Work programme of the Bologna Follow-Up Group 2003-2005
The Stocktaking Project
To conduct the stocktaking exercise asked for by Ministers in Berlin, a Working Group was established by the BFUG.
At the Berlin meeting in September 2003, Ministers with responsibility for Higher Education agreed to the conduct of a stocktaking exercise, in order to establish the level of progress being made in the implementation of certain reforms within the European Higher Education Area. Specifically, the Berlin Communiqué stated:
With a view to the goals set for 2010, it is expected that measures will be introduced to take stock of progress achieved in the Bologna Process. A mid-term stocktaking exercise would provide reliable information on how the Process is actually advancing and would offer the possibility to take corrective measures, if appropriate.
Ministers charge the Follow-up Group with organising a stocktaking process in time for their summit in 2005 and undertaking to prepare detailed reports on the progress and implementation of the intermediate priorities set for the next two years:
- quality assurance
- two-cycle system
- recognition of degrees and periods of studies
In March 2004, the Follow-Up Group agreed to the establishment of a Working Group which would undertake this task. At the outset, the Working Group was anxious to build on many existing data resources; it consulted with partners such as the EUA, ESIB and EURYDICE in order to ensure that
- the benchmarks did not repeat questions they intended to raise as part of their own surveys;
- they (the partners) were willing to raise the questions with their constituents as part of their surveys;
- in the event of similar questions being raised, it was agreed to share the results in order to build a complete picture of the benchmark.
As part of the preparations for the Berlin ministerial meeting in 2003, EURYDICE prepared a report called “Focus on the Structure of Higher Education in Europe”. Building on the success of the 2003 report, EURYDICE had planned a similar report for the 2005 Bergen meeting. The Working Group requested EURYDICE to extend their review beyond the 31 countries normally covered by the EURYDICE network in order to provide a uniform analysis of the European Higher Education Area. All 40 participating countries in the Bologna Process completed EURYDICE questionnaires in the required format.
Along with the material prepared by EURYDICE, the National Reports represented the main source of information for the stocktaking exercise. The National Reports offered the opportunity for members to give more discursive or qualitative commentary on progress on the priority action lines. A series of benchmarks were developed which sought to measure progress on each of the three priority action lines. Based on an interpretation of the National Reports and EURYDICE questionnaires, scores were assigned to each country.
ESIB also pursued a number of issues on behalf of the Working Group. However, the scope to use the results of their survey was limited on the basis that it only covered some 32 countries. The Council of Europe provided the source for material on the Lisbon Recognition Convention. While the EUA did not directly contribute to the stocktaking, there are many issues in the Trends IV report which also surface in the stocktaking report.
It is important to note that with the diverse range of material presented to the Ministers at the Bergen meeting, it is quite possible that differences in outcomes may arise. Where this arises, it should be noted that the stocktaking exercise drew on a variety of data sources, representative of a broad stakeholder community.
The analysis indicates that overall, participating countries have made good progress in the three priority action lines, and as such, real progress is being made in the work to establish the European Higher Education Area.
Considerations by the Bologna Follow-up Group
The BFUG discussed the preliminary report of the Stocktaking Working Group in its April 2005 meeting. The BFUG noted that substantial progress has been made in the three priority areas. It is important to ensure that progress is consistent across all participating countries, and the BFUG will advise Ministers that there is a need for greater sharing of expertise to build capacity at both institutional and government level.
The BFUG noted that the two-cycle degree system is being implemented on a large scale, with more than half of the students being enrolled in it in most countries. However, there are still some obstacles to access between cycles. Ministers may see the need for greater dialogue, involving governments, institutions and social partners, to increase the employability of graduates with bachelor qualifications, including posts within the public service.
The BFUG noted that almost all countries have made provision for a quality assurance system based on the criteria set out in the Berlin Communiqué and with a high degree of cooperation and networking. However, there is still progress to be made, in particular as regards student involvement and international cooperation. Higher education institutions may enhance the quality of their activities through the systematic introduction of internal quality assurance mechanisms and a direct correlation of these to external quality assurance.
With reference also to the recommendations regarding the follow-up of the Lisbon Recognition Convention (see chapter 8, section 8.3), Ministers are recommended to draw up national action plans to improve the quality of the process associated with the recognition of foreign qualifications.
Some doubts were raised at the BFUG meeting concerning elements in national scorecards, and the stocktaking Working Group was asked to look into these matters. The final decisions relating to the stocktaking report were delegated to the BFUG Board. The Board underlined that the methodology of the stocktaking project can be further developed and that national scorecards should be seen as progress charts and not as absolute measures. Comparison between participating countries would have limited value. The Board also made some further recommendations based on the report from the Working Group:
- Having regard to national competences, a process of formal engagement should be initiated with employer organisations at the national level. The objective of such engagement should be to communicate the process of reform, combined with ensuring the employability of bachelor graduates. This process of engagement should also take place at the European level;
- A Working Group may be established to prepare a report on the issues associated with equitable access, and its conclusion should, if possible, recommend a series of benchmarks to measure action in this area;
- The BFUG should encourage bilateral and multilateral support mechanisms to assist participating countries in the implementation of the various action lines of the Bologna Process;
- The stocktaking process should continue to report on progress for each Ministerial Conference. The process should be resourced appropriately, and mandated to address the actions lines as approved by the BFUG.
Source: General Report to the Bologna Follow-Up Group to the Conference of European Ministers Responsible for Higher Education - Bergen 19/20 May 2005
Bologna Process between Berlin and Bergen
- 21 April 2004 - Amsterdam
- 15 June 2004 - Dublin
- 25 January 2005 - Brussels
- 17-18 February 2005 - Dubrovnik
- Bologna Process Stocktaking 2005
- 2005 Bergen - Report Stocktaking WG by Ian McKenna
- BFUG5_10 Stoctaking Draft report
- BFUG5_10a Stocktaking Draft report annex Country Scorecards
- BFUG4_5a WG Stocktaking Minutes
- BFUG2_6_7_Timeline for stocktaking
- Bologna Process between Berlin and Bergen