Work programme of the Bologna Follow-Up Group 2003-2005

Using Learning Outcomes

Bologna Seminar Edinburgh, United Kingdom 01/07/2004 - 02/07/2004

“Using Learning Outcomes”, Edinburgh, 1-2 July 2004

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The seminar, organised by the Scottish Ministry responsible for Higher Education together with national partners, brought together some 160 participants from 28 countries and from partner organisations. A background report had been commissioned from Professor Stephen Adam, examining the concept of learning outcomes both from a theoretical point of view and in relation to current practice.
Considerable activity was found to be taking place across Europe, but relatively few countries or higher education institutions had implemented learning outcomes in a systematic way. One conclusion in the report was that learning outcomes may enhance all the Bologna action lines. They were seen as part of a shift in emphasis from the teacher to the learner, and in this connection students pointed out that for learning to be genuinely student-centred, the students must also be included in the process of formulating the learning outcomes.

There was general agreement on the usefulness of moving towards an outcomes-based approach in the description of modules/units, study programmes and qualifications. Such an approach lies at the centre of the development of an overarching framework of qualifications for the EHEA, and the seminar provided important input to this work. Descriptions in terms of learning outcomes also facilitate comparison of knowledge, understanding and skills acquired in informal or non- formal learning with formal qualifications, and hence contribute to flexible learning paths in a lifelong learning perspective. In the same way they may facilitate mobility between vocational education and training and higher education.

The seminar discussed the role of learning outcomes in relation to issues such as transparency, mobility, recognition and quality assurance, underlining that they are not the solution to all problems, but a useful tool at both the conceptual and practical levels. Unresolved issues e.g. in relation to credits were pointed out. Also, the concept is used in different ways in different contexts, sometimes in a very technical way, and a common understanding therefore needs to be developed, taking into account the importance of diversity and flexibility.

The seminar recommended that the BFUG should take a leading role in ensuring coherence across the different strands of development of the Bologna Process affected by learning outcomes, and more broadly between the Bologna and Copenhagen processes.

The seminar further recommended that the following themes should be considered for inclusion in the Bergen Communiqué:

  • The importance of learning outcomes for the future development of Diploma Supplements, ECTS and qualifications frameworks, as a tool to promote transparency and mobility, while supporting flexibility and diversity across the European Higher Education Area.
  • The need to accept that the pace and nature of change will not be uniform across all countries or all disciplines. Such flexibility will protect the diversity inherent in the European Higher Education Area and lead to greater ownership of the final outcome.
  • The need for continuing dialogue to achieve a common language and a shared understanding of that language.

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

Related documents

Using Learning Outcomes - Edinburgh 2004

  • Report for the BFUG (included Annex A)
  • Points for consideration
  • Evaluation exercise (Annex B)


  • To explore the meaning of the term 'learning outcomes' and illustrate how this approach is being used within HE systems across Europe.
  • To discuss how the learing outcomes approach links with Bologna action lines. (summarised for reference at Annex A)
  • To provide participants with an opportunity to consider how the learning outcomes approach could be applied to best effect within their own HE systems.

Background Papers

A consideration of the nature, role, application and implications for European education of employing ‘learning outcomes’ at the local, national and international levels.

E4 Thematic network: Enhancing Engineering Education in Europe by Günter Heitmann
This report is not an edition of various individual contributions but covers in a systematic way different topics with regard to curriculum development and innovative curricula based on work, dicussions and experiences of A1 members. It should invite and stimulate discussions in the dissemination year E4 started in October 2003. The hope is that interesting reference points for future development of curricula in EE in Europe are provided and can thus function as kind of a guideline.

Linking Levels Learning Outcomes and Assessment Criteria by Jenny Moon
This paper is designed to introduce the terminology and to demonstrate how the main descriptive structures should interrelate. The paper uses an integrated approach to the design of programmes and modules as a context for the description of level descriptors, learning outcomes and assessment criteria and their relationships.


Stephen Adam's Presentation of Background Paper at 10.15am on 1st July 2004

Andrew Cubie's Keynote Speech at 11am on 1st July 2004

Rober Wagenaar Case Study/Workshop Session 1 and 2 on 1st July 2004
Turning project - Robert Wagenaar, Joint Project Co-ordinator.

Norman Sharp Case Study/Workshop Session 1 and 2 on 1st July 2004
Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework - Norman Sharp.

Isabell le Mouillour Case Study/Workshop Session1 and 2 on 1st July 2004
Learning outcomes and credit systems in education, particularly VET - Isabelle le Mouillour.

Rod Coleman Case Study/Workshop Session 1 and 2 on 1st July 2004
Learning outcomes-driven HE credit accumulation model - Rod Coleman, Southern England Consortium for Credit Accumulation and Transfer.
SEEC General Council Seminar

Eva Gonczi Case Study/Workshop Session 1 and 2 on 1st July 2004
The Hungarian experience of learning outcomes - Eva Gonczi

Alan Johnson, MP, Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, UK Government on 1st July 2004

Mogens Berg Case Study/Workshop Session 3 and 4 on 2nd July 2004
HE Qualifications Framework - Morgens Berg, Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Denmark.

Jenny Moon Case Study/Workshop Session 3 and 4 on 2nd July 2004
Some thoughts on learning outcomes - their roles and use in higher education in the UK - Jenny Moon, Southern England Consortium for Credit Accumulation and Transfer

Christian Tauch Case Study/Workshop Session 3 and 4 on 2nd July 2004
Learning outcome - the German Experience - Christian Tauch

Stephen Adam's Presentation at 14.15pm on 2nd July 2004
Using Learning Outcomes - day 2 Stephen Adam, ECTS/Diploma Supplement Counsellor

Published: 01/07/2004 - Last modified: 20/10/2016
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