Higher Education and Research


Two-cycle system

Here you can find documents related to the introduction of the two-cycle system.

The Bologna Declaration states:

“… While affirming our support to the general principles laid down in the Sorbonne declaration, we engage in co-coordinating our policies to reach in the short term, and in any case within the first decade of the third millennium, the following objectives, which we consider to be of primary relevance in order to establish the European area of higher education and to promote the European system of higher education world-wide:
…Adoption of a system essentially based on two main cycles, undergraduate and graduate. Access to the second cycle shall require successful completion of first cycle studies, lasting a minimum of three
years. The degree awarded after the first cycle shall also be relevant to the European labour market as an appropriate level of qualification. The second cycle should lead to the master and/or doctorate degree as in many European countries. …”

The issue of the two-cycle system is further elaborated on in the Prague Communiqué:

“… Ministers noted with satisfaction that the objective of a degree structure based on two main cycles, articulating higher education in undergraduate and graduate studies, has been tackled and discussed. Some countries have already adopted this structure and several others are considering it with great interest. It is important to note that in many countries bachelor's and master's degrees, or comparable two cycle degrees, can be obtained at universities as well as at other higher education institutions. Programmes leading to a degree may, and indeed should, have different orientations and various profiles in order to accommodate a diversity of individual, academic and labour market needs as concluded at the Helsinki seminar on bachelor level degrees (February 2001). … “

Two years later, the message from the Ministers in Berlin was:

“… 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 labour market needs. First cycle degrees should give access, in the sense of the Lisbon Recognition Convention, to second cycle programmes. Second cycle degrees should give access to doctoral studies. … “

Since 1999, three official Bologna seminars were organised on this topic. These are:

  • - the Helsinki seminar on Bachelor level degrees in 2001 – results
  • - the Helsinki seminar on Master level degrees in 2003 – results
  • - the Copenhagen seminar on qualifications frameworkpreparatory reader, report by the General Rapporteur, seminar conclusions

For issue related to this topic – please also check our sections on: recognition issues and “easily readable and comparable degrees”, ECTS, European Research Area and the Bruges-Copenhagen process.

Here you can also find some additional information on the topic:

  • - paper by Stephen Adam, on the qualifications framework, presented at the Copenhagen seminar
  • - European Union document on “European Benchmarks in education and training: follow-up to the Lisbon European Council
  • - report on the EUA Joint Masters project (including the conclusions of the EUA Cluj 2003 conference)
  • - report on the phase 1 of the Tuning project
  • - document about the so-called Dublin Descriptors
  • - report of the workshop of the Joint Quality Initiative on “Distinction in naming of degrees in higher education and underlying curricula
  • - ESIB – The National Unions of Students in Europe policy paper on degree structures (2003)
  • - ESIB – The National Unions of Students in Europe policy paper on qualifications framework (2001)
  • - statement of the Cluster group on the Bachelor/Master structure
  • - Joint Quality Initiative document on Bachelor/Master structure
  • - ESIB 7th European Student Convention on Qualifications Framework – final report