- Government response to House of Commons Report (June 2007)
- Doctoral cycle in Bologna Process
- BFUG Ministerial Summit and Communique (May 2007)
- UK GRAD Programme submission to Bologna Process Ministerial Summit (April 2007)
- ESIB Bologna with Student Eyes Report (2007)
- House of Commons inquiry into the implications of the Bologna Process for the UK (November 2006)
- European University Association - conclusions from seminar on doctoral programmes (December 2006)
- Welsh Bologna Process seminar on enhancing European employability (July 2006)
- Europe Unit overview paper of recent developments in the Bologna Process relating to doctoral programmes (April 2006)
- EUA Bologna Process Follow-Up Group seminars (March-December 2006)
- Bergen Ministerial Summit gives go ahead on doctoral programmes as the third cycle (May 2005)
- European Commission paper for Bergen (May 2005)
The Bologna Process is an intergovernmental initiative that aims to create a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) by 2010 and to promote the European system of higher education worldwide. There are now 45 countries signed up to it and it is conducted outside the formal decision-making framework of the European Union, supported by the Bologna Process Follow-Up Group.
The Bologna Process was launched in 1999 when Ministers from 29 European countries, including the UK, met in Bologna and signed a declaration establishing what was necessary to create a EHEA by 2010.
The broad objectives of the Bologna Process became:
- to remove the obstacles to student mobility across Europe
- to enhance the attractiveness of European higher education worldwide
- to establish a common structure of higher education systems across Europe
- for this common structure to be based on two main cycles, undergraduate and graduate.
Since then the Bologna Process action lines [link to have increased to include a range of policy areas, including quality assurance, credit transfer and accumulation, lifelong learning and more recently doctoral degree programmes as the Third Cycle in higher education.
In its drive to improve the quality of higher education and, in turn, human resources across Europe, The Bologna Process will play a key role in achieving the EU's Lisbon Strategy goals, which aim to deliver stronger, lasting growth and to create more and better jobs.
The British Council, in cooperation with UK HE stakeholders, following approval by the European Commission appointed 15 ‘Bologna Experts' whose job it is to help inform UK higher education institutions about the Bologna Process reforms.
In June 2007, the government issued a Response to the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee's Fourth Report of Session 2006-7: The Bologna Process (pdf). Which stated that the government agrees with the committee's recommendations on mobility for researchers, and recognises the importance of being actively involved in the Bologna Process.
There are several elements involved in achieving coherence in European qualifications at doctoral level.
The Bologna Process consists of an overarching framework for qualifications in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). The framework comprises three cycles (including, within national contexts, the possibility of intermediate qualifications) with generic descriptors for each cycle based on learning outcomes and competencies.
The First Cycle is for undergraduate degrees, the Second Cycle for master degrees and the Third Cycle is the doctoral cycle covered in this section.
The generic descriptors are the Dublin Descriptors. For the doctoral cycle the generic descriptors are:
- have demonstrated a systematic understanding of a field of study and mastery of research associated with that field
- have demonstrated the ability to conceive, design, implement and adapt a substantial process of research with scholarly integrity
- have made a contribution through original research that extends the frontier of knowledge by developing a substantial body of work, some of which merits national or international refereed publication
- are capable of critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis of new and complex ideas
- can communicate with their peers, the larger scholarly community, and with society in general about their areas of expertise
- can be expected to promote, within academic and professional contexts, technological, social or cultural advancement in a knowledge based society.
These descriptors will in some countries form the basis for the national qualifications frameworks foreseen in the Bergen communiqué [add link to below - Bergen Ministerial Summit gives go ahead on doctoral programmes as the third cycle (May 2005)], and in any case they form the reference point for discussions on subject-based descriptors.
Compare with the UK descriptors for the doctoral degree.
The Bologna Process proposed using the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) as a transfer and accumulation system to promote the widespread student mobility. ECTS was originally introduced as part of the Eramus Programme in 1989 solely as a credit transfer system.
The UK is hoping that the use of credit in the European higher education area will reflect how credit is used in the UK and will be based on outcomes and not simply workload or ‘hours studied'.
There is considerable debate within Europe on whether credits can be used within doctoral programmes.
The Berlin Ministerial Communiqué on the Bologna Process calls for ‘every student graduating as from 2005 to receive the Diploma Supplement automatically and free of charge'. The Supplement is a document to be issued to students by their HE institutions on graduation. It aims to describe the qualification they have received in an easily understandable way and describes the content and structure of the higher education system within which it was issued. The concept of a Diploma Supplement is very similar to that of the UK transcript or student record.
In a survey conducted in 2007, 60% of UK HEIs who responded to the survey, use the Diploma Supplement, with the remainder urged to do so as soon as they can.
