The Bologna Process represents the greatest opportunity for higher education reform in Europe ever undertaken. It is also the subject of a large degree of misunderstanding, as shown by the recent student protests in several countries and by the comments of Erik Spiekermann in the article on creativity and innovation.
The Bologna Process as envisioned is not an educational straitjacket that seeks to fit 46 different national education systems into one mould. Rather, it is a fundamental governments and stakeholders’ cooperation process, while providing the opportunity for redesigning educational structures and practices that foster creativity and innovation as part of the reform process.
The key to this is implementation. The situation that Mr Spiekermann describes is not attributable to the Bologna Process as a policy agenda, but it can be caused by the way it has been implemented at national level up until now.
The implementation problems are well?known by all those involved in European higher education actors and are clearly documented in our Bologna With Student Eyes 2009 report; the only independent analysis of Bologna published this year. Problems have arisen due to countries viewing the reforms not as a package of actions to be implemented simultaneously, but as an ‘a la carte’ menu to pick and choose from.
For example, if you try to condense a 5?year degree programme into a 3?year one without also implementing the action lines on flexible?learning paths, student workload and student?centred learning, then yes, the result is a programme with overloaded students and teachers who can do little more than focus on ticking boxes. But this situation is because of a persistent failure at national level to translate the Bologna vision into ground?level changes. And as a clarification, there is no reference within the Bologna Ministerial communiqués that a first cycle degree should have 3, 4, 5 or 10 years.
There is a lot of cause for hope. The recent Ministerial Conference of the Bologna Process in Leuven/Louvain?la?Neuve at the end of April produced the most positive communiqué yet in ten years of the Process with an unprecedented level of attention of student?centred learning and the quality of the student experience. It follows, therefore, that if the 46 Bologna countries make a renewed effort to deliver on all of the action lines as now defined, Mr Spiekermann’s quest for creativity and innovation in European education will indeed become a reality.
ESU fully supports the need for greater creativity and innovation in European higher education, and in addition to supporting its prioritisation within the Bologna Process, we will continue to push for a pedagogical paradigm change towards student?centred learning, both through high?level policy debates and a major project in 2010 on student?centred learning and how to advance creativity in learning. We would very much hope to work with Mr Spiekermann and the other creativity and innovation ambassadors on achieving this common goal.
Information and Communications Officer
The European Students’ Union (ESU)