If the prediction of the period between 2018-2020 being the last can only the future tell. With or without the Bologna Process, the European Higher Education Area might still stand and in order to do so, the following recommendations has to be considered.
Democratic procedures for electing and/or selecting student representation has to be safeguarded and stated as an absolute must by governments in the EHEA countries. Laws have to be put in place to secure participation in decision making, and these have to guarantee a proportion that makes actual influence on end outcomes possible. Students’ right to self-organise and create unions and other structures to impact decision making should be fostered through supporting systems and recognition. EHEA countries must uphold representation as an absolute fundamental value and not accept any deviations by other member states.
Social Dimension needs to become a real policy priority, concrete measures need to be taken and implemented to mirror the diversity of the European population in its higher education system. Particularly, student tracking measures need to be implemented to define underrepresented groups and better understand how to foster their inclusion. The development of national access plans is crucial to ensure full participation of all members of society to higher education, as well as concrete and effective dropout prevention measures are needed to assure everyone’s right not only to access education, but also to fully participate in it and take the most out of the learning experience.
To counter a long-lasting problem of lack of implementation, the main focus needs to be given to institutional implementation, while a diversity of approaches should be ensured. Trust-building, access to information and transparency are being perceived as more and more important purposes of QA, so a focus should be given to these issues to ensure equal opportunities in QA. Students want to be a part of governance, decision-making, improvements, but their roles have to be meaningful. Reforms have to target students’ place in the system to ensure partnership and possibilities for real involvement. QA tends to be introduced just for the sake of procedures, while its impact is crucial, students want to see real results of the QA and of their involvement. Students’ participation in HE is one of the fundamental values of the EHEA, so any QA reforms have to be based on this approach.
In general, there is a need to simplify recognition procedures, especially those dealing with recognizing credits outside of mobility programs. In order to achieve the goal of automatic recognition, all Bologna tools need to be fully and consistently implemented, with quality assurance processes being equally reliable across countries. Recognition of informal and non-formal learning and its connection with formal learning must be developed, especially focusing on finding new ways of fostering trust between all stakeholders by creating and promoting reliable ways of assessing students’ competences resulting from different experiences.
Mobility and Internationalisation
Mobility and internationalisation must finally be a prioritised topic in Europe to achieve set goals – this includes sufficient financing. Special attention must be paid to widening access to mobility for students from marginalised groups. Balanced mobility must be a clear goal.
The quality of the National Qualifications Frameworks must be reviewed to ensure full compliance with EQF. ECTS must be implemented reliably and according to the ECTS Users’ Guide across EHEA. Flexibility within three cycle systems should be enabled, not reduced – students should have the possibility to study part-time.
Financing of Higher Education
Europe should see free higher education as a long-term goal. Students must be given adequate support through grant systems, which must be preferred over re-payable support systems. Governments and HEIs must discontinue discriminatory practices regarding study fees. Support systems must be reviewed to ensure access to higher education, and acceptable living conditions during studies. Education restrictions based on national economic policies must be stopped.
Student Centred Learning
Implementation of student-centred learning can be facilitated by other improvement of the learning and teaching process, including the implementation of basic Bologna tools, such as learning outcomes and the ECTS system. At the same time, students need to become co-creators of their educational experience, both through formal inclusion in governance at all levels and through informal interaction and planning. Both internal and external quality assurance systems need to effectively assess learning and teaching and encourage innovation.
Future of the Bologna Process
The future of the process is depending on the past. If implementation of agreed commitments does not function, finances are clearly not allocated leaving the implementation at a low level and of not satisfactory quality. Students call on allocating the resources needed to implement and make sure that the implementation is of high quality. and treat all commitments as equally important for a sustainable EHEA even after the end of the Bologna Process.