General recommendations

Rethinking the Bologna Process must entail a full reassessment of its structures, and a possible two-speed process should be evaluated. Countries must take on the responsibility to fund the reforms that they have (or should have) implemented. Peer-learning between countries, as well as trainings for teachers and staff will also assist in the challenges of implementation. Data collection must also be enhanced, establishing objective indicators and taking into account the views of stakeholders in reporting. Finally, involving students, academics and institutions in all discussions and decision-making regarding the Bologna Process and its implementation is key.

Student Participation: ESU calls for immediate action to address the legislative and cultural barriers preventing or limiting meaningful student participation in higher education governance. All stakeholders have a role in ensuring student representatives are considered equal partners and are included and supported in decision making structures.

ESU calls for the treatment of the social dimension as a policy priority. Adequate data collection, identification and support of underrepresented groups and sufficient student support services must be provided to reach the goal of reflecting the diversity of populations among higher education students. To achieve these goals, not only sufficient funding but also the further implementation of national access plans is crucial.

Quality Assurance systems should be based on the principles and values of trust, participation and ownership of stakeholders and drive as real improvement. It is important that the revised version of the European Standards and Guidelines are rapidly implemented in cooperation with the national stakeholders. There should be further development of EQAR providing information about quality-assured higher education provision in EHEA, for example, having a database of official degrees (study programmes) offered within EHEA.

In order to properly implement student-centred learning, adequate funding and resources must be secured, ensuring that higher education institutions can provide students with a conducive learning environment. Students must also be in the driver’s seat, and here countries and institutions have the responsibility to ensure student representation in all decision-making processes. Staff must also receive continuous pedagogical training. Providing flexible learning paths where students are provided with real choice in curriculum and assessment methods is a key component of SCL. Holistic strategies, frameworks and procedures for the implementation of SCL and assessing its success should be a guiding tool in this process.

There must be accessible, clear and transparent procedures for recognition, but the procedures cannot serve as a bureaucratic burden. Automatic recognition of degrees should be implemented between the EHEA countries that have already fully implemented the Bologna structural reforms, as there would then not be any substantial differences with similar qualifications in any other EHEA country, in line with the Lisbon Recognition Convention. The Diploma Supplement should be fully implemented and automatically granted upon graduation or before graduation upon request. Recognition of prior learning (RPL) should be available for the purpose of enrollment in higher education as well as available for the purpose of replacement of parts of the curriculum. RPL mechanisms must be flexible and student-friendly.

Making mobility a reality is still a challenge. It must be perceived not as a goal itself but as a tool of or a result of internationalisation process. Every commitment must be followed solidary by the countries in order to ensure conditions for mobility on institutional, national level across and beyond Europe. The 20% target has to be reviewed and efforts need to be taken to ensure equal participation of underrepresented groups by removing target specific obstacles and granting support by full portability of grants and loans, adequate information provisions and automatic recognition.

Internationalisation strategies have to be in place on national and institutional levels that are designed, monitored and followed up with the engagement of all relevant stakeholders. They should embrace measurable targets, language policies and internationalisation at home in order to further create the coherent and attractive European Higher Education Area.

Full implementation of the structural reforms requires an understanding of the interdependence of the reforms. Countries cannot chose in an ‘á la carte’ manner which reforms they prefer, but must develop and implement them from a holistic perspective. Incentives such as automatic recognition for those countries that have implemented the reforms may function as an incentive for improved implementation. In order to ensure the transformation of the structures, the development of reforms must involve the academic community and cannot be a top-down, forced process.

The countries need to take an effort to define and differentiate employment and employability, as those constitute two different concepts. Employability has to be perceived as ability to learn and gain employment whereas employment as an actual acquisition of a job. Higher education systems must not be designed to match the labor market needs, but should rather be tailored according to the needs of the society as a whole and recognize and keep in mind the complexity and diversity of educational programs, disciplines and professions when discussing enhancement of employability of graduates. Policies designed on national levels should clearly reflect that approach and make sure that it is followed in decision making processes within higher education systems.

Financing of Higher Education: ESU urges Ministers to recommit to treating higher education as a public good and public responsibility by securing public funding and protecting education from austerity, as an investment in the future.