Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-21, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 22 September, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


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Bologna Process

core definition

The Bologna Process is an ongoing process of integration and harmonisation of higher education systems within Europe.

explanatory context

The Bologna Process is integral to the development of the European Higher Education Area.

The Bologna Process website (ENQA, 2003) explains:

The construction of a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) by 2010 is one of the most important objectives of the European Ministers of Education to promote the co-operation of higher education institutions within Europe. Meanwhile, 33 signatory countries are aiming at implementing joint structures in the European higher education systems and have approved a range of objectives within the framework of the „Bologna process”. The mobility of students and teachers, the recognition of degrees and quality assurance of study programmes are to be improved. Furthermore, a structure based on two main cycles (undergraduate/graduate) and a system of credits such as ECTS are to be established. The first results of the implementation and priority-settings for the time up to the Berlin conference 2003 can be found in the final communiqué signed by the European Ministers of Education on the occasion of the Bologna follow-up meeting in Prague 2001

Note: as described below in associated issues, a separate OECD initiative linked to SMEs had also been launched with the title the Bologna Process, this is not otherwise covered in this entry.

analytical review

According to the University of Bologna (2005):

The Bologna process is an important process of harmonizing various systems of European higher education that has the objective to create a European Area of Higher Education and to promote the European system of higher education on a worldwide scale in order to increase its international competitiveness.

The Glossary of the European Commission, Education and Training, The Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013 (2008) states:

The Bologna Process is an intergovernmental initiative which aims to create by 2010 a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) based on three cycles: Degree/Bachelor– Master–Doctorate. As of 2006, it has 45 signatory countries.

The New York-based World Education Services, in 2003, stated:

Bologna Process: The ongoing process of working towards the creation of a European Higher Education Area (EHEA), to be completed by 2010. (WES, 2003)


According to the Council of Europe (2005)

The Bologna Process is a European reform process aiming at establishing a European Higher Education Area by 2010. It is an unusual process in that it is loosely structured and driven by the 40 countries participating in it in cooperation with a number of international organisations, including the Council of Europe…. By 2010 higher education systems in European countries should be organised in such a way that:

·        it is easy to move from one country to the other (within the European Higher Education Area) – for the purpose of further study or employment;

·        the attractiveness of European higher education is increased so many people from non-European countries also come to study and/or work in Europe;

·        the European Higher Education Area provides Europe with a broad, high quality and advanced knowledge base, and ensures the further development of Europe as a stable, peaceful and tolerant community.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) (undated ) Glossary states:

Bologna Declaration, Bologna Process: In the late 1990s education ministers in Europe undertook in a joint declaration (the Bologna Declaration) to establish a European area of higher education by 2010. This includes, for example, enabling students to study in other European countries, and ensuring that their qualifications and skills are transferable. The ongoing work to achieve this is the Bologna process.


The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA, undated) in the UK states:

Bologna Process: An initiative to strengthen and develop the European Higher Education Area as a means of ensuring that qualifications are mutually recognised, systems are transparent and staff and students can transfer easily between higher education institutions in Europe.

The Bologna Process has continued beyond 2010. As a process it has continually evolved and the original termination year of 2010 simply acted as a benchmark against intended progress, albeit that there have been an expanding number of 'lines' of activity. The European Commission Education and Training (2011) site asserts (albeit in need of updating!):

The Bologna Process aims to create a European Higher Education Area by 2010, in which students can choose from a wide and transparent range of high quality courses and benefit from smooth recognition procedures. The Bologna Declaration of June 1999 has put in motion a series of reforms needed to make European Higher Education more compatible and comparable, more competitive and more attractive for Europeans and for students and scholars from other continents. Reform was needed then and reform is still needed today if Europe is to match the performance of the best performing systems in the world, notably the United States and Asia.


Wikipedia, (2011) states:

The purpose of the Bologna Process (or Bologna Accords) is to create the European Higher Education Area by making academic degree standards and quality assurance standards more comparable and compatible throughout Europe, in particular under the Lisbon Recognition Convention. It is named after the place it was proposed, the University of Bologna in the Italian city of Bologna, with the signing in 1999 of the Bologna declaration by Ministers of Education from 29 European countries. This was opened up to other countries signatory to the European Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe; further governmental meetings have been held in Prague (2001), Berlin (2003), Bergen (2005), London (2007) and Leuven (2009).

Before the signing of the Bologna declaration, the Magna Charta Universitatum had been issued at a meeting of university rectors celebrating the 900th anniversary of the University of Bologna – and thus of (Western) European universities – in 1988. One year before the Bologna declaration, education ministers Claude Allegre (France), Jürgen Rüttgers (Germany), Luigi Berlinguer (Italy) and the Baroness Blackstone (UK) signed the Sorbonne declaration in Paris 1998, committing themselves to "harmonising the architecture of the European Higher Education system".

