The Bologna Process is an agreement between the countries in the European Union and a few neighbors designed to standardize the education system throughout Europe. This agreement created standardized rules which apply to colleges and universities across the continent. Why is this important for you? Because the Bologna Process created the unified bachelor/master system and the ECTS credit system, both of which make it much easier for Americans to study in Germany (and the rest of Europe) today.
The Bologna Process: Explained!
In 1999, twenty-nine countries in Europe, including Germany, signed on to a joint reform process to improve the quality of education at schools, colleges and universities in the continent and to standardize the entire education system across the continent. This was primarily aimed at making sure that the quality of education is similar across Europe and to iron out the stark differences that existed in the various systems at the time. The idea of this reform package was originated at the University of Bologna, hence the name.
The European Higher Education Area
The Bologna Process was negotiated through the Bologna Accords, leading to the formation of the European Higher Education Area. Presently, the signatories or countries pledged to the Bologna Process and subsequent reform are France, Denmark, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Iceland, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Slovakia, Romania, Slovenia, Switzerland, Croatia, Spain, Cyprus, Turkey, Vatican City, Georgia and the United Kingdom. Others have agreed to implement the reforms, and the mandate of the Bologna Process will ultimately go far beyond the borders of the European Union.
Significance of the Reform
Imagine one country in the European Union having a bachelor’s degree program that takes five years or four years and another country having the same course running for two years. It is unfair for the student in the former country to spend two more years and it may be too short a course for the student in the latter country. There has to be a standard that makes for a uniform system.
This was the first and most important result of the reform. All parties pledged to the reform have since standardized their higher education courses. This means that all Bologna countries have instituted a three-year bachelor/two-year master system. Additionally, each degree is mandated to include a particular number of credits. For bachelor's degrees, the standard number is 180 credits, while master's degrees generally include 120 credits. These credits are also standardized through the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). This enables countries that are party to the reforms to recognize credits obtained at universities outside their borders through a very details accounting of the academic work contained in each course.
Another major result of the Bologna Process has been the impact on industry. Companies operating across the continent don’t have to distinguish because of varying standards and policies of higher education. Although differences still exist, it is now much easier for employers to distinguish between the universities qualifications of graduates from foreign countries. This is also important for American students, as they can now easily explain their degrees to companies back home.
From ensuring quality courseware to taking steps to improve the transparency as well as compatibility of the education systems spanning dozens of countries, the Bologna Process has been extremely significant and beneficial, and has been a crucial step in making it possible and worthwhile for Americans to study in Germany.