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European Higher Education Area

The 1999 Bologna Declaration laid the foundations for the European Higher Education Area. Its objective remains as relevant today as it ever was: to make it possible to study and research across borders throughout Europe.

The aim of the European Higher Education Area

The European Higher Education Area (EHEA) aims to make it possible for students, teachers, researchers and administrative staff in academia to be mobile: as part of exchanges and work or study experience abroad; in the context of transparent, comparable study programmes which are quality assured; and to have their periods spent abroad recognised. European ministers with responsibility for higher education agreed the Bologna Declaration in 1999. Austria’s representative was the Education Minister at the time, Caspar Einem.
This aim remains unchanged, although a total of 48 European countries, the European Commission plus some representative bodies are all now involved in the EHEA. The area reaches beyond the 28 Member States of the European Union, see ‘European Higher Education Area and the European Union’.  Bologna is a process of higher education policymaking, and as such is subject to continuous adaptation.

Voluntary participation

One special feature of the Bologna Process is that countries participate voluntarily, declaring that they are willing to reform their national higher education systems in line with the EHEA’s objectives and priorities. Thus the EHEA extends far beyond implementing the three-cycle structure, which is now largely complete in participating countries. It covers many topics, such as improving the quality of teaching and learning, the social aspect, and fair and transparent recognition of achievements while studying.

The communiqués

The communiqués agreed during the three-yearly conferences of higher education ministers from across the EHEA form the political basis for implementing the Area’s objectives and priorities. The 1999 Bologna Declaration launched the process, and was followed by the 2001 Prague Communiqué. This was followed in turn by the communiqués from: Berlin 2003, Bergen 2005, London 2007, Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve 2009, Budapest/Vienna 2010, Bucharest 2012 and Yerevan 2015. The latest communiqué was agreed in Paris in May 2018.
In Paris, the higher education ministers agreed to expand the focus of the Bologna Process. It now also covers preserving fundamental academic values such as the independence of universities and academic freedom. The communiqué also gives higher priority to the topics of innovation in teaching and learning and the social dimension in higher education. Transnational cooperation is a particularly ambitious plan. One means of achieving this is by creating ‘European universities’.  Another objective, which was established as early as 1999, is to increase mobility in the higher education industry to such an extent by 2020 that at least 20% of graduates within the EHEA have completed a study or training period abroad which is relevant to their course.

The European Bologna Follow-Up Group

As the political steering group at EHEA level, the European Bologna Follow-Up Group (BFUG, see ‘Stakeholders in the Bologna Process’) prepares the material for the conference of ministers and the political communiqués. The BFUG also monitors implementation of the current regulatory programme. The Group comprises representatives from all participating EHEA countries, the European Commission, bodies representing higher education establishments and various other relevant representative bodies.

Implementation in Austria

EHEA objectives are implemented in Austria with the involvement of as many relevant stakeholders as possible. They are represented within the national Bologna Follow-Up Group (Nat. BFUG, see ‘Stakeholders in the Bologna Process’). This is an efficient means of combining expertise from the various representative bodies and institutions, while also reflecting at the national level what is discussed and recommended at a European level.

Links:

Contacts:

Department IV/4 – National Implementation of the Bologna Process
Stephan De Pasqualin
T: +43 1 53120 5670
stephan.depasqualin@bmbwf.gv.at

Department IV/11 – European Higher Education Area, EU Education Programmes, Bologna Process and Mobility
Manuela Fried
T: +43 1 53120 5670
manuela.fried@bmbwf.gv.at