The Italian City of Bologna saw the birth of a transnational agreement on the future of European higher education in 1988. Four hundred and thirty rectors and presidents of higher education institutions, including former president of the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg Professor Dr. Michael Daxner, signed the Magna Carta Universitatum Europeum.
In 1999, twenty six education ministers decided to create a European 'higher education area' with comparable and interchangeable degrees. The Bologna Declaration outlines certain goals and instruments to be used in achieving its central vision. Today, 46 countries agree to the terms if the Bologna Declaration and are in the process of implementing it in their respective systems.
The fundamental abstract goals and instruments for the creation of a 'Europe of Knowledge' are:
Developing easily understandable and comparable degrees and labour market relevant qualifications (focus on employability) for the people of Europe
Facilitating the greatest possible degree of student mobility
- Promoting general mobility and overcoming obstacles that may stand the way, particularly:
- For students: access to study and training opportunities corresponding services
- For lecturers, researchers, and administrators: recognition and consideration of time spent abroad for research, teaching, or professional training, irrespective of the statutory rights of these groups.
Encouragement of European cooperation in quality assurance with regards to formulating comparable criteria and methods
- promotion of the necessary European dimensions in higher education, for example in the development of curricula and in cooperation between institutions
Instruments to be used in achieving the aforementioned goals, as already outlined in the 1999 Bologna Declaration:
Introduction of a bi-level system of studies (two cycles): after the first cycle (lasting at least 3 years), certifies a degree qualification at a level suitable for entry into a relevant field in the European labour market. The second cycle should end in a master's degree and/or doctoral studies, as is already the case in many European countries. (Note: In the mean time, doctoral studies have come to occupy a third academic cycle.)
Introduction of an annotation to the degree certificate in English (Diploma Supplement) in order to produce a degree of international transparency, making degrees comparable
- Introduction of a credit point system, building on the previously developed European Credit and Accumulation Transfer System.
The guidelines contained in the Bologna Declaration were adopted in Germany through the resolutions of the 'Kultusministerkonferenz' (Resolutions from 2003 and 2005 can be found under www.kmk.org/hschule/home.htm; the collection of resolutions at www.ahpgs.de/hrk-kmk/hrk-kmk.htm is also noteworthy), the alteration of the 'Hochschulrahmengesetz' (s. §§ 18 und 19 HRG) and the introduction of the BA/MA structures in up to 50% of the present study programs at the national level. This is a distinguishing factor in the 'German way to Bologna', for example, that the bachelor level has been declared to be the first professional-level academic degree, limited to a normal study period of a minimum of six semesters. A look at the German speaking neighbour countries clarifies that such stipulations are neither prescribed in the Bologna Declaration nor without alternatives.
For more on this, see the following:
- Website of the "Schweizer Hochschulrektorenkonferenz"
- Website of the "Universitätenkonferenz Österreich"