COPENHAGEN – The Bologna Follow-Up Group discussed the draft Bucharest communiqué at their last meeting in Copenhagen on 18 and 19 January. The communiqué is to be signed by ministers at a conference in the enormous Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest on 26 and 27 of April. In relation to this, the BFUG also discussed the progress report of the Bologna Process reforms in all 47 member states of the European Higher Education Area.
Unsurprisingly, the discussion relating to the current economic situation and outlook dominated many of the discussions. More and more governments are worried about the implications of high unemployment, especially for youth, in many countries.
Key message emerging from the meeting was that more needs to be done to connect higher education with societal and economic development and that ministers of finance, economy and heads of governments need to be convinced about the added value and importance of higher education. In this, the link to the labour market seems to be of vital importance – how to prepare for unknown future and jobs that don’t exist, while balancing this out with competences benefitting the entire society, underlining democracy and citizenship.
In other regards, there was wide agreement that Bologna structural reforms are still pretty much work in progress and that this addressed in the next three years. Many problems in usage of credit system and degree structure still exist. Establishing national qualification frameworks and making recognition of prior learning a reality are still major reforms-in-waiting for a majority of EHEA members.
There is also a link between two issues as finishing the Bologna reforms all across Europe will surely help the higher education sector to better respond to these challenges. BFUG also endorsed in principle a new strategy for mobility of students in Europe, which sets a comprehensive task list in order to move towards the goal of having 20 percent of graduates in 2020 had a mobility experience.
The discussion over the exact action plan is continuing with a BFUG meeting in March and ahead of the Ministerial Conference. The European Students’ Union (ESU) is also preparing its own report about the progress of the Bologna Process in a new 2012 version of the Bologna With Student Eyes which will be published in March.