January 2009

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The Bologna process beyond 2010 (Pending the declaration by the Ministers responsible for higher education in Louvain-la-Neuve, 2009)

Javier Bará Temes - Director of AQU Catalunya

Implementation of the process of building the EHEA, or what is known as the Bologna process, which was set in motion in 1999 with the aims of harmonising university studies in Europe and making them comparable and compatible, will reach its culmination in 2010, with the participation of forty-six countries. This however will merely imply fulfilment of the anticipated aims, which have been extended and enhanced since 1999 through the successive biannual communiqués of the Ministers responsible for higher education in Lisbon, Berlin, Bergen and London, and on 28 and 29 April of this year in Louvain-la-Neuve.

In these circumstances, an important number of dimensions and aspects have become evident that merit specific proposals and which, on the basis of draft documents consulted, the ministers will probably refer to in the communiqué, such as the step forward from quality assurance to the achievement of levels of excellence, life-long learning, the demographic challenge and social dimension which call for fair access and satisfactory advancement in high quality higher education for the entire social spectrum and for all ages. A lot still remains to be done regarding implementation of the recent European qualifications framework (2005) and its incorporation into national regulations (for example, MECES, the Spanish qualifications framework for higher education, has still not been set up) and consolidation of the internationalisation and mobility of students and teachers.

One important aspect in the growth of the EHEA has to do with quality assurance, together with the growth in the number and variety of agencies in Europe, adoption of the ENQA standards and recommendations (2005), and, lastly, the setting up of the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR, 2008).

Within this sphere, which is both the concern of AQU Catalunya and the matter dealt with here, reference must be made to ENQA, an important stakeholder in quality assurance and its development and enhancement. This organisation, which recognises and brings to the forefront the autonomy of the universities and their fundamental role in quality assurance, lays stress at this time, and transmits to the European ministers for their consideration in the forthcoming declaration, on cultural diversity as Europe’s legacy and flexibility in quality assurance processes, with respect being given to this diversity and the different legislations, and avoidance of the temptation to use across-the-board models.

ENQA makes reference to the importance of implementing the European qualifications framework, the risk of bureaucratisation and non-compliance with the fitness for purpose principle, and the need to progressively include the results of student learning in accreditation processes.

ENQA also considers it necessary to clarify the distribution of the roles and responsibilities of the different stakeholders, namely, higher education institutions, public authorities/administration and quality assurance agencies, and in particular, makes reference to the lesson learned of the need for a sound balance between internal processes (those carried out by the universities themselves) and external ones (those carried out by QA agencies).

One final issue where attention is being focused and that is of increasing concern is the growing number of providers of information on higher education in the EHEA who have neither stated their aims nor their methodological approach. This is the case in particular of the proliferation of rankings and leagues in which university institutions are grouped according to their 'quality', in many cases compiled by the mass media and therefore with a potentially highly influential effect on society, especially students and their families. QA agencies in Europe have always steered clear of such extraordinarily simplistic exercises although the interest that they arouse, together with their proliferation, may well call for ministry-backed intervention.

We are thus eagerly awaiting the declaration.


Generalitat de Catalunya

Via Laietana, 28, 5a planta 08003 Barcelona. Spain. Tel.: +34 93 268 89 50

© 2009 AQU Catalunya - Legal number B-21.910-2008