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European Higher Education Area ‘lacks implementation’

Image: smolaw, via Shutterstock

European University Association calls for more action from governments ahead of ministerial meeting

A “lack of implementation” is holding back progress on Europe’s initiative to make its national education systems more compatible, the European University Association has complained.

The EUA published a statement on the European Higher Education Area on 22 May, ahead of a ministerial meeting to discuss the future policy direction of the initiative as part of the Bologna Process, a voluntary means for driving progress that started 25 years ago.

At the meeting in Albania on 29 and 30 May, ministers are due to discuss the next work programme for the EHEA, which currently involves 49 countries.

Credibility at stake

“The persisting lack of implementation across the entire EHEA diminishes the benefits of the Bologna Process for institutions, students and staff,” which could undermine “the reputation and credibility of existing European policy initiatives and instruments”, the EUA warned.

It said that while participants in the Bologna Process have agreed on the main aims around making their qualification recognition and quality assurance processes more compatible, actions to achieve these aims are “still not fully implemented” or even “sufficiently acknowledged” in some countries.

Most of the tools for the EHEA are “fit for purpose”, but changes are needed to elements including the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance, the EUA said.

Suggested improvements

The EUA also called for better synergies across Europe’s various reform initiatives affecting higher education.

For example, better transnational cooperation is needed not only in the EHEA but also in the similar European Education Area and European Research Area, it said, adding that reforming academic careers affects both research and education.

It also reiterated its call for a ‘university check’ in EU policymaking in general, to ensure that universities are taken into account.

This year, the EHEA began revising its rules of operation and announced the establishment of a secretariat by 2027 to support its work. While the EUA welcomed these steps, it said the goal should not be to “reach the finishing line for a certain number of reforms, but to maintain and enhance a European platform for policy reform, information exchange and collaboration”.