Bologna Process

The Bologna Process - a series of ministerial meetings and agreements between European countries designed to facilitate comparability and compatibility between higher education systems – began with the signature of the Bologna Declaration at the University of Bologna, Italy, in 1998. It led to the creation of the European Higher Education Area in 2010, currently made up of 48 countries.

Bologna process
  1. The Lisbon Recognition Convention (1997)
  2. The Sorbonne Declaration (1998)
  3. The Bologna Declaration (1999)

The initial goal of the Bologna Process was to lay down the foundations of the European Higher Education Area, with a harmonised degree and credit accumulation system. A second phase aimed at establishing a policy for ensuring the quality of qualifications, both in institutions and training.

The Lisbon Recognition Convention (1997)

Officially the 'Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region', it was developed by the Council of Europe and UNESCO and adopted by national representatives meeting in Lisbon on 8 - 11 April 1997. It is considered to be the first general agreement under international law on the mutual recognition of academic achievements and qualifications and it aims to facilitate the recognition of foreign academic achievements and qualifications. Most European countries have since ratified this Council of Europe / UNESCO Convention, usually referred to as the Lisbon Convention.

The Sorbonne Declaration (1998)

In 1998, during the 800th anniversary of the Université de Paris celebrations, a meeting took place in Paris with the education ministers from Germany, France, Italy and the UK. This meeting resulted in the Sorbonne Declaration which encouraged a common framework of reference aimed at "harmonising the architecture of the European Higher Education system".

The Bologna Declaration (1999)

The following year, a conference held at the University of Bologna in Italy brought together education ministers from 29 countries to discuss educational reform and how to meet the increasing challenge of international education. The conference concluded with the signature of the Bologna Declaration.

Initially, a two-degree structure of bachelor’s and master’s degrees was agreed upon which every signatory country would adopt. This was subsequently widened to include doctoral degrees. The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) was then created to allow the comparison of study programs and qualifications.

The number of years of each cycle varies by country:

Cycle Nombre d'années ECTS credits*
First cycle 3 or 4 180 – 240
Second cycle 1, 1 ½ or 2 60, 90 or 120
Third cycle Unspecified No credits or range of credits have been assigned to the third cycle

* one year of studies - 60 ECTS

Country Bachelor's degree Master's degree
France 3 years 2 years
Georgia 4 years 2 years
Germany 3-4 years 1-2 years
Poland 3-4 years 2-2 ½ years

Policies were put in place to help faculty, students and staff move across national borders. The Bologna Process thus became intimately connected to the European Union’s economic and integration goals involving the free movement of goods, services, and people.

After the Bologna Declaration was signed, a follow-up structure was set up: the Bologna Follow-Up Group (BFUG). It decided that the Ministerial meetings would take place every two years.
It was later opened up to other countries signatory to the European Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe and further gouvernmental meetings were held. The first was in Prague in 2001, followed by Berlin in 2003, Bergen in 2005, London in 2007 and Leuven in 2009.

These regular ministerial meetings and seminars have involved the Council of Europe, the European Commission, the Bologna Follow-up group, the European Students Union and the European University Association. The Bologna Process currently has 57 parties: 49 higher education systems in 48 countries (including Belgium Flemish and French Community), the European Commission, and several consultative members: the Council of Europe, the European University Association, the EURASHE, the ESU – European Students' Union, UNESCO-CEPES, ENQA, Education International Pan-European Structure and UNICE.

The next Ministerial Conference will be held in Paris, France, from 23 to 25 May 2018.