The Sorbonne Declaration was signed in 1998 by ministers of four countries, namely France, Germany, Great Britain and Italy. The aim of the declaration was to create common provisions for the standardisation of the European Higher Education Area, where mobility should be encouraged both for students and graduates as well as for staff development. Furthermore, it was intended to ensure that qualifications are in line with current demands in the labour market.
The Bologna Process is the deepest and most ambitious structural reform of higher education in Europe, which began with the signing of the Bologna Declaration in 1999 in Bologna and is implemented in accordance with the Communiqué of the Ministerial Conference responsible for higher education, held every two to three years. At the Bologna Conference, a joint statement of European ministers of education was signed and the main lines of development outlined in the Bologna Declaration were outlined.
The Bologna Declaration is a declaration on international cooperation in higher education signed in Bologna by ministers of education from 29 European countries.
The Bologna Declaration provided for:
- The use of a system of clear, transparent and comparable degrees with the issuing of diploma supplements;
- the introduction of a three-cycle system of higher education;
- adopting a credit system as a means of enhancing mobility;
- encouraging mobility for the free movement of students and teachers;
- Developing European cooperation in the field of quality assurance with a view to developing comparable criteria and methodologies;
- Strengthening the European dimension in higher education.
At the Prague Conference of Ministers of Education, in addition to the six main lines of development of the Bologna Process outlined in the Bologna Declaration (comparable qualifications and their recognition, transition to the two-cycle system, introduction of ECTS, mobility, quality assurance, strengthening the European dimension in higher education), new areas of cooperation were explored:
- Lifelong learning;
- inclusion of students as active and equal partners in all stages of the Bologna Process;
- taking into account the social dimension of higher education;
- implementation of joint degree programmes of different profiles and new perspectives of transnational education;
- establishing a continuum of adequate quality assurance mechanisms - accreditation;
The Berlin Conference decided to focus efforts on the creation of the European Research Area and its interaction with the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) as a new development line of the Bologna Process. It was emphasised that first and second cycle degrees should have different orientations and profiles. In order to increase mobility and facilitate the recognition of higher education credentials, a goal was set to issue a Diploma Supplement to European graduates from 2005. The Berlin Communiqué stipulates:
- Quality assurance of education through: determination of the degree responsibility of HEIs, evaluation of programmes or institutions, external expertise, student participation in procedures and publication of results, availability of accreditation systems or similar procedures, international partnerships, cooperation and participation in networks;
- Degree structure: adoption of a two-cycle system, introduction of a credit system, recognition of degrees;
- Students: increasing the need for continuous involvement of students who are equal partners in the governance of higher education;
- Development of the European dimension of higher education;
- Lifelong learning;
- Improving the attractiveness of the EHEA;
- Introducing monitoring of the implementation of the parameters of the Bologna Process.
The Bergen Conference adopted the EHEA Comprehensive Qualifications Framework, which included three cycles (including intermediate qualifications allowed in national contexts), universal descriptors for each cycle based on learning outcomes and competences, and a credit range for the first and second cycle. A commitment was made to establish national qualifications frameworks compatible with the EHEA Comprehensive Qualifications Framework by 2010. The idea of a European register of quality assurance agencies based on national expertise was endorsed in Bergen. Attention was drawn to the issue of the social dimension in higher education: increasing access to higher education, ensuring socio-economic conditions for students, and facilitating them by governments and higher education institutions.
The Bergen Conference envisages:
- The introduction of a three-cycle structure of academic degrees - Bachelor's - Master's - PhD;
- Quality assurance through the systematic introduction of internal mechanisms of higher education institutions;
- Adoption of standards and guidelines for quality assurance in the EHEA;
- Endorsement of the idea of a European register of quality assurance agencies based on national expertise;
- Recognition of degrees and periods of study, recognition of joint degrees;
- Harmonisation of doctoral level qualifications with the EHEA comprehensive qualifications framework based on learning outcomes;
- Facilitating student mobility.
The London Conference noted progress towards the EHEA. An important achievement is the beginning of the transition from teacher-led learning to student-centred higher education. The main directions of the Bologna Process are summarized and priorities for 2009 are outlined: mobility, social dimension, employability, implementation of the EHEA strategy in a global context. Ahead of the Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve Ministerial meeting, the European University Association expressed its political position on the development of the Bologna Process and outlined the following main objectives for the period beyond 2010:
- Consolidation of the European broad base of research based on higher education;
- Linking higher education and research as a sign of European higher education;
- Providing more education to more people;
- A new understanding of the responsibility of universities towards society;
- Willingness to cope with global challenges.
