The member states of the Union and other European countries, a total of 40, are involved in the process of convergence to an "European Higher Education Area". One of its aims is to break with the great diversity of educational models on the continent and manage to adopt a more flexible system of qualifications, easier to understand and compare for citizens as a whole, which will promote greater work opportunities, favor mobility of students and workers and which, in short, makes higher education in Europe more attractive and more competitive. It is also intended that this European model have an influence on the higher education models of other continents, becoming a reference model at global level.
Between 1995 and 2000 a great debate took place on education and training in Europe. The first element of reference is the White Book on Education and Training prepared by the European Commission and published in 1996. The slogan of the book is "Teaching to Learn: towards the Knowledge Society".
This book was followed closely by great national debates and reports, such as the Dearing report in the United Kingdom (1997), the Attali report in France (1998), or the Bricall report in Spain (2000).
In parallel agreements began to take place between the ministers responsible for higher education in Europe. The point of origin was the Sorbonne declaration of 1998, between only France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy, and to which other countries were added in ministerial summits held in Bologna (1999, with 12 countries, considered as a point of reference in the consolidation of the movement), Prague (2001, with 33 countries) and Berlin (2003, with 40 countries).
The Bologna Declaration lays the bases for the construction of the "European Higher Education Area", organized in conformance with certain principles (quality, mobility, diversity, competitiveness) and orientated towards the attainment among others of two strategic aims: the increase of employment in the European Union and the conversion of the European system of Higher Education into a pole of attraction for students and teachers from other parts of the world.
There are six aims contained in the Declaration of Bologna:
- The adoption of an easily legible and comparable system of qualifications, by means of the introduction, among other questions, of a Supplement to the Diploma.
- The adoption of a system based, fundamentally, on two principal cycles.
- The establishment of a credit system, such as the ECTSsystem.
- The promotion of European cooperation to assure a level of quality for the development of comparable criteria and methodologies.
- The promotion of a necessary European dimension in Higher Education with particular emphasis on curricular development.
- The promotion of mobility and removal of obstacles to its free exercise by students, teachers and administrative staff of universities and other European institutions of higher education.
The Bologna Declaration is political in nature: it enunciates a series of aims and some instruments to achieve them, but it does not fix any legally binding duties. The Declaration establishes a timescale until 2010 for the accomplishment of the European space of higher education, with biennial phases of accomplishment, each of which ends with the corresponding Ministerial Conference which reviews past achievements and establishes directives for the future.
The first follow-up conference of the Bologna process took place in Prague in May, 2001. Then, the Ministers adopted a Communiqué that endorses the actions carried out to date, indicating the steps to take in the future, and admits Croatia, Cyprus and Turkey, as new members of the process.
The Prague Communiqué of 2001 and the Berlin Communiqué of 2003 imply the ratification of the actions carried out to date, incorporating the conclusions of the international seminars carried out. The last ministerial meeting took place in Bergen (Norway) on the 19/20 of May, 2005.