It is a common misconception that the Bologna Process is an EU initiative. The Bologna Process currently has 47 participating countries, whereas there are only 27 Member States of the EU. While the European Commission is an important contributor to the Bologna Process, the Lisbon Recognition Convention was actually prepared by the Council of Europe and members of the Europe Region of UNESCO.

associated issues

The main documents of the Bologna Process can once be found at but no longer available 20 June 2019.


World Education News & Reviews lists the following Bologna Documents (links accessed 20 June 2019)

Precursor Agreements to the Bologna Declaration
The Magna Charta Universitatum (1988)
Signed by the Rectors of European Universities in Bologna, Italy. The agreement outlines the founding principles of what will later become known as the Bologna Process.

Lisbon Recognition Convention (April 1997) Emphasizes mutual recognition of studies, certificates, diplomas and degrees to promote academic mobility among European countries.

Sorbonne Declaration(May 1998) Calls for the “harmonization of the architecture of the European Higher Education System” and is signed by education ministers from France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Main Documents of the Bologna Process

Bologna Joint Declaration (June1999) Signed by 29 countries pledging to restructure their higher-education systems in an effort to create a coherent, compatible and competitive European Higher Education Area by the year 2010.

Salamanca Convention (March 2001) Over 300 higher-education representatives gather in Salamanca to assess the role of higher-education institutions in the Bologna Process in preparation for the Prague Summit of education ministers.

Göteborg Declaration (March 2001) In preparation for the Prague summit, representatives of the National Unions of Students in Europe (ESIB) (now ESU) formally adopt their position on the Bologna Declaration in Göteborg.

Prague Communiqué of Ministers (May 2001) Adds three more countries (Croatia, Cyprus and Turkey) to the Bologna Declaration, reviews progress made in the Bologna Process, and sets directions and priorities for the upcoming years.

Graz Declaration of the European University Association(May 2003) The European University Association (EUA) council adopts the Graz Declaration, which emphasizes the central role universities must play in implementing the Bologna reforms.

Berlin Communiqué of Ministers (September 2003) Reviews progress of the Bologna Process and set directions and priorities for the next stages of the European Higher Education Area.

To this list should be added:

Bergen Communiqué (2005)

London Communique (2007) and subsequent communique's


It also identifies the key players as:

Council of Europe

EAIE (European Association for International Education):


ENQA (European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, formerly the European Network for Quality Assurance):

ESU (formerly ESIB) (National Unions of Students in Europe):

EUA (European University Association):

EURASHE (European Association of Institutions in Higher Education):

Joint Quality Initiative



The Council of Europe (2005) noted that:

The Bologna Process is not based on an intergovernmental treaty. There are several documents that have been adopted by the ministers responsible for higher education of the countries participating in the Process, but these are not legally binding documents (as international treaties usually are). Therefore, it is the free will of every country and its higher education community to endorse or reject the principles of the Bologna Process, although the effect of “international peer pressure” should not be underestimated.

It is not foreseen that by 2010 all European countries should have the same higher education system. On the contrary, one of the very valued features of Europe is its balance between diversity and unity. Rather, the Bologna Process tries to establish bridges that make it easier for individuals to move from one education system or country to another. Therefore, even if e.g. degree systems may become more similar, the specific nature of every higher education system should be preserved. If not, what would be the point to go somewhere else to study if what one studies is going to be the same as back home? The developments within the Bologna Process should serve to facilitate “translation” of one system to the other and therefore contribute to the increase of mobility of students and academics and to the increase of employability throughout Europe.

In the review of the contributions in the first 15 years of the international journal Quality in Higher Education, Harvey and Williams (2010) write the following about the contributions that addressed the Bologna Process:

A few papers have focused directly on the Bologna process and its impact on quality assurance processes across Europe. Westerheijden (2001), as noted above, argued that the Bologna process was aimed at making European higher education more transparent and encouraging the development of clearer quality assurance processes. Van Der Wende and Westerheijden (2001) showed why and how the link between internationalisation and quality assurance has been established in recent years by looking at developments that suggest convergence between the two. The authors emphasised the implications of wider international developments on Europe as a whole and elaborated the implications of the Bologna Declaration for quality assurance. Ala-Vähälä and Saarinen (2009) argued that the ENQAs development to its current status as a European-level policy maker is to a great extent a result of the European Union’s policy of supporting European-level cooperation and transparency in the field of quality assurance. There has also, noted Asderaki (2009), been something of a demonisation of the Bologna process in some European countries but, arguably, it is this that has led to the establishment, by law, of quality assurance systems across Europe.

