Europe is a vast multicultural, multilingual continent which is reflected in its strong and diverse heritage of higher education and academia. Some European universities celebrate a history of over 1000 years. Today, Europe comprises around 5000 higher education institutions (universities, university colleges, polytechnics), and several of the most renowned institutions in the world.
European universities and higher education systems in individual European countries have developed throughout time in response to social change and scientific progress. However, just as different European countries have become more integrated economically and politically, in the past two decades there has been a rapid movement towards a joint European Higher Education Area (EHEA). This implies reforming the very different higher education systems across Europe to create compatible degrees that are recognisable across borders. It also implies the creation of a European Research Area (ERA), with intertwined research programmes and mobile researchers. While the former is a voluntary political commitment involving a wider Europe of currently 46 countries (2008), all adhering to the European Cultural Convention, the latter is a process of the European Union, involving its 27 member states and a number of associated and partner countries in Europe and around the world.


Copyright: Europe's New Higher Education Landscape, EUA Publication 2008

The launch of the Erasmus Programme and the European Credit Transfer System have been important steps undertaken by the European Commission and the European Union Member States. From the mid 1980's on, the Erasmus Programme started offering small mobility grants to facilitate student mobility in Europe. It was based on a newly developed European Credit Transfer System, a vehicle to have students' credits recognised when moving from one university system to another. It evolved in the logic of growing a European Union common market, which facilitates mobility of goods and services, and also required a mobile, internationally educated labour force. Within the past two decades, more than 1.5 million students have been mobile under the Erasmus scheme between the European Union Member States.

Another important step was the launch of Lisbon Recognition Convention by the Council of Europe and UNESCO in 1997, which has since been ratified by 48 countries (including some non-European states). The Convention aims at improving the recognition of qualifications by establishing policies and practices for fair recognition of qualifications.

These measures have been important steps towards realising European higher education without boarders, and the development of a European Higher Education Area, which formally started a decade later (via the Bologna Process).

Today, European governments and European higher education institutions, in conjunction with the European Union and stakeholder organisations increasingly collaborate to create dynamic, unified and transparent higher education and research cooperation. In this regard, three major processes can be distinguished: the Bologna Process and the European Higher Education Area (EHEA); the Lisbon Process and the European Research Area (ERA).

Useful links:

Bologna Process: Secretariat web-site
Every 2 years, a different European country assumes the responsibility of the Bologna Secretariat, including the management of the Official Bologna Process website. At the end of the period, this country hosts the ministerial meeting, which assesses the outcomes of the previous 2 years and agrees on goals and commitments for the next 2 years. The current Bologna Process Secretariat is the Benelux (Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg). Its web site contains useful information for students, HE institutions and policy makers on what the Bologna process is and how its works. It also provides information about the latest Bologna developments, and gives access to all official documents, and the websites of the previous Bologna Secretariats.

Eurydice, established by the European Commission, is an institutional network for gathering, monitoring, processing and circulating reliable and readily comparable information on education systems and policies throughout Europe. Eurydice covers the education systems of the Member States of the European Union, the three countries of the European Free Trade Association which are members of the European Economic Area, and the EU candidate countries involved in the EU Action Programme in the field of Lifelong Learning. It aims at offering policy makers and all other relevant actors of the higher education sector information geared to their needs. Eurydice prepares and publishes the following: updated country information on the organization of education systems across Europe, comparative studies of specific education topics, and higher education indicators

ENIC-NARIC (Gateway to recognition)
ENIC-NARIC provides information on current issues in international academic and professional mobility, and on procedures for the recognition of foreign qualifications. It is the joint website of the ENIC Network (European Network of Information Centres) and the NARIC Network (national Academic Recognition Information Centres).

As a a joint initiative of the European Commission, the Council of Europe and UNESCO/CEPES, this site is a tool to assist the ENIC-NARIC Networks by directing them to up-to-date information supplied and maintained by the competent bodies in each member country and by each member organisation. The member countries each have their own information page that details the contact information of national recognition information bodies, links on the system of education, policies and procedures for recofgnition of foreign credentials, and diploma supplement information.

European e-learning portal
This information site is targeted at promoting innovation in life-long learning in Europe via e-learning. It contains a directory to articles, resources, projects and networks involved in this subject.