Posted tagged ‘European Higher Education Area’

The European dimension

March 20, 2010

Just over a week ago, on March 12, Education Ministers from 47 countries formally launched the European Higher Education Area. In essence this is an output from the Bologna process, and the newly launched ‘area’ contains countries that have adapted their higher education systems to Bologna, so that in principle students from any of the 47 countries will now be able to take their credits from programmes they are doing and transfer with these credits to a university from another of these states.

On the occasion of the launch the Ministers also agreed on a general statement – the Budapest-Vienna Declaration on the European Higher Education Area, which can be seen here. The Declaration is strong on general high level statements (as is common in European documents), but in this case it also addresses some key issues such as autonomy for universities and the proper resourcing of higher education.

Right now the risk is that the European Higher Education Area is being launched just as member states are finding it difficult to maintain funding, and in some countries (including Ireland) public funding is falling. If Europe is really aiming to develop a higher education sector that can compete on level terms with the United States, then these issues will need to be addressed urgently. Furthermore, the Bologna process – which is standardising the types of higher education qualifications across Europe – has generated significant hostility in countries that have been used to less well defined standards; while at the same time other commentators are suggesting that the substance of the European Higher Education Area is light. It is therefore to be hoped that the launch, and the additional attention that this may bring for higher education, will persuade governments that higher education cannot be run on a shoestring and must be properly resourced.