Sector stops to reflect as Bologna milestone nears

March 19, 2009

A decade after the Bologna Process was created with the aim of establishing a "European Higher Education Area" by 2010, it is time for those involved to take stock.

This week, the European Universities Association (EUA) is holding its biannual convention in Prague, where key figures in European higher education will discuss what progress has been made towards Bologna's objectives, and where it goes from here.

Lesley Wilson, secretary-general of the EUA, said: "Everyone's been talking about 2010 for ages, but now that we're actually getting there we have to say what we think we've achieved and what we want to do next.

"We need to have very clear ideas on what we want to happen in the next round of the Bologna Process."

Among the areas she identified as being of significance across Europe were the lifelong learning agenda, opportunities available to young researchers and internationalisation, as well as the sustainability of funding in higher education.

One criticism that has been levelled at the Bologna Process is that, since its inception in 1999, its aims and objectives have become increasingly wide-ranging and complex.

Ms Wilson said: "It's like pulling at a piece of string and it all starting to unravel. We've ended up looking at the whole way universities do teaching and learning."

She added: "When we started in Bologna a decade ago it made sense to say, in ten years' time let's see where we are with the goals we have set ourselves. Now we have to look at the hard facts and ask what we can do next.

"With demographics changing, for example, lifelong learning has taken on a new significance, because it is clear that we will have to make the most of the people we have.

"Technological developments and globalisation are also changing institutions' outlook, and we have to think about the local role that universities play as well.

"The fact that we are trying to do this from a European perspective, in the face of global competition, is a challenge, and it's very important that we keep going."

john.gill@tsleducation.com.

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