The Bologna process is the product of a series of meetings of Ministers responsible for higher education at which policy decisions have been taken with the goal to establish a European Higher Education Area by 2010. The process also includes the European Commission as a full member. The Council of Europe and UNESCOCEPES, along with a range of stakeholder organisations are also involved as consultative members. There is thus full and active partnership with higher education institutions, represented by the European University Association (EUA) and the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE), students represented by the European Students' Union (ESU), academics represented by Education International (EI) as well as the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and Business Europe representing employer organisations. Since 1998, six ministerial conferences devoted to mapping out the Bologna process have been held in different European cities, namely Paris (at the Sorbonne University), Bologna, Prague, Berlin, Bergen, London and Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve.

"Bologna process history"

  • Sorbonne Declaration (1998)

    The basic precepts of the Bologna process date back to the Sorbonne Joint Declaration on Harmonisation of the Architecture of the European Higher Education System, signed on 25 May 1998 by the education ministers of four countries: France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.

    The Sorbonne Declaration focused on:

      1. Improving the international transparency of programmes and the recognition of qualifications by means of gradual convergence towards a common framework of qualifications and cycles of study;
      2. Facilitating the mobility of students and teachers in the European area and their integration into the European labour market;
      3. Designing a common degree level system for undergraduates (bachelor degree) and graduates (master and doctoral degrees).
  • Declaration (1999)

    The Bologna Declaration on the European Higher Education Area, largely inspired by the Sorbonne Declaration, was signed in June 1999 by ministers responsible for higher education in 29 European countries. This Declaration became the primary document used by the signatory countries to establish the general framework for the modernisation and reform of European higher education. The process of reform came to be called the Bologna process.

    In 1999, the signatory countries included the then 15 EU Member States, three EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) and 11 EU candidate countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia). International institutions such as the European Commission, the Council of Europe and associations of universities, rectors and European students also participated in drafting the Declaration.

    The Bologna Declaration also formulates the objective of increasing the international competitiveness of the European system of higher education and stresses the need to ensure that this system attracts significant attention from around the world.

    In the Bologna Declaration, ministers affirmed their intention to:

      1. Adopt a system of easily readable and comparable degrees;
      2. Implement a system based essentially on two main cycles;
      3. Establish a system of credits (such as ECTS);
      4. Support the mobility of students, teachers, researchers and administrative staff;
      5. Promote European cooperation in quality assurance;
      6. Promote the European dimensions in higher education (in terms of curricular development and inter-institutional cooperation).
  • Prague Communiqué (2001)

    In May 2001, the meeting in Prague was convened to assess the progress accomplished to date (particularly as indicated in the respective national reports) and identify the main priorities that should drive the Bologna process in the years ahead. 33 countries participated, with Croatia, Cyprus and Turkey accepted as new members. Liechtenstein was also included, having committed to the process between the Bologna and Prague conferences, and the European Commission also became a member.

    The education ministers also decided to establish a Bologna Followup Group (BFUG) responsible for the continuing development of the process. The BFUG is composed of representatives of all signatory countries and the European Commission and is chaired by the rotating EU Presidency. The Council of Europe, the European University Association (EUA), the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE) and the National Unions of Students in Europe (ESIB), later renamed the European Students Union (ESU), take part as consultative members in the work of the BFUG.

    The Prague Communiqué emphasised three elements of the Bologna process:

      1. Development of lifelong learning;
      2. Involvement of higher education institutions and students;
      3. Promotion of the attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area.
  • Berlin Communiqué (2003)

    Held in September 2003, the Berlin Conference was an important stage in the follow up to the Bologna process. With the inclusion of seven new signatory countries (Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the Holy See, Montenegro, Russia and Serbia), 40 countries were then involved.

    In the Berlin Communiqué, ministers charged the BFUG with preparing detailed reports on the progress and implementation of the intermediate priorities and organising a stocktaking process before the following ministerial conference in 2005. The UNESCO European Centre for Higher Education (UNESCO-CEPES) joined the work of the BFUG as a consultative member.

