The Bologna Process launched the European Higher Education Area in 2010, in which students can choose from a wide and transparent range of high quality courses and benefit from smooth recognition procedures. The Bologna Declaration of June 1999 put in motion a series of reforms needed to make European Higher Education more compatible and comparable, more competitive and more attractive for Europeans and for students and scholars from other continents. Reform was needed then and reform is still needed today if Europe is to match the performance of the best performing systems in the world.
The three overarching objectives of the Bologna process have been from the start: introduction of the three cycle system (bachelor/master/doctorate), quality assurance and recognition of qualifications and periods of study.
In the Bucharest Communiqué, April 2012, the Ministers identified three key priorities - mobility, employability and quality, and emphasised the importance of higher education for Europe's capacity to deal with the economic crisis and to contribute to growth and jobs. Ministers also committed to making automatic recognition of comparable academic degrees a long-term goal of the European Higher Education Area.
The Bucharest Communiqué builds on the Leuven Communiqué of 2009, which established priorities for 2010-2020:
Every second year, Ministers responsible for higher education in the 46 Bologna countries meet to measure progress and set priorities for action. After Bologna (1999), they met in Prague (2001), Berlin (2003), Bergen (2005), London (2007), , Belgium (April 2009), Budapest and Vienna (2010) and Bucharest (April 2012).
Steered by European Ministers responsible for higher education, the Bologna process, is a collective effort of public authorities, universities, teachers and students, together with stakeholder associations, employers, quality assurance agencies, international organisations and institutions. Although the process goes beyond the EU’s borders, it is closely connected with EU policies and programmes. For the EU, the Bologna Process is part of a broader effort in the drive for a Europe of knowledge which includes:
The EU's Agenda for the Modernisation of Europe's Higher Education Systems sup-ports a broad range of measures to modernise the content and practices of higher education in the 27 Member States with the support of the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP), the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA), and through the implementation of the 7th EU Framework Programme for Research (European Research Area) and the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme as well as the Structural Funds and loans from the European Investment Bank.
To establish synergies between the Bologna process and the Copenhagen process, which concerns vocational education and training, in co-operation with Member States, the Commission has established a European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning (EQF). The EQF is linked to and supported by other initiatives in the fields of transparency of qualifications (Europass), credit transfer (the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System for higher education - ECTS - and the European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training - ECVET) and quality assurance (European association for quality assurance in higher education - ENQA - and the European Network for Quality Assurance in Vocational Education and Training - ENQA-AVET).
The European Commission also supports a range of international education and training activities. These activities are an essential part of the EU's international policies and are becoming increasingly important, aiming to:
Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium (Flemish and French Community), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, the Holy See, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. In addition, the European Commission is also a voting member of the Follow-up Group.
Apart from the Member States, the Consultative Members also represent a central element of the Bologna Process. These include the Council of Europe, the Busi-nessEurope employers' organization, the pan-European trade union federation Education International (EI), the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), the European Students' Union (ESU), the European University Association (EUA), the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE) and the European Centre for Higher Education (UNESCO-CEPES).