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The Bologna Process

a voluntary method of coordination and marketisation?

Ole Henckel and Susan Wright

Ole Henckel is writing his PhD thesis on the relationship between national and European higher education policy as well as the history of the Bologna process. The aim of this interview was to learn about the historical background to the Bologna process, which interests were involved and which were excluded, what their motivations were, why they thought it was a good idea, and what they were trying to achieve? As the interview progressed, it focused on three themes. First, at what points did it become clear to participants that they were engaged in a new European 'great game' of creating not just a standardised Higher Education Area, but a global market? Second, how does the Bologna process work as an exemplar of the European Union's new form of governance through freedom, often referred to as the operation of 'soft power' or the Open Method of Coordination? Third, what are the most recent developments, and what kind of future is emerging?

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Bettina Dahl, Eirik Lien, and Åsa Lindberg-Sand

The aim of the Bologna Process is to make higher education systems across Europe more transparent. It is crucial for this purpose that confusion concerning the characteristics of the systems should be replaced by conformity. But, as we will show, conformity brought about at one level may create confusion at another. The curricular aspect of the Bologna Process focuses on a shift to outcome-based and student-centred programmes. Syllabi should now be based on intended learning outcomes (ILOs) and should be adjusted to general level descriptors for qualifications. However, the Bologna documents give no explicit recommendations about the use of grading scales. In Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the reforms of higher education induced by the Bologna process included a change of grading scales and referred to the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). Through these three case studies, we describe and analyse the political process and argumentation underpinning the decisions to change the grading scales in each country. This includes the problems, both experienced and perceived, with the old grading scales, the various national assessment traditions and the new grading scales. The purpose of the change was not the same in each country, but the ongoing adaptation to a seven-step grading scale was thought to ease the international recognition of the national grades, making mobility easier. Though a seven-step grading scale was implemented in both Danish and Norwegian higher education and also by an increasing number of Swedish higher education institutions, the translation of grades only works on a superficial level. The grading scales designed are fundamentally different as classification systems; they attach different numerical values to grades with identical labels and they relate differently to norm- and standards-referenced judgements of learning outcomes. The information condensed in similar grades from the three countries cannot be equated. The vision of simple transparency turns out to be an illusion.

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Melody Viczko

Internationalisation of higher education has been overwhelmingly embraced by Canadian universities (Beck 2009). Yet, the decentralised nature of higher education institutions, coupled with the absence of a national governing body with responsibility for higher education, creates an interesting terrain for internationalisation. In this paper, I examine the ideas related to internationalisation pursued by one Canadian organisation, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). Responding to concerns from Canadian institutions and government ministries about their potential exclusion from global markets, the AUCC took a national lead to better acquaint Canadian institutions with the Bologna reforms, declaring an urgent need to respond to the reforms taking place in Europe (AUCC 2008a). I analyse the policy knowledge, spaces and actors involved with internationalisation through the AUCC's interaction with the Bologna Process, to argue that a deeper entangling of universities in the ideational market-based competition embedded in neoliberal reforms has created tensions in how autonomy can be conceived in Canadian higher education.

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Qualifications frameworks for the European Higher Education Area

a new instrumentalism or 'Much Ado about Nothing'?

Berit Karseth

The purpose of this article is to explore the development of qualifications frameworks as a key element in the Bologna Process, which aims to develop a European Higher Education Area by 2010. By setting up descriptors of learning outcomes, a European qualifications framework is intended as an instrument that enables Europe to coordinate and exchange qualifications. Furthermore, the article analyses the proposal of a national qualifications framework in Norway and institutional responses to it. Despite general support for the idea of a framework, the analysis shows that the institutions question the possibility of a qualifications framework that fits all types of educational programmes.

With reference to curriculum theory the article concludes that the idea of a qualifications framework based on measurable learning outcomes represents a turn towards an instrumental curriculum approach in higher education, in contrast to a traditional curriculum approach which foregrounds disciplinary content and its mastery. Drawing on institutional theory the article also questions the possible impact of qualifications frameworks in higher education.

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Davydd J. Greenwood

This article summarises/analyses the higher education reforms proposed by the 'Spellings Commission' in the United States on quality assurance and accountability, and draws attention to the links I see between these reform proposals and the Bologna Process. I trace a brief history of the Spellings Commission and analyse it in order to produce questions for discussion about the 'parallel' processes of reform in higher education in the U.S. and Europe.

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Standardising Europe

The Bologna Process and new modes of governing

Andreas Fejes

This article explores how the discourses of the Bologna Process have been accepted and adopted as the dominating ones in European higher education. It consists of a governmentality and discourse analysis inspired by Foucault and based on selected European and Swedish policy documents. The aims of the analysis are to illustrate how governing operates discursively and how it is legitimized, to identify what subjectivities are being shaped and fostered and to de-stabilise the taken-for-granted ideas of the present and so contribute to a space for reflection on how governing and power operate in higher education today.

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Marte Mangset

British universities are known among the other Bologna countries not to have adjusted fully to the new common three-tier degree structure. Is it the case that British higher educational concerns are different from Continental concerns? A study of recent developments in two British graduate schools of history shows that a three-tier study structure was generalised in British universities 15 years ahead of Bologna as the one-year taught master's degree gained ground. This article argues that there were similar concerns related to massification and to an increasing demand for efficiency and employability in British, French and Norwegian higher education policy. These common concerns have been met by common reform measures in the three countries: a transition from individual and unstructured postgraduate degrees to structured and skill-oriented taught degrees. In contrast to the situation in other European countries, the Bologna Process has not represented a legitimate framework for higher education policy in Britain. However, British universities have proved susceptible both to national policy measures and to foreign university models. If the Bologna Process gradually appears as a strong and unified model, the British universities might not be immune to change.

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Laura Louise Sarauw

Critics often see the European Bologna Process as a univocal standardisation of higher education. By exploring how different qualifications frameworks project different social imaginaries of globalisation, this article takes a different stance. The overarching qualifications framework of the Bologna Process rests on a socially constituted and contested concept of globalisation as a change towards a more diverse and unforeseeable world, which calls for the development of flexible, lifelong learners with a broad knowledge base and strong democratic competencies. Although this social imaginary is widely known, I argue that it is also highly contested. For example, the Danish qualifications framework of 2003 projects a social imaginary of globalisation as a change towards a smaller and more predictable world, which enables a novel and more efficient alignment of the curriculum towards specific professional needs, and where the development of a broad knowledge base and democratic competencies are no longer prioritised.

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Higher education in the paradigm of speed

Student perspectives on the risks of fast-track degree completion

Laura Louise Sarauw and Simon Ryberg Madsen

’ completion time, the Danish reform employed the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) of the European Bologna Process, which has already been implemented in many countries. Thus, the Danish reform might be considered an easy-to-follow example for other

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Asta Vonderau

Drawing upon ethnographic data, this article investigates the effects of a new online campus management system in one of the largest universities in Germany. It shows the various ways in which this technological innovation influenced students', teachers' and administrative personnel's relations and everyday working practices and how it is influential in the reorganisation of university structures. The online management system is regarded as an important part of an emerging infrastructure of excellence, which materialises the changing understanding of qualitative studies and teaching. Findings show that the online management supports standardised and economised study, teaching and administrative practices and silences creativity and flexibility. However, these standardisations are negotiated and questioned by the actors involved.