    With the Berlin Communiqué, the Bologna process gained additional momentum by setting certain priorities for the next two years:

      1. Development of quality assurance at institutional, national and European levels;
      2. Implementation of the two-cycle system;
      3. Recognition of degrees and periods of studies, including the provision of the Diploma Supplement automatically and free of charge for all graduates as of 2005;
      4. Elaboration of an overarching framework of qualifications for the European Higher Education Area;
      5. Inclusion of the doctoral level as the third cycle in the process;
      6. Promotion of closer links between the European Higher Education Area and the European Research Area.
  • Bergen Communiqué (2005)

    By May 2005, the Bologna process extended to 45 signatory countries with the inclusion of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The ministers responsible for higher education met in Bergen to discuss the mid-term achievements of the Bologna process. The commissioned Stocktaking Report was submitted by the BFUG for the occasion. The Bergen Conference also marked the adoption of the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) and the Framework of Qualifications for the European Higher Education Area (FQ-EHEA).

    The European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), the Education International Pan-European Structure and the Union of Industrial and Employers’ Confederations of Europe (UNICE, later to become Business Europe) joined the BFUG as consultative members.

    In the Bergen Communiqué, ministers enlarged their priorities for 2007, which now also include:

      1. Reinforcing the social dimension and removing obstacles to mobility;
      2. Implementing the standards and guidelines for quality assurance as proposed in the ENQA report;
      3. Developing national frameworks of qualifications in compatibility with the adopted Framework of Qualifications for the European Higher Education Area;
      4. Creating opportunities for flexible learning paths in higher education, including procedures for recognition of prior learning.
  • London Communiqué (2007)

    The London Ministerial meeting, held on 17 and 18 May 2007, provided a landmark in establishing the first legal body to be created through the Bologna process – the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR). This is to become a register of quality assurance agencies that comply substantially with the standards and guidelines for quality assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG) on the basis of external evaluation.

    London also saw developments in two key areas – the social dimension, where Ministers agreed to develop national strategy and action plans, and the global dimension, where Ministers agreed on a strategy to develop the global dimension of European higher education.

    In the London Communiqué, ministers:

      1. Welcomed the creation of the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR);
      2. Committed to completing national frameworks of qualifications in compatibility with the adopted Framework of Qualifications for the European Higher Education Area by 2010;
      3. Promised to report on national action to remove obstacles to the mobility of students and staff;
      4. Pledged to implement and report on national strategies for the social dimension, including action plans and measures to evaluate their effectiveness;
      5. Adopted a strategy for the European Higher Education Area in global setting.

    The country membership expanded to 46 with the recognition of the Republic of Montenegro as an independent State in the European Higher Education Area.

  • Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve Communiqué (2009)

    The Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve Ministerial meeting, held on 28 and 29 April 2009, took stock of the achievements of the Bologna process and laid out the priorities for the European Higher Education Area for the next decade.

    Looking back to ten years of European higher education reform, Ministers emphasised the achievements of the Bologna process, highlighting in particular the increased compatibility and comparability of European education systems through the implementation of structural changes and the use of ECTS and the Diploma Supplement. Acknowledging that the European Higher Education Area is not yet a reality, the Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve Communiqué also established the priorities for the decade until 2020.

    The organisational structures of the Bologna process were endorsed as being fit for purpose, and ministers decided that in the future the Bologna process would be co-chaired by the country holding the EU presidency and a non-EU country.

    In the Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve Communiqué, ministers agreed that:

      1. Each country should set measurable targets for widening overall participation and increasing the participation of under-represented social groups in higher education by the end of the next decade;
      2. By 2020 at least 20 % of those graduating in the EHEA should have had a study or training period abroad;
      3. Lifelong learning and employability are important missions of higher education;
      4. Student-centred learning should be the goal of ongoing