Bologna Process & EHEA
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).
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. A communiqué is adopted at each Ministerial Conference that outlines decisions taken by the Ministers.
The Bologna Follow-Up Group – BFUG – is the executive structure supporting the Bologna Process in-between the Ministerial Conferences. EQAR is a non-voting member of the Bologna Follow-Up Group.
In September 2018, the BFUG formally established the Thematic Peer Group on Quality Assurance – more specifically on Key Commitment 3 (Quality Assurance in compliance with the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area) – based on the interests and needs indicated by the BFUG members and Consultative members. Specific thematic indications include topics such as:
- legislative framework in line with the ESG (introducing changes),
- ensuring effectiveness of internal quality assurance arrangements, including the use of QA results in the decision-making process and quality culture as well as links to learning and teaching,
- the role and engagement of stakeholders in internal and external QA (students, teachers, employers),
- Cross-border QA,
- European Approach to the QA of joint programmes.
The Staff Mobility project was a 2-year project (co-funded by Erasmus+ KA3 Support to Policy reform) related to the work of this Peer Group. The project was led by the Ministry of Education and Training of Belgium/Flemish Community in collaboration with The National Center for Educational Quality Enhancement in Georgia and the Ministry of Education and Culture in Cyprus. EQAR’s Melinda Szabo was one of the external experts.
EHEA Ministerial Conferences:
The 2020 Rome EHEA Ministerial Conference took place online on 19 November 2020.
In their Rome Communiqué, EHEA ministers encouraged the further development of the Database of External Quality Assurance Results (DEQAR) to facilitate automatic recognition, and committed to removing the remaining obstacles, including those related to the cross-border operation of EQAR registered agencies and the application of the European Approach for Quality Assurance of Joint Programmes.
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.