European university leaders want education ministers to inject fresh urgency into the Bologna process of convergence between higher education systems across 36 countries.
This week the scheme's principal architect said it was taking longer than he had hoped. As European university ministers prepared to meet in Berlin to review progress towards goals set in 1999, Fabio Roversi-Monaco, rector of Bologna University at the time of the 1999 declaration, said: "We expect the path towards implementation to be more clearly defined. It is moving forward slower than I had hoped."
But Eric Froment, the French economist who is president of the European University Association, commented: "It is moving, with greater success than anyone expected in 1999. No national minister can escape the Bologna process - the evolution towards a 3+2 (degree) system is taking place everywhere, with some resistance only in the UK and Germany.
"Austria, Germany, Italy and Scandanavia have all introduced it. Credit transfer is moving more slowly - it is very complicated to harmonise the system," he added.
This week, Ulrike Felt, professor of philosophy of science at the University of Vienna, presented her study of the attitudes of key higher education figures in ten European countries to the Magna Charta Observatory of Fundamental University Values and Rights in Bologna.
"The Bologna process is going ahead but at different speeds in different countries and in different disciplines," she said. "We find the curricula are changing. The strongest resistance to change is in countries such as France, where they have great pride in their higher education system.
Certainly nobody is saying: 'We must go back'.
"An important aspect is to build up the image of a harmonised European university system. This will take time, but will be very effective eventually," she added.
Thirty-three countries signed the declaration, and three more joined later.
Five new countries are applying for inclusion in Berlin, including Serbia.
European rectors have identified quality assurance and the inclusion of doctorates as critical issues for the Berlin conference, which will end on Friday with a communique setting the agenda for the next phase of the process.