Higher Education and Research

Contribution of the Council of Europe to the Bologna Process in 2005

The year 2005 marked the half-way point in the process of establishing a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) by 2010. The Council of Europe continued to contribute expertise and policy advice to the Bologna Process, and also participated in the Conference of European Education Ministers in Bergen, Norway (Bologna Summit). The Bologna Process was also referred to in key Council of Europe events such as the Third Summit of Heads of State and Government in Warsaw, the 50th anniversary of the European Cultural Convention and the European Year of Citizenship through Higher Education.

The Higher Education and Research Division specifically continued its work with Bologna’s governing bodies and more generally in the areas of qualifications recognition, support, direction and advice to new and recently acceded countries, and the social dimensions of the process including governance, public responsibility and democratic citizenship.

The Bologna Process in the Council of Europe’s programme

The Council of Europe shall build on its work on language learning and recognition of diplomas and qualifications. It shall continue to play an important role in the Bologna process aimed at creation of European Higher Education Area by 2010.
- Action Plan, Third Summit of Heads of State and Government (Warsaw, May 2005)

Governing Bodies

In May 2005, the Ministers responsible for higher education in the participating countries of the Bologna Process met in Bergen where they confirmed in the conference Communiqué their dedication to the EHEA. In looking forward to the next Ministerial conference in 2007, and beyond 2010, there was commitment to:

    - emphasize practical implementation,;
    - begin working on the elaboration of national qualifications frameworks;
    - renew the stress on the importance of the social dimension of higher education;
    - improve the “external dimension” by increasing contact with other parts of the world; and
    - enlarge the circle of consultative members to include the Education International (EI) Pan-European Structure, the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), and the Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederations of Europe (UNICE) in addition to the European University Association (EUA), the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE) and the National Unions of Students in Europe (ESIB).

The Council of Europe continues to contribute to policy development within the Bologna Process as a consultative member. The Council of Europe contributed to the Bergen Ministerial Conference, and is an active participant in the Bologna Follow-up Group (BFUG) and Board. The work of the Council is guided by the Steering Committee for Higher Education and Research (CDESR), which has a unique double representation of policy makers from both higher education institutions and governments. The Committee meets once a year, while the Bureau oversees its work between plenary sessions.

Recognition and Quality Assurance

We call on all participating countries to address recognition problems identified by the ENIC/NARIC networks. We will draw up national action plans to improve the quality of the process associated with the recognition of foreign qualifications. These plans will form part of each country’s national report for the next Ministerial Conference.

    - Bergen Communiqué, Conference of European Ministers Responsible for Higher Education (Bergen, May 2005)

With increased attention being paid to the implementation of the principles of the Council of Europe/UNESCO Convention and its subsidiary texts, one of the next big challenges will be the development of national action plans on recognition in time for the Ministerial meeting in London 2007. Through its work and affiliation with the ENIC and NARIC Advisory Networks, the Lisbon Recognition Convention Committee and other related bodies, the Council of Europe will continue to support the fostering of improvements to the quality of the process associated with the recognition of foreign qualifications.

The Council of Europe is also engaged in quality assurance through direct support of the ENIC Network. The recognition of qualifications, as defined by the Council of Europe/UNESCO Lisbon Recognition Convention (1997), is a significant factor in the EHEA and promotes the development of recognition practices, disseminates examples of good practices, addresses new recognition issues, such as trans-national education, and promotes mobility and international cooperation. Working in close cooperation with the NARIC Network of the European Union, in addition to aiding with the implementation of the Convention, the ENIC Network works through national authorities to provide information on:

      - the recognition of foreign diplomas, degrees and other qualifications;
      - education systems at home and abroad;
      - opportunities for studying abroad, including information pertaining to mobility and equivalence.

New Members of the Bologna Process

From its original membership of 29 countries, the accession of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, in addition to those who joined in 2001 and 2003, means that the Bologna Process now encompasses 45 countries united around the European Cultural Convention, the principles and objectives of the Bologna Declaration, and a pan-European vision of the EHEA. Officially welcomed into the Process at the Bologna Summit in Bergen, these five countries join the long list of those who have benefited from the guidance of the Council of Europe in the creation of new legislation, the development of higher education policy, and the sharing of examples of good practice. Throughout the year, experts and members of the Secretariat offered their guidance and direction through visits, consultations, conferences and played an advisory role in the sphere of national legislation.

Highlights in 2005 included:

Other Initiatives

The Council of Europe Higher Education Series, launched in 2004 to explore higher education issues of concern to policy makers in Ministries, higher education institutions, non-governmental organizations, and student representatives, published its 2nd and 3rd volumes.

In April 2005, The Public Responsibility for Higher Education and Research (Luc Weber and Sjur Bergan, eds.) was published to highlight the results of a Council of Europe conference that explored the meaning of public responsibility in complex societies in the 21st century. This work examines both overall policies on higher education and specific aspects such as higher education for a democratic culture, access to research results, financing, equal opportunities, the approach to regulation, and new trends in higher education.

The publication in November 2005 of Standards for Recognition: the Lisbon Recognition Convention and its Subsidiary Texts (Andrejs Rauhvargers and Sjur Bergan, eds.) brought together for the first time in one volume the Council of Europe/UNESCO legal standards for the recognition of qualifications with all subsidiary texts and an introductory article which provides background, context and an accessible explanation of their significance.

Forthcoming in spring 2006 is the publication Recognition in the Bologna Process: Policy Development and the Road to Good Practice (Andrejs Rauhvargars and Sjur Bergan, eds.) which presents the proceedings, outcomes and recommendations from the conference on improving the recognition system of degrees and study credit points in the European Higher Education Area held in Riga, December 2004.

September 2005 marked the first annual Council of Europe Higher Education Forum: Higher Education Governance Between Democratic Culture, Academic Aspirations and Market Forces (Strasbourg, 23 – 24 September) which presented the results of two years of work on the question of “higher education governance.” As a contribution to the Bologna Process as well as to the European Year of Citizenship through Education, questions of how to define and understand governance, how to promote good governance policy, and recommendations for good governance were all prominent topics of discussion. The results of this Forum will be forthcoming in a publication in spring 2006 (Jürgen Kohler and Josef Huber, eds.).

Related Council of Europe Initiatives

In addition to the statement of support in the Third Summit Action Plan for the work of the Bologna Process in using education to promote democratic citizenship in Europe, 2005 also saw the inclusion of higher education in two other important Council of Europe initiatives. To mark the 50th anniversary of the European Cultural Convention, the Ministers responsible for Cultural Affairs met in October and concluded their meeting with the signing of the Faro Declaration on the Council of Europe’s Strategy for Developing Intercultural Dialogue. In this document the vision of intercultural dialogue both within Europe and with the rest of the world is developed with particular mention of the role that the Bologna Process can play.

2005 was also the European Year of Citizenship through Education. In its message to the Bergen meeting of the Ministers of the EHEA, the Council of Europe stressed that in keeping with its commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law, contributions to the Bologna Process “emphasiz[ed] higher education governance built on the participation of all groups, the development and maintenance of the basic values of Europe’s university heritage and the recognition that higher education and research are vital to the sustainable development of European societies.” This was followed-up at the Plenary session of the CDESR where the key role higher education plays in the development of modern societies based on democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, and how the issue of good governance is crucial for the promotion of democratic culture both within the higher education community and society at large, was confirmed.