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Statement by the Bologna Policy Forum 2009

Meeting, for the first time, at this Bologna Policy Forum held in Louvain-la-Neuve on April 29, 2009, we, the Ministers for Higher Education, heads of delegation from the 46 European countries participating in the Bologna Process and from Australia, Brazil, Canada, P.R. China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Tunisia, USA, along with the International Association of Universities and other international organizations and NGOs, have taken part in a constructive debate on world wide cooperation and partnership in higher education with a view to developing partnership between the 46 Bologna countries and countries from across the world.

We note, with satisfaction, that this Policy Forum has fostered mutual understanding and learning in the field of higher education, and has laid the ground for sustainable cooperation in the future. We also note that there are shared values and principles underpinning higher education and a common understanding that it is fundamental to achieving human, social and economic development. We consider that higher education constitutes an exceptionally rich and diverse cultural and scientific asset for both individuals and society.

We emphasize the key role that higher education plays in the development of our societies based on lifelong learning for all and equitable access at all levels of society to learning opportunities. We underline the importance of public investment in higher education, and urge that this should remain a priority despite the current economic crisis, in order to support sustainable economic recovery and development. We support the strategic role of higher education in the pursuit and advancement of knowledge and therefore advocate global sharing of knowledge through multi-national research and education projects and exchange programs for students and staff, in order to stimulate innovation and creativity. We are convinced that fair recognition of studies and qualifications is a key element for promoting mobility and we will therefore establish dialogue on recognition policies and explore the implications of the various qualifications frameworks in order to further mutual recognition of qualifications.

We hold that transnational exchanges in higher education should be governed on the basis of academic values and we advocate a balanced exchange of teachers, researchers and students between our countries and promote fair and fruitful "brain circulation". We seek to establish concrete cooperation activities which should contribute to better understanding and long-term collaboration by organizing joint seminars on specific topics, like on quality assurance for example. The next Bologna Policy Forum will be convened in Vienna on 12 March 2010

REALISING THE EUROPEAN HIGHER EDUCATION AREA

Communique of the Conference of Ministers responsible for Higher Education Berlin, 19 September 2003.

Ministers agreed on important joint objectives for the development of a coherent and cohesive European Higher Education Area by 2010. In the first follow-up conference held in Prague on 19 May 2001, they increased the number of the objectives and reaffirmed their commitment to establish the European Higher Education Area by 2010. The Ministers reviewed the progress achieved and set priorities and new objectives for the coming years, with a view to speeding up the realization of the European Higher Education Area. They agreed on the following considerations, principles and priorities. Ministers take note of the Progress Report commissioned by the Follow-up Group on the development of the Bologna Process between Prague and Berlin. They also take note of the Trends-III Report prepared by the European University Association (EUA), as well as of the results of the seminars, which were organized as part of the work program between Prague and Berlin by several member States and Higher Education Institutions, organizations and students. Ministers further note the National Reports, which are evidence of the considerable progress being made in the application of the principles of the Bologna Process.

Finally, they take note of the messages from the European Commission and the Council of Europe and acknowledge their support for the implementation of the Process. Ministers agree that efforts shall be undertaken in order to secure closer links overall between the higher education and research systems in their respective countries. The emerging European Higher Education Area will benefit from synergies with the European Research Area, thus strengthening the basis of the Europe of Knowledge. The aim is to preserve Europe's cultural richness and linguistic diversity, based on its heritage of diversified traditions, and to foster its potential of innovation and social and economic development through enhanced co-operation among European Higher Education Institutions. Ministers recognize the fundamental role in the development of the European Higher Education Area played by Higher Education Institutions and student organizations. They take note of the message from the European University Association (EUA) arising from the Graz Convention of Higher Education Institutions, the contributions from the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE) and the communications from ESIB - The National Unions of Students in Europe. Ministers welcome the interest shown by other regions of the world in the development of the European Higher Education Area, and welcome in particular the presence of representatives from European countries not yet party to the Bologna Process as well as from the Follow-up Committee of the European Union, Latin America and Caribbean (EULAC) Common Space for Higher Education as guests at this conference.

Progress

Ministers welcome the various initiatives undertaken since the Prague Higher Education Summit to move towards more comparability and compatibility, to make higher education systems more transparent and to enhance the quality of European higher education at institutional and national levels. They appreciate the cooperation and commitment of all partners – Higher Education Institutions, students and other stakeholders - to this effect. Ministers emphasize the importance of all elements of the Bologna Process for establishing the European Higher Education Area and stress the need to intensify the efforts at institutional, national and European level.

However, to give the Process further momentum, they commit themselves to intermediate priorities for the next two years. They will strengthen their efforts to promote effective quality assurance systems, to step up effective use of the system based on two cycles and to improve the recognition system of degrees and periods of studies.

Quality Assurance

The quality of higher education has proven to be at the heart of the setting up of a European Higher Education Area. Ministers commit themselves to supporting further development of quality assurance at institutional, national and European level. They stress the need to develop mutually shared criteria and methodologies on quality assurance. They also stress that consistent with the principle of institutional autonomy, the primary responsibility for quality assurance in higher education lies with each institution itself and this provides the basis for real accountability of the academic system within the national quality framework.

