Leader: A union fit for purpose?

January 9, 2004

The debacle over the constitution for an enlarged European Union has faded from the headlines, and enthusiasm for the concept has dwindled. For higher education, however, 2004 is the year the Bologna process has to prove itself.

The 2010 target date for convergence is - in terms of educational planning - just around the corner. It is almost four years since the Bologna Declaration and, as the assessment on page 12 suggests, progress is at best promising while concrete evidence of compliance is patchy. In September, European ministers demanded a stronger commitment to the process, which has been augmented (or upstaged) by the European Commission's ambitious Erasmus Mundus initiative.

This initiative needs the Bologna targets if it is to succeed in challenging US domination of global higher education. The smaller accession and applicant states are setting the pace, while the giants of the EU are more hesitant. But the emerging states have the greatest distance to cover compared with "old Europe", whose education systems give them advantage.

On current performance, there is no room for complacency if Bologna is to prove it is alive and kicking.

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