Summing up, Ministers responsible for higher education stated at the Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve conference: "Over the past ten years, we have shaped the European Higher Education Area, ensuring that it is firmly rooted in Europe's intellectual, scientific and cultural heritage and aspirations. The priorities for the development of European higher education until 2020 were acknowledged to be:
- achieving equity in higher education;
- lifelong learning;
- employability of graduates;
- student-centred learning;
- linking higher education with research and innovation;
- the international openness of European higher education;
- increasing the mobility of students and academics;
- collecting information and ensuring transparency, improving public funding and seeking new sources;
- improving the organisational management structure of the Bologna Process.
The Conference acknowledged that the current organisational structure of the Bologna Process, based on cooperation between governments and the academic community, was fit for purpose. It was decided that in the future the Bologna Process would be co-led by the EU Presidency and a non-EU country.
This declaration was adopted at the 10th anniversary conference of the Bologna Process. On that occasion, the European Higher Education Area was officially launched, signalling the achievement of the objectives set out in the Bologna Declaration for a common European framework for higher education. However, the existence of the European Higher Education Area does not in itself mean that all the objectives set by the ministers involved in the Bologna Process have been achieved. Thus, we can say that the Bologna Process and the European Higher Education Area have entered a new phase - consolidation and fusion into a common space, which is particularly important in light of the different reactions to the implementation of the Bologna Process in Europe. In 2010, at the Budapest-Vienna Conference, Kazakhstan joined the Bologna Declaration and became the 47th member country of the Bologna Process.
At the Bucharest Conference, the Education Ministers decided to focus on three main objectives in the context of the economic crisis:
- Ensuring the quality of higher education for more students, to better prepare students with job skills;
- increasing student mobility. 47 countries have adopted a new European strategy to increase mobility with the specific objective that at least 20 per cent of those graduating in Europe in 2020 should study or do an internship abroad.
The Conference also included the third Bologna Policy Forum on the theme: "Beyond the Bologna Process: building and connecting national, regional and global spheres of higher education".
On 14-15 May 2015, the EHEA Conference of Ministers of Education and the fourth Bologna Political Forum took place in Yerevan, Armenia. The Ministers of Education of the EHEA member countries agreed to accept Belarus as a 48 country in the Bologna Process. It was also announced that the secretariat of the Bologna Process will be headed by France, which will host the next EHEA ministerial conference in 2018. The meeting concluded with the adoption of the Yerevan Communiqué and the Bologna Political Forum Statement. Countries agreed on the need to improve the quality and connectivity of learning and teaching, to promote the employability of graduates throughout their working lives, to shape a more inclusive education system and to implement agreed structural reforms.
Within the Bologna Political Forum statement, participants agreed on the development of national qualifications frameworks, cooperation in quality assurance, increased mutual recognition of qualifications, cooperation in developing and implementing a credit transfer system, taking into account the revised ECTS Users' Guide.
On 24-25 May 2018, the EHEA Conference of Ministers of Education and the fifth Bologna Political Forum took place in Paris, France. The meeting concluded with the adoption of the Paris Communiqué and the Bologna Political Forum Statement. It was also announced that the secretariat of the Bologna Process will be headed by Italy, which will host the next EHEA Ministerial Jubilee Conference in 2020.
At the Paris Conference, Education Ministers decided to focus on three key commitments crucial for strengthening and supporting quality and cooperation within the EHEA:
- A three-tiered system compatible with the EHEA comprehensive qualifications framework and first and second cycle degrees comparable to ECTS;
- compliance with the Lisbon Recognition Convention,
- quality assurance in line with the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the EHEA.
The Paris Conference was an opportunity to strengthen cooperation between countries for a better future of higher education.
On November 19, 2020, a conference of the Ministers of Education of the members of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) was held. The organizer is the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research. The conference was attended by more than 3,000 participants, ministers of education from 47 countries spoke.
The conference was attended by 48 ministers of higher education, the Council of Europe, the European Commission, UNESCO, EURASHE (European Association of Higher Education Institutions), ESU (European Student Union), EUA (European University Association), EQAR (European Register of Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education) other.
Kazakhstan was represented by a delegation headed by the Minister of Education and Science A.K. Aimagambetov.
The Communiqué prepared for this conference proposes to further develop higher education systems until 2030 to concentrate on three new areas:
- Inclusive. Each student will have equal access to higher education and receive comprehensive support in completing their education and training.
- Innovative. Introduce new and more consistent teaching, teaching and assessment methods and practices closely related to research.
- Interconnected. The common framework and tools will continue to facilitate and enhance international cooperation and reform, knowledge exchange and staff and student mobility.