Towards the European Higher Education Area
Communiqué of the meeting of European Ministers in charge of
Higher Education in Prague on May 19th 2001
Two years after signing the Bologna Declaration and three years after the
Sorbonne Declaration, European Ministers in charge of higher education,
representing 32 signatories, met in Prague in order to review the progress
achieved and to set directions and priorities for the coming years of
the process. Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the objective of
establishing the European Higher Education Area by 2010. The choice of
Prague to hold this meeting is a symbol of their will to involve the
whole of Europe in the process in the light of enlargement of the European
Ministers welcomed and reviewed the report "Furthering the Bologna Process" commissioned
by the follow-up group and found that the goals laid down in the Bologna
Declaration have been widely accepted and used as a base for the development
of higher education by most signatories as well as by universities and
other higher education institutions. Ministers reaffirmed that efforts
to promote mobility must be continued to enable students, teachers, researchers
and administrative staff to benefit from the richness of the European Higher
Education Area including its democratic values, diversity of cultures and
languages and the diversity of the higher education systems.
Ministers took note of the Convention of European higher education institutions
held in Salamanca on 29-30 March and the recommendations of the Convention
of European Students, held in Göteborg on 24-25 March, and appreciated
the active involvement of the European University Association (EUA) and
the National Unions of Students in Europe (ESIB) in the Bologna process.
They further noted and appreciated the many other initiatives to take the
process further. Ministers also took note of the constructive assistance
of the European Commission.
Ministers observed that the activities recommended in the Declaration concerning
degree structure have been intensely and widely dealt with in most countries.
They especially appreciated how the work on quality assurance is moving
forward. Ministers recognized the need to cooperate to address the challenges
brought about by transnational education. They also recognized the need
for a lifelong learning perspective on education.
Further actions following the six objectives of the Bologna process
As the Bologna Declaration sets out, Ministers asserted that building the
European Higher Education Area is a condition for enhancing the attractiveness
and competitiveness of higher education institutions in Europe. They supported
the idea that higher education should be considered a public good and is
and will remain a public responsibility (regulations etc.), and that students
are full members of the higher education community. From this point of
view Ministers commented on the further process as follows:
Adoption of a system of easily readable and comparable degrees
Ministers strongly encouraged universities and other higher education institutions
to take full advantage of existing national legislation and European tools
aimed at facilitating academic and professional recognition of course units,
degrees and other awards, so that citizens can effectively use their qualifications,
competencies and skills throughout the European Higher Education Area.
Ministers called upon existing organisations and networks such as NARIC
and ENIC to promote, at institutional, national and European level, simple,
efficient and fair recognition reflecting the underlying diversity of qualifications.
Adoption of a system essentially based on two main cycles
Ministers noted with satisfaction that the objective of a degree structure
based on two main cycles, articulating higher education in undergraduate
and graduate studies, has been tackled and discussed. Some countries have
already adopted this structure and several others are considering it with
great interest. It is important to note that in many countries bachelor's
and master's degrees, or comparable two cycle degrees, can be obtained
at universities as well as at other higher education institutions. Programmes
leading to a degree may, and indeed should, have different orientations
and various profiles in order to accommodate a diversity of individual,
academic and labour market needs as concluded at the Helsinki seminar on
bachelor level degrees (February 2001).
Establishment of a system of credits
Ministers emphasized that for greater flexibility in learning and qualification
processes the adoption of common cornerstones of qualifications, supported
by a credit system such as the ECTS or one that is ECTS-compatible, providing
both transferability and accumulation functions, is necessary. Together
with mutually recognized quality assurance systems such arrangements will
facilitate students' access to the European labour market and enhance the
compatibility, attractiveness and competitiveness of European higher education.
The generalized use of such a credit system and of the Diploma Supplement
will foster progress in this direction.
Promotion of mobility
Ministers reaffirmed that the objective of improving the mobility of students,
teachers, researchers and administrative staff as set out in the Bologna
Declaration is of the utmost importance. Therefore, they confirmed their
commitment to pursue the removal of all obstacles to the free movement
of students, teachers, researchers and administrative staff and emphasized
the social dimension of mobility. They took note of the possibilities for
mobility offered by the European Community programmes and the progress
achieved in this field, e.g. in launching the Mobility Action Plan endorsed
by the European Council in Nice in 2000.
