A general view and update of the Bologna Process

The Education working group has been charged to follow up the developments of the Bologna Process and its implications for Physiotherapy Education in Europe.
The objective of this paper is to describe in brief the main developments of the Bologna Process, summarise the main achievements, and provide links to the more relevant documents.
On 16 and 17 September 2003, 40 European education ministers met in Berlin to take stock of progress with the so-called Bologna process and set priorities for the period up to the next ministerial conference scheduled for 2005.
In 1999, the education ministers from around 30 countries met in Bologna and undertaken in a joint declaration (the Bologna Declaration) to establish a European Area of Higher Education (EAHE) by 2010.
The Bologna Declaration of 19 June 1999 involves six actions relating to:
  1. a system of academic grades which are easy to read and compare, including the introduction of the diploma  supplement (designed to improve international "transparency" and facilitate academic and professional recognition of qualifications);
  2. a system essentially based on two cycles : a first cycle geared to the employment market and lasting at least three years and a second cycle (Master) conditional upon the completion of the first cycle;
  3. a system of accumulation and transfer of credits (of the ECTS type already used successfully under Socrates-Erasmus);
  4. mobility of students, teachers and researchers;
  5. cooperation with regard to quality assurance;
  6. the European dimension of higher education.
The aim of the process is thus to make the higher education systems in Europe converge towards a more transparent system which whereby the different national systems would use a common framework based on three cycles - Degree/Bachelor, Master and Doctorate.
Please note that the initial idea of two cycles – undergraduate / graduate has evolved to a three cycle’s model through the division of the graduate cycle into two separating the master’s level from the doctoral level.
At the Prague ministerial conference in 2002 the ministers set the European area of higher education the objective of responding to the needs of lifelong learning. They stressed the participation of higher education establishments and students (mainly through their representative associations) in the process and laid emphasis on the need to make the European area of higher education attractive to the rest of the world. The Prague Communiqué (pdf format) also called for the implementation of policies to evaluate quality in each country in order to secure the mutual trust which is indispensable to the validation of studies carried out in another country.
In Berlin (September 2003), it was decided to speed up the process by setting certain short-term targets  (final communiqué - pdf format). Thus, by 2005, all signatory countries should:
  • have adopted a two-cycle system,
  • issue the diploma supplement in a major language to all their graduates free of charge and automatically, and
  • have made a start on introducing a quality assurance system.
In addition, the doctorate cycle will henceforth be covered by the Bologna reforms, thus promoting closer links between the European higher education area and the European research area.
40 countries are at this time involved in the Bologna process. Four Western Balkan countries – Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and the Federal Republic of Serbia and Montenegro – joined the Bologna process at the Berlin Conference, along with the Principality of Andorra, the Holy See and Russia. The Commission will look at the adoption of specific support measures for countries covered by the Tempus-Cards and Tempus-Tacis programmes. A joint Socrates-Tempus call for proposals is being prepared.
As far as the European Union is concerned, the Bologna process fits into the broader framework of the Lisbon objectives.
At the March 2000 Lisbon Council, the Heads of State and Government, conscious of the upheaval caused by globalisation and the challenges inherent in a new, knowledge‑based economy, set a new objective for the Union for the decade ahead: that of becoming "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion".
The Commission is part of the follow-up group monitoring the Bologna reforms and contributes to their implementation by funding transnational pilot projects which correspond to the priorities set at the ministerial conferences. It accordingly cooperates with the national authorities, academic and student networks and associations, with the ENQA (European network for quality assurance in higher education) and the NARIC /ENIC network (network of national academic recognition information centres). In particular, it has supported the creation of European Masters qualifications (others will receive support under the new Erasmus Mundus programme), an EUA–coordinated pilot project focusing on internal development of quality in higher education establishments and an–ENQA coordinated pilot project for external evaluation of quality applying common criteria.
In Berlin, the Ministers entrusted the follow-up group with the task of taking stock in good time ahead of the 2005 Summit and of preparing detailed progress reports on implementation of the interim priorities envisaged for the coming two years.
The Commission will help to organise a coherent inventory exercise in close conjunction with the Bologna Secretariat in order to have a clear picture of the headway made in the signatory states ("Bologna process scoreboard") and to draft an analytical report to be presented to the Bergen Ministerial Conference in May 2005.