Pros and Cons of the Bologna Process

Since the Bologna Declaration in 1999, the Bologna Process has helped to define the standards of education throughout 48 states in Europe today. These member states each contribute to assessing the standards of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

This EHEA is based on international cooperation to provide better and more attractive opportunities for students and staff within Europe as well as other areas of the world. While the aim of this group is seemingly pure and the group has seen many educational triumphs, the Bologna Process does not come without problems.

A Brief Outline of the Bologna Process

The Bologna Process is the series of meetings and decisions that were made between European countries to ensure educational compatibility in higher education.

The focus of the Bologna Process was to create the EHEA, which is been designed to:

  • Make it easier for students and staff to move around within the system.
  • Prepare students to play a productive role in societies.
  • Offer more access to better higher education.

It is a process that owes much of its success to the involvement of organisations such as the European Commission, Council of Europe and UNESCO-CEPES. There are also students, staff, employers and quality assurance agencies involved in maintaining the high standards of the EHEA.

Understanding Its Background

In 1999 and at the University of Bologna, the Bologna Accords were held to create the European Higher Education Area. At this time, Education representatives from 29 European countries signed the Bologna Declaration.

While this was the initial establishment of the educational exchange, there have since been meetings held in Capitals throughout Europe to further develop the process and create more advanced programs for students and staff. These have been held in Prague, Berlin, Bergen, London, Leuven, Budapest, Vienna, Bucharest, and Yerevan.

At these meetings around Europe, there were also further decisions made about which countries could join the Process and the specifics of how to implement the changes were decided upon as well. The organization also has a board that are there to help countries carry out the necessary processes to ensure success and uniformity.

To maintain the high standards of this agreement and of the EHEA, all of the EU member countries currently participate, while many other nations have been turned away from the process. Kosovo, for example, cannot join the agreements because it has status as a province of the Republic of Serbia, though many states do recognize it as a country in its own right. For now, this will keep Kosovo and other countries in a similar position out of the Process.

The Reasons for the Controversy in the European Education System

In France in particular, there have been a few issues with the process. To understand this, it is first necessary to explain the French system of higher education. In France, universities as well as non-university programmes that are specifically designed for one subject, such as engineering, provide higher education.

When a student has completed their five-year course in one of these institutions, they are awarded a diploma for the subject. Getting into these programmes is extremely difficult and is why the recognition from these schools is valued more highly than a university degree.

The process of education in France and the recognition remained unchanged for bachelor and doctorate degrees. This is known in the country as the LMD reform. The DEUG and the old license however were merged into a new three-year license with the Maîtrise, DESS and DEA combined into a two-year master’s degree as well. These changes were made under the Bologna Process to make the French educational system more compatible within the EHEA.

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When the changes were being made in 2002 and 2003 and then again in 2007, there were strikes in France against the LMD reform. This was more because of the underfunding of the French universities than the Bologna Process but it still did play a role in the discontent.

Setting out the Bologna University Debate

The Bologna Process is designed to be helpful to students, putting them and their needs at the centre of education. As this is a new approach that has been inspired by globalization and the increased value of knowledge, the overall principles are sound but the implementation and the effects have their pros and cons.

Pros

  • Those involved work as partners to make improvements, which increases more active participation powered by a sense of ownership in the process.
  • The meetings and the development of the ideals are informal exchanges.
  • The process provides mobility throughout the EHEA.
  • The process has seen a higher demand for education programmes.
  • The shorter programmes mean students will be working sooner.

 

Cons

  • New, compressed versions of courses may not provide enough time for assimilation, reflection and quality learning.
  • Employability may be reduced as the result of a shorter programme.
  • Old and new systems still co-exist, some not so harmoniously.
  • There has been a lower demand for health programmes.
  • The implementation of the process in each country can have a huge impact on success.

The Impact on European Education

The Bologna Process is good for students as they are able to seek better opportunities and are able to move throughout the EHEA. The negatives for students are essentially that this is a new approach to education on a bigger scale, which means that there will be issues with implementation and changes made throughout its history in order to strive for improvements.

On the whole, the impact of the Bologna Process on European education has been positive and the system has achieved its goals while also continuing to implement some necessary improvements.

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