Therefore, they agree that by 2005 national quality assurance systems should include:

- A definition of the responsibilities of the bodies and institutions involved.

- Evaluation of programs or institutions, including internal assessment, external review, participation of students and the publication of results.

- A system of accreditation, certification or comparable procedures

- International participation, co-operation and networking.

At the European level, Ministers call upon ENQA through its members, in co-operation with the EUA, EURASHE and ESIB, to develop an agreed set of standards, procedures and guidelines on quality assurance, to explore ways of ensuring an adequate peer review system for quality assurance and/or accreditation agencies or bodies, and to report back through the Follow up Group to Ministers in 2005. Due account will be taken of the expertise of other quality assurance associations and networks.

Degree structure: Adoption of a system essentially based on two main cycles

Ministers are pleased to note that, following their commitment in the Bologna Declaration to the two-cycle system, a comprehensive restructuring of the European landscape of higher education is now under way. All Ministers commit themselves to having started the implementation of the two cycle system by 2005. Ministers underline the importance of consolidating the progress made, and of improving understanding and acceptance of the new qualifications through reinforcing dialogue within institutions and between institutions and employers. Ministers encourage the member States to elaborate a framework of comparable and compatible qualifications for their higher education systems, which should seek to describe qualifications in terms of workload, level, learning outcomes, competences and profile. They also undertake to elaborate an overarching framework of qualifications for the European Higher Education Area.

Within such frameworks, degrees should have different defined outcomes. First and second cycle degrees should have different orientations and various profiles in order to accommodate a diversity of individual, academic and labor market needs. First cycle degrees should give access, in the sense of the Lisbon Recognition Convention, to second cycle programs. Second cycle degrees should give access to doctoral studies. Ministers invite the Follow-up Group to explore whether and how shorter higher education may be linked to the first cycle of a qualifications framework for the European Higher Education Area. Ministers stress their commitment to making higher education equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means.

  • Promotion of mobility ;
  • Establishment of a system of credits;
  • Recognition of degrees: Adoption of a system of easily readable and comparable degrees;
  • Higher education institutions and students;
  • Promotion of the European dimension in higher education;
  • Promoting the attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area;
  • Lifelong learning.

Additional Actions

European Higher Education Area and European Research Area - two pillars of the knowledge based society

Conscious of the need to promote closer links between the EHEA and the ERA in a Europe of Knowledge, and of the importance of research as an integral part of higher education across Europe, Ministers consider it necessary to go beyond the present focus on two main cycles of higher education to include the doctoral level as the third cycle in the Bologna Process. They emphasize the importance of research and research training and the promotion of interdisciplinarity in maintaining and improving the quality of higher education and in enhancing the competitiveness of European higher education more generally. Ministers call for increased mobility at the doctoral and postdoctoral levels and encourage the institutions concerned to increase their cooperation in doctoral studies and the training of young researchers.

Ministers will make the necessary effort to make European Higher Education Institutions an even more attractive and efficient partner. Therefore Ministers ask Higher Education Institutions to increase the role and relevance of research to technological, social and cultural evolution and to the needs of society. Ministers understand that there are obstacles inhibiting the achievement of these goals and these cannot be resolved by Higher Education Institutions alone. It requires strong support, including financial and appropriate decisions from national Governments and European Bodies. Finally, Ministers state that networks at doctoral level should be given support to stimulate the development of excellence and to become one of the hallmarks of the European Higher Education Area.

Stocktaking

With a view to the goals set for 2010, it is expected that measures will be introduced to take stock of progress achieved in the Bologna Process. A mid-term stocktaking exercise would provide reliable information on how the Process is actually advancing and would offer the possibility to take corrective measures, if appropriate. Ministers charge the Follow-up Group with organizing a stocktaking process in time for their summit in 2005 and undertaking to prepare detailed reports on the progress and implementation of the intermediate priorities set for the next two years:

- quality assurance

- two-cycle system

- recognition of degrees and periods of studies

Participating countries will, furthermore, be prepared to allow access to the necessary information for research on higher education relating to the objectives of the Bologna Process. Access to data banks on ongoing research and research results shall be facilitated.

New Members

Ministers consider it necessary to adapt the clause in the Prague Communique on applications for membership as follows.

Countries party to the European Cultural Convention shall be eligible for membership of the European Higher Education Area provided that they at the same time declare their willingness to pursue and implement the objectives of the Bologna Process in their own systems of higher education. Their applications should contain information on how they will implement the principles and objectives of the declaration. Ministers decide to accept the requests for membership of Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Holy See, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" and to welcome these states as new members thus expanding the process to 40 European Countries.

Ministers recognize that membership of the Bologna Process implies substantial change and reform for all signatory countries. They agree to support the new signatory countries in those changes and reforms, incorporating them within the mutual discussions and assistance, which the Bologna Process involves.

Work Program 2003-2005

Ministers ask the Follow-up Group to co-ordinate activities for progress of the Bologna Process as indicated in the themes and actions covered by this Communique and report on them in time for the next ministerial meeting in 2005.

Next Conference

Ministers decide to hold the next conference in the city of Bergen ( Norway) in May 2005