EI calls for sustainable public higher education funding and better conditions for mobility of academic staff and students at Bologna Process Ministerial Meeting

published 29 April 2009 updated 29 April 2009

The 6th Bologna Process Ministerial Meeting marked the passage of ten years since the signing of the original Bologna Declaration in 1999 with the goal of setting up the European Higher Education Area. EI has been a consultative member of the Bologna Process since the Ministerial meeting in Bergen in 2005.

The five-person EI delegation that attended this year’s conference in Leuven and Louvaine-La-Neuve, which took place from 28-29 April 2009, was headed by Deputy Secretary General Monique Fouilhoux, who delivered a speech expressing the concerns of higher education staff across Europe in relation to the Bologna Process.

Monique Fouilhoux referred to the principles of the Bologna Process and encouraged Ministers and institutions to work on comprehensive implementation of the Bologna action lines at the national and institutional levels, with meaningful inclusion of academic staff at both levels. She referred to the need for sustainable public funding of the Bologna reforms, particularly in the context of the global financial crisis and the need to offer support to academics in carrying out the reforms.

The principles of the Bologna Process have helped countries re-think their higher education systems. These principles require proper implementation, adequate funding, and support for staff, institutions and students. We must stand by these ongoing principles if we consider education to be the key tool for real sustainable recovery.

In the context of the sustainability of higher education systems, she also referred to the danger of precarious employment of staff and spoke about the need to uphold the rights of academic staff as guaranteed by the 1997 UNESCO Recommendation on Higher Education Teaching Personnel, in particular with reference to academic freedom.

Monique Fouilhoux also reminded the Ministers of the work done by EI and the European Students’ Union on mobility of academic staff and students. She challenged Ministers to stand by their commitment to this key pillar of the Bologna Process and to agree to reach the target that, by 2020, 20 percent of those graduating in the European Higher Education Area should have had a study or training period abroad.

The 46 ministers responsible for higher education in the European Higher Education Area concluded the meeting by adopting a Communiqué entitled The Bologna Process 2020 – the European Higher Education Area in the New Decade. In their Communiqué Ministers identify the following priorities for higher education in the next decade – the social dimension, lifelong learning, employability, the teaching mission of higher education and student-centred learning, research and innovation, international openness and mobility, adopting the 20 percent mobility target and calling for increased staff mobility.

In their Communiqué, Ministers also refer to the need for proper data collection to help monitor the implementation of Bologna objectives and the use of multidimensional transparency tools for providing information about higher education institutions. Ministers also confirm that public funding remains the main priority to guarantee further sustainable development of higher education.

At the end of their meeting, Ministers also held a discussion with representatives from 16 non-European governments at the first Bologna Policy Forum. The purpose of this forum was to start a dialogue on how worldwide cooperation in higher education can be enhanced and on how Bologna countries can develop closer links with higher education systems around the world.

Following this Ministerial meeting, EI will continue its work on the Bologna Process, with an ongoing focus on mobility together with the European Students’ Union and the European University Association. EI will work to produce an analysis of academics’ experience of the implementation of the Bologna Process to be presented at the Bologna Anniversary Conference to be held in Budapest and Vienna in March 2010.