Bologna's slowly does it not doing it for students

September 9, 2010

Progress towards the goals of the Bologna Process is far too slow and in some areas almost non-existent, according to the European Students' Union (ESU).

The European Higher Education Area, conceived by the Bologna Declaration in 1999, was formally launched by the Budapest-Vienna Declaration in March this year. Implementation of the reforms is being tracked by the Bologna Follow-Up Group, which met for the first time in late August and which includes the ESU as a consultative member.

Robert Santa, a member of the ESU's executive committee, said the discussions "did not bring much new" to the table, adding that there was "clear evidence that unresolved issues in the Bologna implementation are piling up".

By way of example, he pointed to "problems with getting studies recognised across borders and financial and administrative barriers for students who want to study in another country".

Although he admitted that the Bologna Process had increased student mobility, Mr Santa argued that students were still "afraid of mobility because of excessive bureaucracy, the lack of portable loans and uncertainty about whether foreign qualifications will be recognised. Students who go abroad to study and then come home certainly don't want to have to repeat a year. But minor differences in names or content can mean that courses are not considered equivalent."

While this was a general issue, he said, it also had a notable impact on Bologna's "social dimension".

Difficulties in accessing financial support in host countries and Erasmus grants that do not meet the full cost of study abroad tended to act as particular disincentives to students from poor backgrounds, he said.

Despite the programmes already in place to help transfer student-mobility know-how from high-performing institutions to others, Mr Santa said he suspected significant additional state funds would be needed for them to make much impact. He added that the Bologna Process suffered from a "way too slow paradigm shift towards an education that is first and foremost based on the learner's perspective".

matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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