Agència per a la Qualitat del Sistema Universitari de Catalunya

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In 1999, the European Ministers responsible for higher education in Europe signed the Bologna Declaration, which laid the foundations for the setting up of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) in 2010. The signatory countries agreed to:  

  1. The adoption of a system of easily readable and comparable degrees.
  2. The adoption of a system based on three cycles: bachelor, master and doctorate (the latter two sometimes grouped under postgraduate programmes).
  3. The establishment of a comparable credit system (ECTS) to promote widespread mobility.
  4. Promote the mobility of students, teachers and administrative staff.
  5. Promote European cooperation in quality assurance and develop comparable review criteria and methods.

Enforcement of the Bologna Plan came into effect in Spain in 2007 with the passing of Royal Decree 1393/2007, 29 October, which regulated all recognised higher education study programmes and awards. The amendment deals with a new structure governing recognised university degrees and awards, the purpose of which is convergence with the principles of the EHEA. The main new aspects are as follows:

A new way in which degrees are formulated

It is the universities themselves, in accordance with the prevailing regulations, that create and propose the degree courses that they offer and teach, without having to comply with a pre-established catalogue set by the authorities, as was the case previously. This involves several different stages in which a degree is subject to ex-ante assessment, authorisation (by the Autonomous regional government), monitoring, modification and, if necessary, accreditation.

A new structure for degrees

The structure for recognised degree courses consists of three cycles: bachelor, master and doctorate.

Bachelor: the purpose of which is to obtain a general education in preparation to carry out activities of a professional nature. Undergraduate Bachelor degrees are worth between 180 and 240 credits and may correspondingly refer to curriculum pathways and/or course majors.

Master: the purpose of which is to acquire either an advanced specialised and/or multidisciplinary education, aimed at either an academic or professional specialisation, or to promote the start of research work.

Master's degrees are worth between 60 and 120 credits and may include specialisations.

Both undergraduate Bachelor and postgraduate Master's degrees include the writing and defence of either a final year project or dissertation, respectively.

Doctorate / PhD degrees: are regulated by Royal Decree 99/2011, 28 January and the purpose being an advanced training in research techniques, which will include the writing and presentation of the corresponding doctoral thesis, consisting of an original piece of research work (3 to 4 years).

A new measurement instrument

ECTS credits. ECTS credits provide a common measure of student workload linked to learning outcomes in the process of achieving a series of objectives (or competences) that are set out in the curriculum.

The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) assesses the time spent by the student to acquire the competences from a given programme of study. Each credit represents between 25 and 30 hours of study and includes not only class attendance, but also dedication to study, seminars taken, problem solving exercises, etc. A course with 60 ECTS credits involves a total of between 1,500 and 1,800 hours of work a year, or between 37.5 and 45 hours a week over 40 weeks.  

Programme quality

In the formulation of any new degree, the university’s academic coordinators must specify what kind of internal quality assurance system they will implement for the purposes of quality assurance throughout the life cycle of the programme. This system is combined with a cyclical process for the periodic external review of quality (carried out by the quality assurance agencies), which will provide for supervision of the running of degree courses and information on their quality to be made available to society.