ENQA & The Bologna Process
The 8th Bologna Ministerial Conference and 3rd Bologna Policy Forum were held in Bucharest, Romania, on 26-27 April 2012. The ENQA Report was made available in hard-copy for the participants of the conference. The Ministerial Conference was an opportunity to take stock of progress of the Bologna Process and set out the key policy issues for the future. The Bucharest Communiqué commits to further the Bologna goals until 2020.
In the face of the financial and economic crisis, the ministers committed to invest in higher education for the future. They acknowledged that quality assurance systems contribute to building trust, higher education qualifications are more recognisable across borders and participation in higher education has widened. However, the implementation of the Bologna Process needs to be consolidated and built on progress. The ministers will strive for more coherence between their policies, such as the enhancement of quality assurance and the implementation of qualifications frameworks, including the definition and evaluation of learning outcomes. It was further agreed to widen overall access to quality HE, develop the social dimension of HE, promote student-centered learning in HE and open a dialogue on funding and governance of HE. Quality assurance was seen as essential for building trust and to reinforce the attractiveness of the EHEA’s offerings, including in the provision of cross-border education. The ministers committed to both maintaining the public responsibility for quality assurance and to actively involve a wide range of stakeholders in this development. The E4 Group report on the implementation and application of the ESG was acknowledged. The ESG will be revised to improve their clarity, applicability and usefulness, including their scope. The revision will be based upon an initial proposal to be prepared by the E4 in cooperation with Education International, BUSINESSEUROPE and EQAR, which will be submitted to the Bologna Follow-Up Group. The three other EHEA main goals in the coming years are the enhancement of employability to serve Europe’s needs, strengthening of mobility for better learning and improvement of data collection and transparency to underpin political goals.
The third edition of the Bologna Policy Forum reaffirmed the aims of increased cooperation and policy dialogue between the countries represented and different higher education areas. The Forum focused on creating and connecting national, regional and global higher education spaces, while deepening the discussions on the following four topics (public responsibility for and of HE, global academic mobility, global and regional approaches to quality enhancement of HE and enhancement of graduate employability) reflecting on future approaches for dialogue in this context.
The next EHEA Ministerial Conference will take place in Yerevan, Armenia in 2015, where the progress on the priorities set above will be reviewed. The following ministerial meetings will be held in 2018 and 2020
An extraordinary Ministerial Anniversary Conference was held and co-hosted by Hungary and Austria on 11-12 March 2010, in Budapest and Vienna. The ministers of education participating in the Bologna Process (46 countries + a new member country, Kazakhstan) officially launched the European Higher Education Area. They assessed the progress made in the last decade and marked the achievements in implementing the objectives agreed since 1999. The Second Bologna Policy Forum, gathering ministers from the 47 Bologna countries and from countries across the world, was convened on 12 March 2010.
As concluded in the Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve Communiqué of April 2009, and emphasised in the Budapest-Vienna Declaration of March 2010, the modernisation of higher education, including further implementation of the ESG, should be continued. Similarly, the ministers acknowledged that a lot remained to do in the sectors of quality assurance and qualifications frameworks, and quality assurance of lifelong learning. The speech held by Achim Hopbach, President of ENQA, is accessible here. The ENQA report for the Anniversary Bologna ministerial meeting of March 2010 was distributed to the participants of the Anniversary Bologna ministerial meeting and of the Bologna Policy Forum.
The Bologna Policy Forum gathered participants from North and South America, Africa, Middle and East Asia, and Australia. It provided a good opportunity to discuss issues of common interest, such as the problem of brain gain and brain drain, mobility, and funding. The two major outcomes were the establishment of network of contact persons in all countries of the EHEA as well as in the third countries not belonging to the Bologna Process, in order to improve communication between EHEA and the rest of the world; and the agreement to organise an international conference on quality assurance in 2011.
The Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve meeting of ministers took place on 28-29 April, 2009. The ENQA Position Paper in View of the Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve conference was prepared prior to the meeting and it was made available in hard-copy for the participants of the conference. The ENQA Position Paper may be found in English and French. A speech held by Bruno Curvale, the President of ENQA, can be found here. During the conference, the ministers adopted a Ministerial Communiqué as well as a Bologna Policy Forum Statement, both acknowledging the importance of quality assurance in all aspects of higher education. It was concluded in the meeting that the modernisation of higher education will be continued including the adoption of the European Standards and Guidelines for quality assurance.
The ministers approved that the creation of the European register for quality assurance agencies and the establishment of national qualifications frameworks are important links to the overarching European Higher Education Area framework, based on learning outcomes and workload. The ministers emphasised that transnational education should be governed by the European Standards and Guidelines for quality assurance as applicable within the European Higher Education Area. An increased need for transparency tools in higher education was recognised by the ministers. They emphasised that these tools need to be developed in close relation to the principles of the Bologna Process, and those of quality assurance in particular. The ministers encouraged the E4 group (ENQA-EUA-EURASHE-ESU) to continue its cooperation in further developing the European dimension of quality assurance. The European Quality Assurance Register should be externally evaluated, taking into account the views of the stakeholders.
On 17-18 May 2007, the European Ministers of Education met in London. One of the most notable decisions was the agreement on setting up of a European Register for Quality Assurance Agencies (EQAR). The Ministers emphasised the voluntary and independent nature of the EQAR. They endorsed the setting up of the Register as proposed by the E4 Group, with a report back to the Ministers through the BFUG. The Ministers recognised that there had been progress in the sector of quality assurance in higher education – and especially in the student involvement part of it. The London Communiqué encouraged the successful E4-organised Quality Assurance Forums to continue annually.
In the Bergen meeting of May 2005 the European Ministers of Education adopted the "Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area" drafted by ENQA. The Ministers committed themselves to introducing the proposed model for peer review of quality assurance agencies on a national basis. They also welcomed the principle of a European register of quality assurance agencies based on national review and asked that the practicalities of its implementation would be further developed by ENQA in co-operation with EUA, EURASHE and ESIB, with a report back to the Ministers through the Bologna Follow-Up Group (BFUG). In Bergen ENQA was accepted as a new consultative member of the BFUG.
In 2003, in Berlin, the Ministers recommended ENQA to contribute even more directly to the European quality assurance process. In the Berlin Communiqué ENQA received a double mandate from the Ministers to explore ways of ensuring an adequate peer review system for quality assurance agencies and to develop an agreed set of standards, procedures and guidelines on quality assurance.
In 2001 the European Ministers of Education meeting in Prague invited ENQA to collaborate in establishing a common framework of reference for quality assurance, which would directly work towards the establishment of the European quality assurance framework by 2010.
In the Bologna Declaration (1999) the European Ministers of Education committed themselves to establish the European Higher Education Area by 2010. The Bologna Declaration encourages, among other things, the European co-operation in quality assurance of higher education with a view to developing comparable criteria and methodologies. Other important goals agreed in Bologna are easily comparable degrees, a system based on two main degree cycles (subsequently a third cycle has been included), a common European system of credits and mobility of students and teachers.