country’s political agenda. 

Nevertheless, there is one issue we must draw our attention to: digitalization. The Bologna Process has not ignored the digital transformation affecting all sectors and industries. Therefore, education policy-makers, higher education institutions and trade unions have been actively involved in its development at educational level, but its full potential has not been achieved; partly because digitization is seen as an additional challenge, rather than as a vehicle to address existing challenges. Creating a "Digital Bologna" by 2020 to improve the performance of higher education at all levels was highlighted during the EHEA Ministerial Conference in Paris in May.

From a trade union perspective, we are concerned that higher education and research sector workers in Europe who belong to the professional, managerial and technical community, face several difficulties. These range from degradation of their profession, to threats to their professional and personal autonomy, a low percentage of female researchers, risk of censorship and lack of freedom of expression, deterioration of working and living conditions of academics, freezing of salaries, cutbacks and precarious employment with temporary recruitment without a clear career prospects for young academics. These all jeopardise the attractiveness of the teaching profession in the higher education and research sector.

Eurocadres defends the need for greater protection of academic teaching freedom as one of the fundamental values of the Bologna Process. We call for increased basic public investment in higher education and research alongside a greater recognition for higher education professionals ensuring them a good and healthy working environment. In addition to these, university and government policies and practices on accreditation and mutual recognition are of interest to us.

A Europe-wide accreditation system will have an impact on the recognition of certificates and competences in the field of employment, where progress has been rather modest up till now. Improving the employability of graduates remains a challenge and therefore development of policies that improve the situation should be closely followed.

Paula Ruiz Rorres

The author

Paula Ruiz Torres
Vice-President of Eurocadres