Sunday 26 April 2009

10 years of the Bologna Process: A more or less great failure

Next week, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the ministers of Education from 46 European countries, the European Commissioner Jan Figel, as well as representatives from other (international) organisations like the Council of Europe or the UNESCO will meet in Leuven (Belgium) to celebrate 10 years of the Bologna Process.

This process was once started to make academic learning all over Europe more comparable, more reliable, more transparent. For some it was meant as a way to reduce the time young people spend in universities before they enter the labour market. The main goal was to ease mobility across borders, during the studies and between the newly introduced cycles (Bachelor, Master, PhD).

Altogether these goals that are worth supporting, and the process could have led to a better situation for student and academics in Europe.

But the process, despite the superficial changes to a new structure, has been a failure.

Member states didn't take it serious enough. University managements used it to introduce structures that suited their organisational interests more than the interests of mobile students. Co-ordination was poor so that studies across Europe are not more comparable now than they were 10 years ago.

The European Student Union (ESU; formerly ESIB), probably one of the most competent actors to analyse this, made it very clear last week in the press release accompanying the 2009 edition of its biannual publication "Bologna with Student Eyes (BWSE)":
"[W]hile progress has been made on implementing ‘structural’ reforms such as the 3-cycle system (bachelor, masters, doctorat), content reforms such as those relating to mobility, the social dimension and student participation have been largely neglected, leaving a huge hole at the centre of the Process. The report reveals that ten years on, European students are still facing huge barriers to their learning in terms, for example, of socio-economic background, gender and family situation, tend not to be regarded as equal partners in educational and decision-making structures, and are largely unable to take advantage of mobility opportunities to study abroad."
And it continues:
"Consequently, the Bologna Process is in grave danger of being revealed as a superficial redesign of higher education structures in Europe rather than a transformation of the whole academic and learning paradigm."
In the report, ESU shows that in some areas there is at least a little progress, and not everything needs to be painted in black, but the core elements of this reform have never been taken seriously across Europe.

The 10th anniversary of the Bologna Process is thus not a time for celebration, but should be a moment for reflection on what went wrong and how it would be possible to save the ideas - and ideals - of Bologna.


Martin Cole said...

After 25 years students in the EU will be close to suicide if the lessons of the EU Fisheries Policy are any guide, read my blog today and this found in the UK Sunday Times:

"Europe’s fishing industry is on the brink of suicide and several species are in danger of extinction after 25 years of policy failure,the European Commission said yesterday."It is up to you younger people to now wake up and realise that the EU is the main part of what is killing the economies of the Continent!

All these EU programmes and activities are nothing more than a means for the self-enrichment for those involved in the "EU Project".

Take the advice from my blog, have a pause in this nonsense while the recession is sorted out and then return to start afresh with no Lisbon Treaty! I quote the relevant passage:

"If the leaders of the EU member states truly wished to start putting their peoples interests first, and never have the economics been more demanding of just that, then all EU activities would be halted with the end of the present Commission and Parliament and a period of respite from the never-ending onslaught of petty regulation and interference could help in bringing forward the moment when Europe's diverse economies could be put to rights."