Employability has been one of the main goals to be achieved with the creation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) from the very start. Even after the completion of the EHEA, many concerns still exist among employers, students, academics, higher education institutions and governments.
In 1999, the Bologna declaration defined as a goal of the Bologna Process
to promote European citizens employability and the international competitiveness of the European higher education system.
The ministers expressed their appreciation of the contributions toward developing study programmes combining academic quality with relevance to lasting employability and called for a continued proactive role of higher education institutions.
In 2003, ministers stressed
the necessity of ensuring a substantial period of study abroad [...] so that students may achieve their full potential for European identity, citizenship and employability.
In 2005, ministers urged
universities to ensure that their doctoral programmes promote interdisciplinary training and the development of transferable skills, thus meeting the needs of the wider employment market.
When Ministers met in 2007 in London, they affirmed employability to be one of the major goals of the Bologna Process:
Building on our rich and diverse European cultural heritage, we are developing an EHEA based on institutional autonomy, academic freedom, equal opportunities and democratic principles that will facilitate mobility, increase employability and strengthen Europe’s attractiveness and competitiveness.
Having identified employability as one of the priorities for the period leading to the next ministerial conference in April 2009, they asked the
BFUG to consider in more detail how to improve employability in relation to each of these cycles as well as in the context of lifelong learning.
To this purpose, the Bologna Follow-up Group set up a working group to provide a report on how to improve employability in relation to each of the three cycles.
As one basis for the report the employability working group conducted a short informal survey on the issue of employability among the members of the Bologna Follow-up Group.
The group defined employability as “the ability to gain initial meaningful employment, or to become self-employed, to maintain employment, and to be able to move around within the labour market”.
In 2009, ministers stated that
employability empowers the individual to fully seize the opportunities in changing labour markets. We aim at raising initial qualifications as well as maintaining and renewing a skilled workforce through close cooperation between governments, higher education institutions, social partners and students.
With labour markets increasingly relying on higher skill levels and transversal competences, higher education should equip students with the advanced knowledge, skills and competences they need throughout their professional lives. Employability empowers the individual to fully seize the opportunities in changing labour markets.
In 2010, the EHEA has been launched and the ministers committed to the full and proper implementation of the agreed objectives and the agenda for the next decade
[...] to accomplish the reforms already underway to enable students and staff to be mobile, to improve teaching and learning in higher education institutions, to enhance graduate employability, and to provide quality higher education for all.
In 2012, based on three goals (provide quality higher education for all, enhance graduates’ employability, strengthen mobility), the Ministers committed
to enhance the employability and personal and professional development of graduates throughout their careers.
Finally, the Ministers pointed at the learning mobility as
essential to ensure the quality of higher education, enhance students’ employability and expand cross-border collaboration within the EHEA and beyond.
In May 2015, ministers defined employability as one out of four priorities for the period until 2018:
Fostering the employability of graduates throughout their working lives in rapidly changing labour markets - characterized by technological developments, the emergence of new job profiles, and increasing opportunities for employment and self-employment - is a major goal of the EHEA. We need to ensure that, at the end of each study cycle, graduates possess competences suitable for entry into the labour market which also enable them to develop the new competences they may need for their employability later in throughout their working lives.
In 2004, Employability and its links to the objectives of the Bologna process was the first Bologna Seminar to discuss employability.
Participants at that time agreed on a definition of employability as "a set of achievements – skills, understandings and personal attributes – that make graduates more likely to gain employment and be successful in their chosen occupations, which benefits themselves, the workforce, the community and the economy".
Employability was and is included in the discussion of many other topics of the Bologna process (e.g. high quality education, mobility, qualifications frameworks). Nevertheless, a number of Bologna Seminars have been explicitly devoted to this aspect: