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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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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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Conformity or confusion? Changing higher education grading scales as a part of the Bologna Process

the cases of Denmark, Norway and Sweden

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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Masters or servants? Power and discourse in Serbian higher education reform

Jana Baćević

A series of events concerning the reform of higher education in Serbia, revolved around whether students who graduated prior to the formal adoption of the Bologna Process should be given the title of Masters, instead of Bachelors. It quickly became a matter of public contestation between different actors, resulting in a student protest that developed into a critique of the ‘neoliberal’ reform of higher education. This article analyses the sequence of events and the discursive strategies of the actors involved. In showing how the protests became part of power negotiations on the political scene in Serbia, the conclusion reflects on the relationship between power and discourse.

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How has mobility become central to the EU’s idea of doctoral education?

A brief overview of the history of a policy idea

Pavel Zgaga

This article addresses why and how mobility has become central to the EU’s idea of doctoral education, aiming to reconstruct, in a historical perspective, the gradual conceptualisation of mobility as a policy idea. This process began with the discussion of academic mobility in the 1970s, when the European Communities had as yet no responsibility in the field of education, which resulted in the Erasmus Programme. In the late 1990s, the Bologna Process strengthened the discussion, substantially contributing to a consideration of mobility as a policy tool and the establishment of a mobility strategy. In connection with the EU research policy, the integration of doctoral studies into the Bologna Process is specifically analysed. The article concludes with some open questions, including the potentially negative consequences of the instrumentalisation of higher education for the concept of mobility.

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Two Failures of Left Internationalism

Political Mimesis at French University Counter-Summits, 2010–2011

Eli Thorkelson

’s Jospin government (1997–2002), the minister of education, Claude Allègre, reckoned that national university reforms could only pass with international backing. For Allègre, at the inception of the Bologna Process at a 1998 Sorbonne conference, a pan

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Editorial

‘Why ever are the Europeans doing this to themselves’ asked an American professor recently. He was referring to the Bologna Process, whereby 46 signatory European Ministers offered voluntarily to bring their higher education systems into alignment over a period of 10 years, ending in 2010. This special issue of LATISS looks at how the Bologna process came about, and how it works as a new form of governance in Europe, which creates conformity through peer pressure. We then examine two elements of the Bologna process in detail – the standardised degree cycle and the qualifications frameworks. Hopefully, this special issue1 goes some way to answering the American colleague’s question and, at the same time, contributes to a critical assessment of the Bologna process as it nears its target date for completion.

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Qualifications frameworks and their conflicting social imaginaries of globalisation

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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Bologna in America: The Spellings Commission and neo-liberal higher education policy

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.