BRUSSELS – In light of the EHEA Ministerial Conference in Paris and the launch of Bologna with Student Eyes 2018 publication, the European Students’ Union (ESU) calls for ministers to properly implement Bologna Process commitments and to invest in social dimension to make higher education truly accessible for all. Students call on the European Union not to restrict cooperation within education only for the EU member states.
Full Implementation of Bologna Process commitments
ESU is deeply worried about the stagnation we are witnessing when it comes to the implementation of the European Higher Education Area. According to Bologna with Student Eyes 2018 publication, 40% of National Student Union disagree that all implemented Bologna reforms have been of high quality.
Students want to have their degrees and credits easily recognised across EHEA and an education of high quality.
However, the fact that even commitments that many consider the key building blocks of the EHEA have not been properly implemented can only be seen as a grand failure, jeopardising the existence and future of the process. ESU, therefore, calls on all members of the EHEA to urgently and fully implement the agreed commitments so that the EHEA can finally set and reach more ambitious goals.
Social Dimension – from endorsement to noting
The apathy for Social Dimension is alarming. The EHEA student population is far from being representative of our heterogeneous populations. Far from half of the EHEA members have adopted and implemented National Access Plans; the majority of the EHEA members have general targets related to widening participation but no specific measures for increased participation of underrepresented groups; and greater monitoring tools are yet to be developed, according to the 2018 Bologna Implementation Report.
Students call on the ministers to mandate the Bologna Follow Up Group to establish an EHEA thematic network of practitioners and stakeholder representatives for knowledge development, implementation support and effective evaluation in the field of Social Dimension supervising the Strategy for the Development of the Social Dimension and Lifelong Learning in the European Higher Education Area towards 2020.
The final countdown of the Bologna Process?
There are many uncertainties looming regarding the future of EHEA. The Bologna Process seems to be ending and unclarities remain as to how a future process built on trust would look like. Students want education processes to not be restricted to EU borders.
While the European student card EU pilot project has the potential of facilitating student mobility throughout EHEA, it is imperative that student unions are involved in the process. Changing these systems top-down essentially and critically harms student self-governance. ESU further demands that no cross-border solution is introduced that might overtake, endanger or in any way compete with local student card systems.
ESU welcomes the fact that the creation of European University networks is aimed at building synergies between the European Higher Education Area and the European Research Area. However, we demand that the EHEA is included as a whole in all the projected goals rather than narrowing the process of globalization of education to EU countries alone.
The future of EHEA depends on trust among education systems, common values and proper allocation of resources. Bologna with Student Eyes 2018 shows how students experience the implementation of the Bologna reforms, a sometimes different perspective than ministries.
Statement to the Ministerial Conference, adopted at Board Meeting 74 in Bled, Slovenia, 26 April 2018