Towards the European Higher Education Area (EHEA)

Launched in 1998/9 as an initiative of European higher education ministers, the Bologna Process aims to create a European Higher Education Area based on converged systems, characterised by enhanced student and staff mobility prospects, a common understanding of quality assurance and a common three-cycle degree structure (bachelor, masters, doctorate). At the same time, it aims at making Europe more attractive for students and academic partners around the world.

The Bologna Process is a voluntary process, where European countries agree jointly on reform measures, but implementation of these measures is subject to individual countries. Governments agreed to "engage in co-ordinating our policies" while "taking full respect of the diversity of cultures, languages, national education systems and of University autonomy - to consolidate the European area of higher education' and to ‘pursue the ways of intergovernmental co-operation, together with those of non governmental European organisations with competence on higher education."

European Ministers of Education from Bologna process countries meet every two years to assess the progress made and decide on new steps. Results are published in a communiqué. Though the initiative for the Bologna Process was launched by European Union Member States, it was defined right from the beginning as a Pan-European Process beyond the European Union. The European Commission is one of the full members of the Process. And while it was Ministers who took the first step, the Sorbonne Declaration of 1998 and the Declaration of Bologna of 1999 both stress the central role of Universities in creating a Europe of knowledge and in developing Europe's cultural dimensions. Therefore European stakeholders associations joined the process right from the beginning, and so far they have play a crucial role in the development of the Bologna reforms.

Some of the major characteristics of the European Higher Education Area:

  • common system of study cycles defined as Bachelor (3-4 years), Masters (1-2 years) and Doctorates.
  • use of the European Credit Transfer System at the home university (accumulation) and for temporary study stays at another university (transfer credits)
  • European dimension of quality assurance, expressed in the European Standards and Guidelines (for higher education institutions, national and regional QA agencies)

commitment to develop both the 'social' and the 'global dimension' of the EHEA

For more information, see the official Bologna process secretariat website and the downloable brochure on the Bologna Process by the European University Association.

Countries and organisations that participate in the Bologna Process