Ursin, Huusko, Aittola, Kiviniemi and Muhonen (2008) analysed the impact of the Bologna process on quality assessment in Finnish and Italian universities. The data consisted of interviews conducted in Finland and Italy. The results suggested that: evaluation and quality assurance were primarily seen in connection with the educational provision of the university; although the respondents were familiar with evaluation, they were unsure about the procedures and effects of quality assurance in their unit; and despite the harmonising aim of the Bologna process, evaluation, and quality assurance appeared to maintain distinct cultural and institutional features.


Rather confusingly, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) launched another initiative relating to the promotion of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) under the label of the Bologna Process:

The Bologna Process is a mechanism to foster the entrepreneurial agenda and SME competitiveness at the global level. It brings together at present over 70 countries (including all APEC countries) and its backdrop is globalisation. One of the main objectives of the Bologna Process is to help governments facilitate entrepreneurs and SMEs worldwide in meeting the challenges and reaping the benefits of globalisation….

In June 2000, the OECD organised the first Ministerial-level international conference on SMEs in Bologna, Italy, at the invitation of and in co-operation with the Italian Government on "Enhancing the Competitiveness of SMEs in the Global Economy: Strategies and Policies", thus launching the Bologna Process. It was certainly one of the most successful international events of the year 2000. This conference was a major opportunity to identify public and private sector actions to help SMEs develop their local strengths while capturing the benefits of globalisation and trade liberalisation. Its major outcome and final declaration, the Bologna Charter on SME Policies, was adopted on 15 June 2000, by almost fifty participating OECD member and non-member economies, and welcomed by over 200 international and national organisations and NGOs.

The Bologna Conference was not a "one-off event" but a groundbreaking meeting which gave the OECD an incontestable role in the international arena in the area of SMEs. Bologna was meant to mark the beginning of a long-term process: it is now known as "The (OECD) Bologna Process". The OECD is firmly committed to developing the Bologna Process, which is an important horizontal activity, and to contributing to the implementation of the Charter through its substantive work on SME issues and policies and through strengthening the policy dialogue on SMEs with non-member economies and international organisations.

related areas

See also

Bruges process


Ala-Vähälä, T. and Saarinen, T., 2009, ‘Building European-level quality assurance structures: views from within ENQA’, Quality in Higher Education, 15(2), pp. 89–103.

Asderaki, F., 2009, ‘The impact of the Bologna Process on the development of the Greek quality assurance system’, Quality in Higher Education, 15(2), pp. 105–122. , 2011, Bologna process,, acccessed 8 February 2011, content is liable to change. Content not available at this address 31 December 2016.

Bologna Process, 2008, Main documents. The official Bologna Process website July 2007–June 2010 at, acccessed 20 September 2012, this link goes to, for information on the Bologna Process, accessed 31 December 2016, still available 20 June 2019.

Council of Europe, 2005, Bologna for Pedestrians , acccessed 3 August 2008, still available 20 June 2019.

European Network of Quality Agencies (ENQA), 2003, The Bologna Process, Glossary, Accreditation,, accessed, 3 August, 2008, page changed to accessed 3 September 2012, not available 20 June 2019.

European Commission, Education and Training, The Lifelong Learning Programme 2007–2013, 2008, Glossary, available at last update: 11 April 2008, accessed 20 September 2012, not available 20 June 2019.

Harvey, L. and Williams, J. 2010, 'Fifteen Years of Quality in Higher Education', Quality in Higher Education, 16(1), pp. 4–36. Available here

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), undated, Glossary, available at, accessed 31 December 2016, not available 20 June 2019.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), (undated), Building Partnerships for Progress, SMEs and Entrepreneurship The Bologna Process.,2340,en_2649_34197_2505195_1_1_1_1,00.html, acccessed 3 August 2008, not available 9 February 2011.

Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), undated, Glossary, available at, accessed 7 January 2017, not available 20 June 2019.

University of Bologna, 2011, Bologna Process, , acccessed 20 September 2012, still available 20 June 2019.

Ursin, J., Huusko, M., Aittola, H., Kiviniemi, U. and Muhonen, R., 2008, ‘Evaluation and quality assurance in Finnish and Italian universities in the Bologna Process’, Quality in Higher Education, 14(2), pp. 109–120.

Van Der Wende, M.C. and Westerheijden, D.F., 2001, ‘International aspects of quality assurance with a special focus on European Higher Education’, Quality in Higher Education, 7(3), pp. 233–245.

Westerheijden, D.F., 2001, ‘Ex oriente lux ?: national and multiple accreditation in Europe after the fall of the Wall and after Bologna’, Quality in Higher Education, 7(1), pp. 65–75.

World Education Services, 2003, Explaining the Bologna Process to Non-Europeans, World Education News and Reviews, 16(5) September/October, available at , acccessed 20 September 2012, still available 31 December 2016, page not available 20 June 2019.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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