The Bologna Process and EHEA

The Bologna Process is a series of reforms in the field of higher education that seeks to consolidate the European Higher Education with transparent, comparable and compatible systems of higher education in order to facilitate mobility, increase employability, allow equitable student access and progression, and strengthen Europe’s attractiveness and competitiveness worldwide.

In 2010, the 48 signee states and the European Commission launched the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), the decision-making space for the Bologna Process action lines. All EHEA participants agree and commit to:

  • implement a common three-cycle higher education system (bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral studies)
  • ensure mutual recognition of study programs through a common credit system (ECTS)
  • cooperate to guarantee quality assurance

One of the key tools implemented by EHEA members to make study plans more transparent and, therefore, recognisable is the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). ECTS serves as a criterion for consistency of programme design, delivery and monitoring, including the formulation of learning outcomes and workloads, learning activities and teaching methods, and assessment procedures. Credit allocation of study programmes is done according to learning outcomes and workload, taking into account that 60 ECTS is the equivalent to a full-time academic year. Typically, bachelor qualifications include 180 or 240 ECTS credits and master’s qualification include 90 or 120 ECTS credits (the 60 ECTS being the minimum required.)

Thanks to ECTS system, students are able to:

  • accumulate credits to obtain qualifications and to document learning
  • transfer or continue education at a different institution thanks to credit recognition and transfer

The Bologna process has attracted a lot of interest in other countries, including the USA, Canada, Brazil, Japan and China. Bologna has successfully promoted recognition and transparency which is seen as a positive development. Universities everywhere are adopting credit based systems and many use the three cycle system as a basic qualification framework.