On 19 June 1999, the ministries of higher education from 29 European countries met in Bolognato underwrite an important agreement. That document, known as the Declaration of Bologna, initiated an important and presently irreversible process to harmonize the various European systems of higher education: the Bologna Process.
The main objective of the Bologna Process is the formation of a European Area of Higher Education and the promotion of the European system of higher education on a worldwide scale in order to increase its international competitiveness. In order to achieve the harmonization of the European university systems, the Declaration of Bologna designated six principal objectives of whose realisation will be monitored and directed via a series of Follow-Up Conferences proceeding until 2010.
The role of higher education in the process of building Europe
In the coming year, the European Union must face a growing number of new and difficult challenges: globalisation, integration of several new members, as well as the transformation of Europe into an economic area founded upon knowledge. In order to successfully confront these challenges, it is of utmost importance now to encourage scientific and cultural exchanges at all levels and to allow for the maximum mobility of qualified workers, students, and researchers.
It is necessary, therefore, to have a harmonization of the university systems that, with respect to the diverse cultures and academic traditions, facilitates the recognition of university qualifications, have the possibility to issue joint-degree, favours the mobility of students and researchers, and thus to enlarge the horizons of the labour market on a European scale.
In the Declaration ofBologna, the central role that education holds in the realisation of this project is recognised, as defined in the course of the European Union summit held in Lisbon in 2000 and inBarcelona in 2002. This recognition has the intent to create in Europe within the next decade an economic area more competitive on the global scale and a more dynamic scientific system in the world, with bigger and better employment possibilities and a larger social cohesion. Education, in particular higher education, represents a powerful axis but also the most delicate aspect in this ambitious project. The so-calledBologna Process constitutes without a doubt the principal tool for the attainment of the elevated standards of quality in the sphere of education.
The Objectives of the Bologna Process
The Declaration of Bolognahas defined six objectives, to be carried out by 2010.
Adoption of a system of qualification readily legible and compatible, also by means of the implementation of a Diploma Supplement.
Adoption of a system founded upon a two-cycle system, that is a 1st and 2nd level. Entrance to 2nd level cycle will require the completion of a 1st cycle of study, of whose duration cannot be less than three years.
Consolidation of a system of academic credits - based on the ECTS system -that can be acquired in diverse disciplinary contexts.
Promotion of mobility (for students, lecturers, researchers and technical-administrative personnel) by means of removing obstacles for the full exercise of free circulation.
Promotion of European cooperation concerning the assessment of quality.
Promotion of an indispensable European dimension of higher education: development of degree plans, cooperation between university institutions, mobility programmes, integrated studies plans, development and research.
With the Bologna Process implementation, higher education systems in European countries are to be organized in such a way that:
It is easy to move from one country to the other (within the European Higher Education Area) - for the purpose of further study or employment;
The attractiveness of European higher education has increased, so that many people from non-European countries also come to study and/or work in Europe;
The European Higher Education Area provides Europe with a broad, high-quality advanced knowledge base, and ensures the further development of Europe as a stable, peaceful and tolerant community benefiting from a cutting-edge European Research Area;
There will also be a greater convergence between the U.S. and Europe as European higher education adopts aspects of the American system.