Round Table 2: Regional Higher Education Cooperation in the Next Decade: The Bologna Process and Europe-Asia dialogue
Brussels, Belgium, 1-3 July 2009
The Bologna Process and the European Higher Education Area meet increasing interest and attention by universities and governments around the world.
In Asia, higher education reform is increasingly discussed in a regional setting and proposals to create tools for recognition and mobility have been tabled. The Bologna process is certainly a reference point, and the interest to cooperate with Europe on such reform is high.
The second EAHEP Round Table invited senior leadership and management from Asian and European higher education institutions, organisations and government agencies to discuss some of the Bologna issues in more detail, in order to get a better understanding of the overall reform process. Equal attention was paid to evolving regional reform processes in Asia, and the implications they may have on European-Asia higher education and research cooperation.
The event included a pre-programme 'information visit' to the European Commission of the European Union and a post-programme visit to the city of Ghent and Ghent University, where guests were welcomed by the rector of Ghent University and the Ghent University Assoication.
The Bologna Process - a concerted reform effort of
5000 higher education institutions in 46 European higher education systems
It has been said that the Bologna Process is the largest higher education reform project of modern times. Currently, 46 countries are participating in the construction of a European Higher Education Area. Indeed, the reforms have already re-shaped the European higher education landscape. While deliberately avoiding the introduction of European standards, the Bologna Process has succeeded in establishing some common features, such as the 3-cycle degrees of Bachelor, Masters and the doctorate, and a joint European credit system widely used by institutions and students.
It has also succeeded in creating a joint European sphere for quality assurance, based on European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Qssurance, the annual Quality Forum, and the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR).
The Bologna Process has also contributed to raising awareness for the urgent issues that go beyond structural reforms, such as the social dimension, which addresses, amongst others, widening access and lifelong learning, and underlying developments such as demographic change.
As higher education turns out to be increasingly international and globally interlinked, the Global Dimension Strategy of the European Higher Education Area is reaching out to partners around the world.
With 2010 looming for the European Higher Education Area, Europeans are currently assessing the achievements of the Bologna Process, and discussing the likely future of the European Higher Education Area beyond 2010.
Why Bologna matters for Asia, and Asia for Bologna
While the Bologna Process is an intra-European project, it is of interest for Asia for several reasons. The European Higher Education Area (EHEA) stretches from Ireland to Russia. The latter makes it a neighbour of some Asian countries. In addition, practically all higher education and research partners that Asia has in Europe participate in the Bologna Process, and have been undergoing and continue to undergo system changes due to the joint European reform agenda.
Therefore it is essential for Asia to know what important reform developments Europe is undergoing. It is also essential for Europe to better understand the evolving higher education landscape in Asia.
Today, no higher education system can be seen in isolation. While this is a basic lesson of the Bologna Process, which enhances compatibility of national higher education systems in order to enhance exchange and cooperation, this is also true for the European Higher Education Area.
A learning opportunity for Europe and Asia
The Round Table was an excellent opportunity for information exchange, joint reflection and discussion on European and Asian higher education development trends.
It presented the outcomes of the latest Bologna Ministerial Meeting (27-29 April Leuven/ Louvain la-Neuve, Belgium) with regards to its political and practical implications for European countries and universities, and invited European and Asian higher education stakeholders to discuss core issues such as recognition, quality and mobility. Further, it exchanged approaches and experiences with regional convergence in Asia and Europe.
A joint opportunity for enhanced cooperation
Following on the EAHEP rationale, the Round Table aimed at enhancing higher education and research relations between Asia and Europe both at institutional cooperation and exchange levels, but also through developing the policy dialogue within and between the two regions. It was an occasion for analysing the outcomes of recent events such as the Bologna Global Policy Forum and the ASEM Education Ministers Meeting.