Promotion of European cooperation in quality assurance
Ministers recognized the vital role that quality assurance systems play
in ensuring high quality standards and in facilitating the comparability
of qualifications throughout Europe. They also encouraged closer cooperation
between recognition and quality assurance networks. They emphasized the
necessity of close European cooperation and mutual trust in and acceptance
of national quality assurance systems. Further they encouraged universities
and other higher education institutions to disseminate examples of best
practice and to design scenarios for mutual acceptance of evaluation and
accreditation/certification mechanisms. Ministers called upon the universities
and other higher educations institutions, national agencies and the European
Network of Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), in cooperation
with corresponding bodies from countries which are not members of ENQA,
to collaborate in establishing a common framework of reference and to disseminate
Promotion of the European dimensions in higher education
In order to further strengthen the important European dimensions of higher
education and graduate employability Ministers called upon the higher education
sector to increase the development of modules, courses and curricula at
all levels with "European" content, orientation or organisation. This concerns
particularly modules, courses and degree curricula offered in partnership
by institutions from different countries and leading to a recognized joint
Furthermore Ministers emphasized the following points:
Lifelong learning is an essential element of the European Higher Education
Area. In the future Europe, built upon a knowledge-based society and economy,
lifelong learning strategies are necessary to face the challenges of competitiveness
and the use of new technologies and to improve social cohesion, equal opportunities
and the quality of life.
Higher education institutions and students
Ministers stressed that the involvement of universities and other higher
education institutions and of students as competent, active and constructive
partners in the establishment and shaping of a European Higher Education
Area is needed and welcomed. The institutions have demonstrated the importance
they attach to the creation of a compatible and efficient, yet diversified
and adaptable European Higher Education Area. Ministers also pointed out
that quality is the basic underlying condition for trust, relevance, mobility,
compatibility and attractiveness in the European Higher Education Area.
Ministers expressed their appreciation of the contributions toward developing
study programmes combining academic quality with relevance to lasting employability
and called for a continued proactive role of higher education institutions.
Ministers affirmed that students should participate in and influence the
organisation and content of education at universities and other higher
education institutions. Ministers also reaffirmed the need, recalled by
students, to take account of the social dimension in the Bologna process.
Promoting the attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area
Ministers agreed on the importance of enhancing attractiveness of European
higher education to students from Europe and other parts of the world.
The readability and comparability of European higher education degrees
world-wide should be enhanced by the development of a common framework
of qualifications, as well as by coherent quality assurance and accreditation/certification
mechanisms and by increased information efforts.
Ministers particularly stressed that the quality of higher education and
research is and should be an important determinant of Europe's international
attractiveness and competitiveness. Ministers agreed that more attention
should be paid to the benefit of a European Higher Education Area with
institutions and programmes with different profiles. They called for increased
collaboration between the European countries concerning the possible implications
and perspectives of transnational education.
Ministers committed themselves to continue their cooperation based on the
objectives set out in the Bologna Declaration, building on the similarities
and benefiting from the differences between cultures, languages and national
systems, and drawing on all possibilities of intergovernmental cooperation
and the ongoing dialogue with European universities and other higher education
institutions and student organisations as well as the Community programmes.
Ministers welcomed new members to join the Bologna process after applications
from Ministers representing countries for which the European Community
programmes Socrates and Leonardo da Vinci or Tempus-Cards are open. They
accepted applications from Croatia, Cyprus and Turkey.
Ministers decided that a new follow-up meeting will take place in the second
half of 2003 in Berlin to review progress and set directions and
priorities for the next stages of the process towards the European Higher
Education Area. They confirmed the need for a structure for the follow-up
work, consisting of a follow-up group and a preparatory group. The follow-up
group should be composed of representatives of all signatories, new participants
and the European Commission, and should be chaired by the EU Presidency
at the time. The preparatory group should be composed of representatives
of the countries hosting the previous ministerial meetings and the next
ministerial meeting, two EU member states and two non-EU member states;
these latter four representatives will be elected by the follow-up group.
The EU Presidency at the time and the European Commission will also be
part of the preparatory group. The preparatory group will be chaired by
the representative of the country hosting the next ministerial meeting.
The European University Association, the European Association of Institutions
in Higher Education (EURASHE), the National Unions of Students in Europe
and the Council of Europe should be consulted in the follow-up work.
In order to take the process further, Ministers encouraged the follow-up
group to arrange seminars to explore the following areas: cooperation concerning
accreditation and quality assurance, recognition issues and the use of
credits in the Bologna process, the development of joint degrees, the social
dimension, with specific attention to obstacles to mobility, and the enlargement
of the Bologna process, lifelong learning and student involvement.