EQAR and the Bologna Process
Since 1999, European governments have been working closely together to allow Europe’s diverse education systems to articulate better with each other and thus to establish a European Higher Education Area (EHEA).
The Bologna Process – named after the city of Bologna, where 29 countries signed a declaration marking the beginning of this reform process– nowadays gathers all 47 signatory countries to the Council of Europe’s European Cultural Convention. The E4 organisations are consultative members of the Bologna Process.
Every two or three years a Ministerial Conference is organised in order to assess the progress made within the EHEA and to decide on the new steps to be taken. Ministers decide at Ministerial Conferences about the central aspects of the EHEA, including its further developments and commitments by its member countries as well as on new applications for membership to the EHEA or any other main changes to the process. A communiqué is adopted at each Ministerial Conference that outlines decisions taken by the Ministers.
EHEA Ministerial Conferences:
The EHEA Ministerial Conference took place on 24-25 May 2018 in Paris. In their Paris Communiqué, EHEA ministers welcomed and committed to promote the development of DEQAR.
The Opening Ceremony and Celebration Session on the eve of the Ministerial Conference marked the 20th anniversary of the Sorbonne Declaration as well as the 30th anniversary of the Magna Charta Universitatum and the 10th anniversary of EQAR.
At their meeting in Yerevan Ministers adopted the revised Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) and the European Approach for Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes. Ministers further committed to enable “higher education institutions to use a suitable EQAR registered agency for their external quality assurance process, respecting the national arrangements for the decision making on QA outcomes”.
Ministers committed to “allow EQAR-registered agencies to perform their activities across the EHEA, while complying with national requirements” and in particular “to recognise quality assurance decisions of EQAR-registered agencies on joint and double degree programmes”.
Ministers also welcomed the external evaluation of EQAR, and encourage quality assurance agencies to apply for registration.
Furthermore, the revision of the ESG was initiated based on the Bucharest Ministerial Communiqué and the automatic recognition of comparable academic degrees – “building on the tools of the Bologna framework” – was defined as the EHEA’s long-term goal.
On 12 March 2010, the Minsters of the 47 countries participating in the Bologna Process adopted the Budapest-Vienna Declaration and officially launched the European Higher Education Area.
The Conference of the European Higher Education Area Ministers was followed by a meeting with Ministers from different parts of the world in the Second Bologna Policy Forum on “Building the Global Knowledge Society: Systemic and Institutional Change in Higher Education” that was concluded with the Vienna Bologna Policy Forum Statement.
On 28 and 29 April 2009, the Ministers responsible for higher education in the then 46 countries of the Bologna Process met in Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve to establish the priorities for the European Higher Education Area until 2020. They highlighted in particular the importance of lifelong learning, widening access to higher education, and mobility.
At their summit in London in May 2007 ministers “welcome[d] the establishment of a register by the E4 group, working in partnership, based on their proposed operational model”
in their Communiqué. The E4 Group presented the operational model to ministers in the Report to the London Conference of Ministers on a European Register of Quality Assurance Agencies.
Following the ministers’ mandate that model was implemented in practice and the EQAR Association was founded on 4 March 2008 as an independent organisation in charge of establishing and managing a register of quality assurance agencies.
The concept of a European register of quality assurance agencies was initially welcomed by the ministers of the Bologna signatory countries in 2005 at their Bergen summit.
After the Bergen summit, a first proposal for a register was presented to the ministers in the report Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area prepared by the E4 organisations. Back then minister adopted the Standards and Guidelines as common European reference point for internal and external quality assurance of higher education.
In 2006 the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union also expressed their support of the idea to establish a European register of quality assurance agencies in a joint recommendation.