1. Bologna With Student Eyes ‐ from 2003 to today

The European Students’ Union (ESU) has been contributing to the review of the implementation of the Bologna Process since 2003, when it published the first Bologna With Student Eyes (BWSE). Over the course of more than a decade the authors of these publications have presented the state of play of the Bologna‐initiated reforms from the perspective of our member unions.

In 2012 the authors changed their angle, and BWSE became not only a reflection of student views on the implementation of the Process itself. It has rather taken a more holistic approach to the Bologna Process, looking closer at its impact on European integration, benefit to wider society, contribution to lifelong learning and, more importantly, the future of European higher education. This edition BWSE has similar aims, and this is reflected by the methods used to collect and analyse data, write and review the content and finally publish BWSE 2015.

The aim of each of the publications has been and continues to highlight the current status, successes and future challenges that students see in the implementation of reforms and the Process as a whole. It aims to complement the views presented by other stakeholders and the governments themselves, for instance represented in the EHEA implementation reports.

2. Selection of methods

Identification of the research problems

The contributors have started their work in summer 2014 with ESU elected representatives having an in‐depth analysis of the relevant background followed by a broad discussion about the approach that should be taken to this year’s publication, as well as the topics most relevant for this stage of the Bologna Process and this year’s Ministerial Conference. This facilitated the formulation of main focuses and the impact of the publication within four areas of ESU’s work, i.e. social dimension, quality assurance, public responsibility and mobility and internationalisation. Within these four areas, student‐centred learning, recognition, financing and governance are key topics that have guided the Bologna Process for many years. Subsequently, ESU has been a key player in discussions on the future of the Bologna Process, which will also be one of the key debates up for discussion at the Ministerial Conference for 2015. This is a new feature of this edition, which ESU hopes will provide food for thought in these discussions.

Focus groups

At an event held in January 2015, many of ESU’s member unions met to discuss the Bologna Process, the implementation of reforms and key priorities for both BWSE and the 2015 Ministerial Meeting. Unions were divided into groups for each of ESU’s four areas of work, and were invited to share and discuss their views on the status of implementation of Bologna reforms in their countries within these areas. This assisted in guiding the development of the questionnaire, and some of the discussions have also been highlighted in this publication.

Designing the questionnaire and data collection

This year’s questionnaire took a new approach, aiming for a more holistic view on the topics and implementation of reforms. The questionnaire was much shorter than in previous years, which has also served to ensure a high response rate, while still maintaining a substantial quality in responses. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected, using closed questions of dichotomous, ordinal and semantic differential form, complemented by open‐ended questions to allow for respondents to provide detailed responses highlighting the specificities of their countries.

The data were collected in the following areas: student participation, social dimension, quality assurance, recognition, mobility and internationalisation, structural reforms, financing as well as there was a set of general questions about the Bologna Process.

Over the course of three weeks, over 38 National Unions of Students responded, reaching from Norway to Malta and Ireland to Armenia. This has contributed to a high degree of representativity that captures the diversity of perspectives between ESU’s member unions.

Analysing and interpreting the data

Having collected qualitative and quantitative data, they were analysed and interpreted by the authors of the chapters and included in the main findings of respective chapters of this publication. The crosscutting approach has been taken, therefore the analysis took place not only in the context of specific chapters, but also took into consideration the inter‐dimensional context of certain issues.

The data collected from the questionnaire was complemented by findings from other studies and reports produced by, among others, Eurostudent, the European Commission and other stakeholders, as well as the findings from research publications prepared by ESU itself, from projects such as PASCL (Peer Assesment of Student‐Centred Learning) and SAGE (Student Advancement on Graduates Employability).

Reporting and drafting conclusions

Trends found in the analysis provided the basis for drawing the conclusions in the content areas. They were used to support the main messages of each chapter and the overall publication. Therefore, it was important to discuss the main conclusions and recommendations in the context of the different chapters to prove the multilayered and inter‐dimensional character of the content areas to ensure the holistic approach to the Bologna Process.

In the process of drafting the publication, the main outcomes were shared and discussed with the respondents and other representatives from ESU’s National Unions of Students during various meetings and events, which served as a peer‐learning exercise. The publication was first presented in online version at the website bwse2015.esu‐online.org and it was further compiled into one cohesive publication. The authors continued working on the final version with the feedback received. The final outcomes were then presented to the higher education experts and the relevant stakeholders on the European and national level.

3. Closing remarks

The results of this publication intend to provide an overview and in‐depth analysis of the student perspective on the implementation of Bologna‐initiated reforms and developments within the higher education systems in their respective countries. In this way, it seeks to complement the perspectives seen in other reports, such as the 2015 EHEA implementation report. Additionally, it aims to present the challenges, students believe, must be addressed at the 2015 Ministerial Meeting in Yerevan and the goals for the next period up to another Ministerial Conference.

Students have always been a driver of change in society, and by providing a critical analysis of the current state of play, BWSE aims to trigger that change by contributing to the discussion on European and national level. In the spirit of the evidence‐based policy‐making, the research results provide a foundation for creating a clear political statement and recommendations for further actions to be taken.