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Students’ Views on Bologna Process: New Report

Students’ Views on Bologna Process: New Report main image

This week the European Students’ Union (ESU) released its latest Bologna With Student Eyes report. Published annually since 2003, the report highlights current problems arising from implementation of the Bologna Process across the European Higher Education Area, from a student perspective.

The Bologna With Student Eyes report is significant as it shines a spotlight on the needs of students and teachers, in relation to ambitious Bologna reform strategies that have been rolled out across Europe since 1999.

The Bologna Process aims to establish a pan-European higher education system, supporting quality assurance and ease of movement for students and graduates. While these aims are widely lauded, the slow pace of Bologna reform and its poor implementation in some parts of the European Higher Education Area have been prominent causes for concern.

This year’s Bologna With Student Eyes report highlights the problems arising from uneven implementation of Bologna reform and failures to follow up on prior commitments. At times, ESU says, the name of the Bologna Process has also been misused by governments in order to push national agendas, bringing the process into disrepute. Funding cuts are identified as a leading cause of delays and interruptions to implementation.

MEPs in alliance with European Students’ Union

ESU’s calls for reform have been supported by several members of the European Parliament. MEP Krystyna Łybacka has reiterated that much more needs to be done to address the challenges currently facing the European Higher Education Area before the goals of Bologna reform can be fulfilled.

MEP Therese Comodini Cachia has also supported ESU’s campaign, calling for recognition of the importance of prioritizing student-centered learning in degree programs across the European Higher Education Area. As essential stakeholders, students and lecturers should have more say in decision-making processes, including the design and delivery of programs, Comodini Cachia believes.

While 29 EU countries have legislated for student involvement in the running of universities, seven nations still lack any formal ruling on this. The report also notes that the view of students as ‘consumers’ of higher education as opposed to equal partners is widespread across the region.

In many cases where Bologna reform has been poorly implemented, the report argues, lack of governmental support and funding is to blame. This issue has been highlighted by MEP and member of the European Free Alliance (EFA) Ernest Maragall, who calls for greater focus on supporting implementation for commonly agreed-upon reforms, helping member countries when they encounter difficulties.

What’s next for the Bologna Process?

To combat the key issues outlined in the report, the European Students’ Union sets out a number of recommendations for the European Union, including a strong call to give students and teachers a bigger role in assuring the quality of their institution.

ESU calls for Europe-wide legislation for student representation, better support structures and training for student representative groups, as well as highlighting the need for independent quality assurance and more transparency regarding reform. Giving individual institutions more say in the direction of the reforms, ESU says, would be an effective way to create more trust in the system and improve student participation.

Meanwhile, in reference to the ‘social dimension’, the report concludes that a more holistic approach is needed to tackle discrimination of underrepresented groups, arguing that a clear plan to improve access to higher education should be implemented. Following an ‘era of stagnation’ for support services, public budgets remain in decline, meaning many students are not receiving the support they need to achieve their best. ESU calls for public funding to prioritize this support, in order to improve both access and completion rates.

For governing bodies this means increased funding is a necessity to ensure nations are not forced into cutting corners during reform, while further incentives and recognition for institutions that have achieved their targets are also needed. If problems continue, ESU leaves no question that student voices must be heeded.

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Laura Tucker's profile image
Written by Laura Tucker
Laura is a former staff writer for TopUniversities.com, providing advice and guidance for students on a range of topics helping them to choose where to study, get admitted and find funding and scholarships. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London, Laura also blogs about student life.

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