In late 2007, the Steering Group on Measuring and Recording Student Achievement, chaired by Professor Robert Burgess, Vice Chancellor of the University of Leicester, produced recommendations for the UK HE sector on degree classification in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. They recommended the development of a Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR), which will incorporate and build upon the Diploma Supplement.
In May 2007, 45 Education Ministers met in London for the fifth Ministerial Summit on the Bologna Process. The European Universities Association recommendations on the Doctoral Cycle were presented at this meeting The BFUG London Ministerial Communique May 07 issued after the meeting, highlighted the importance of aligning the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) with the European Research Area (ERA). It stressed the importance of doctoral researchers in this process and made useful reference to the importance of maintaining the variety of doctoral programmes, enhancing provision and improving career prosepcts through the development of transferable skills: all good news for UK doctoral programmes and the skills agenda.
Following a consultation process, UK GRAD submitted a consultation paper for the Bologna Process Ministerial Summit in London in May. The UK GRAD network generally supported the recommendations of the European Universities Association.
European Students Union (ESU) (the new name for ESIB) is the National Unions of Students in Europe, an umbrella organisation of 49 national unions of students from 38 countries representing over 10 million students. The aim of ESU is to represent and promote the educational, social, economic and cultural interests of students at a European level. It has produced a report on the Bologna Process ‘Bologna with Student Eyes'. It contains a section on doctoral programmes.
In 2006, The House of Commons Education and Skills Committee conducted an enquiry into the Bologna Process and its impact on UK higher education. It examined the advantages and disadvantages of the Process for the UK and helped to clarify the UK's position ahead of the 2007 Ministerial Summit. It also considered the broader impact of the Bologna Process across Europe.
The report from this inquiry commends the involvement of UK academics in the process of defining the Third Cycle, and makes few recommendations in this area.
The committee stressed the importance of recognising professional doctorates and of not accrediting doctorates through ECTS.
European University Association: conclusions from the seminar on doctoral programmes (December 2006)
The European University Association conclusions from the seminar, 'Matching Ambition with Responsibilities and Resources' held in Nice in December 2006 set out the recommendations for the BFUG Ministerial Summit, May 2007 in London on the Third Cycle.
The Welsh Assembly hosted a conference in Swansea with the topic 'Enhancing European Employability: the implications of the Bologna Three Cycles for employability', in July 2006. The focus of this seminar was to ensure that higher education is relevant to the labour market. One of the themes was to explore employability issues for doctoral graduates. Read the recommendations from the Swansea Bologna Seminar on enhancing graduate employability (July 2006).
Europe Unit overview paper of recent developments in the Bologna Process relating to doctoral programmes (April 2006)
The Europe Unit produced a useful overview paper Europe Unit paper on the Bologna Process doctoral cycle 2007 for its High Level Policy Group on the recent developments concerning doctoral level qualifications. It proposes a UK HE sector response to key issues to be discussed in the lead-up to the next ministerial summit in London in May 2007. This paper was updated as a briefing paper for participants of the final EUA Bologna Process seminar in December 2006 on the doctoral cycle.
EUA were charged by the Bologna Follow-Up Group to run a series of follow-up seminars on doctoral programmes to feed into the recommendations on the doctoral qualificiation as the third cycle in the Bologna Process.
The first workshop (Brussels, March 2006) focused on two aspects of doctoral programmes: the supervision, monitoring and assessment of doctoral programmes; and generic (transferable) skills training and its relation to learning outcomes and employability.
The second workshop (Brussels, October 2006) focused on the organisation of graduate/doctoral/research schools and their place in the global competition; the link between the Master and the doctoral level; the European dimension and mobility.
The final workshop (Nice December 2006) brought together all main actors to draw conclusions, look at policy implications and prepare recommendations for the Ministerial Summit in London 2007.
At the Bergen Summit the national ministers for higher education adopted the overarching framework for qualifications in the European Higher Education Area, comprising of three cycles, with generic descriptors for each cycle based on learning outcomes and competencies.
They acknowledged the need to fully align doctoral qualifications within the framework, using an outcomes-based approach. Universities were urged to ensure that their doctoral programmes are structured, with transparent supervision and assessment, promote interdisciplinary training and the development of transferable skills.
The Bologna Follow-Up Group was charged with preparing a report on the further development of the basic principles for doctoral programmes to present to Ministers at the 2007 Summit in London, 2007.
The European Commission submitted a paper ‘Realising the European Higher Education Area: achieving the goals' to the Bergen summit putting forward its ideas on the Bologna Process. It reinforces the Commission's desire to move to learning outcomes for higher education rather than accumulating 'points'.
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