What is the Bologna Process?

The Bologna Process derives its name from the so-called Bologna Declaration, which was signed on 19 June 1999 by ministers in charge of higher education from 29 European countries. It is an intergovernmental European reform process aimed at establishing the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) by 2010.
This European Higher Education Area is envisaged as an open space that allows students, graduates, and higher education staff to benefit from unhampered mobility and equitableaccess to high quality higher education.
The corner stones of such an open space are mutual recognition of degrees and other higher education qualifications, transparency (readable and comparable degrees organised in a three-cycle structure) and European cooperation in quality assurance.
In this context the 1997 Lisbon Recognition Convention   and pan-European transparency tools like the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) and the Diploma Supplement (DS) play a crucial role. Equally important are the overarching qualifications framework for the EHEA (pdf, 799kB) and the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the EHEA (pdf, 176kB). The latter will also function as admission criteria for quality assurance and accreditation agencies in the European Register of Quality Assurance Agencies .
Another important feature of the envisaged European Higher Education Area is the social dimension of European higher education with an emphasis on participative equity and employability of graduates in a lifelong learning context. Finally, an attractive European Higher Education Area will display openness to the world, as reaffirmed in the Strategy for the EHEA in a Global Setting .
The Bologna Process is taken forward through a work programme that receives orientations from biannual ministerial conferences Prague 2001,Berlin 2003, Bergen 2005,London 2007,Leuven 2009, and Budapest and Vienna 2010 . These conferences are prepared by a Bologna Follow-up Group, which is in turn supported by a Bologna Secretariat .

The key to success of the Bologna cooperation is the underlying partnership approach, in both policy-making and implementation. Today, the Process unites 47 countries, all party to the European Cultural Convention, that cooperate in a flexible way, involving also international organisations and European associations representing higher education institutions, students, staff and employers.

Action Lines of the Bologna Process

Introduced in the Bologna Declaration:
1. Adoption of a system of easily readable and comparable degrees
2. Adoption of a system essentially based on two cycles
3. Establishment of a system of credits
4. Promotion of mobility
5. Promotion of European co-operation in quality assurance
6. Promotion of the European dimension in higher education
Introduced in the Prague Communiqué:
7. Lifelong learning
8. Higher education institutions and students
9. Promoting the attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area
Introduced in the Berlin Communiqué:
10. Doctoral studies and the synergy between the EHEA and ERA

The social dimension of higher education might be seen as an overarching or transversal action line

Functioning of the Bologna Process

When ministers met in Prague in 2001, they confirmed the need for a structure for the follow-up work, consisting from then on of a follow-up group responsible for the continuing development of the process and a preparatory group responsible for the planning of the next ministerial conference. The Bologna Follow-up Group (BFUG) was composed of representatives of all participant countries and the EU Commission and chaired by the rotating EU Presidency. The preparatory group was a smaller group chaired by the representative of the country hosting the next ministerial meeting (Germany). The Council of Europe, the EUA, EURASHE, and ESIB took part as observers in both groups.
In the Prague Communiqué, ministers encouraged the Follow-up Group to organise a series of international seminars to explore the most important issues in the process.
After Prague, the BFUG developed a work programme for the period up to Berlin based on a number of seminars (ten in all), covering the issues of the Prague Communiqué. The ten seminars were realised in the period from spring 2001 to early summer 2003.
The BFUG also had to consider the enlargement of the Bologna Process and the handling of new applications for access. It formed several working groups to prepare particular issues for discussion. However, the BFUG devoted most of its working time and expertise to a discussion about stocktaking and possible directions for further development of the Bologna Process, and to consideration of issues important for the drafting of the Berlin Communiqué.
In its last meeting before Berlin, the BFUG discussed the future steering of the Bologna Process. The process had developed into a range of complex activities based on the common political will of ministers and aimed at strengthening the international co-operation between all member states and partners. In his report to the Berlin Ministerial Conference, professor Pavel Zgaga stated that the main tasks of the steering structures in the coming years would be:
(1) to organise the further follow-up programme after the Berlin Communiqué
(2) to organise the stock-taking exercise
(3) to secure continuity and further clarification of the principles of the Bologna Process
(4) to secure close co-operation with relevant stakeholders
(5) to prepare the next ministerial conference
The necessary link between national implementation and international co-operation can be guaranteed only by involving all members and by giving them a chance of active participation. This argument requires a large group with an overall responsibility for following up the decisions of ministers and preparing the next ministerial conference.
On the other hand the demanding and comprehensive programme after Berlin will require an efficient administrative and working structure.
The final result of the discussions was conveyed to the ministers and written into the Berlin Communiqué:
Ministers entrusted the implementation of all the issues covered in the Communiqué, the overall steering of the Bologna Process and the preparation of the next ministerial meeting to the BFUG, chaired by the EU Presidency, with the host country of the next ministerial conference as vice-chair.
After the Berlin summit, the BFUG consist of 40 member countries and the European Commission, with the Council of Europe, the EUA, EURASHE, ESIB and UNESCO-CEPES as consultative members.
A Board, also chaired by the EU Presidency, will oversee the work between the meetings of the Follow-up Group. The Board will be composed of the Chair, the next host country as Vice-Chair, the preceding and the following EU Presidencies, three participating countries elected by the Follow-up Group for one year, the European Commission and, as consultative members, the Council of Europe, the EUA, EURASHE and ESIB.
The Follow-up Group as well as the Board may convene ad-hoc working groups as necessary.
The overall follow-up work will be supported by a Secretariat provided by the country hosting the next Ministerial Conference (Norway).
The Board and the Secretariat
In its first meeting after the Berlin Conference, the Follow-up Group further defined the responsibilities of the Board and the tasks of the Secretariat.
The Board
The Board shall support the BFUG in its activities and provide efficiency to the management of the Bologna Process. The Board shall co-ordinate and monitor the implementation of the work programme.
The following list, which is not exhaustive, illustrates the scope of this responsibility:
supporting the realisation of Bologna events
providing support and assistance to new members as they seek to meet the objectives of the Bologna Process
co-ordinating actions for the preparation of the stocktaking
organising Working Groups composed by BFUG members and /or experts on special issues decided by the BFUG
overseeing the preparation of the next ministerial conference
The BFUG may delegate tasks to the Board when it deems it appropriate and necessary to achieve the objectives of the Bologna Process. However, formal decisions are the responsibility of the BFUG itself.
The Secretariat
The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research has set up a Secretariat to support the overall follow-up work, as was foreseen in the Berlin Communiqué. The Secretariat is fully operational from December 2003 with a staff of three.
The tasks of the Secretariat will include:
- administrative and operational responsibility for the next ministerial conference
- secretarial functions as directed by the BFUG and the Board
- execution, under specific mandate from the BFUG or the Board, of special tasks concerning the implementation of the work programme


In its meeting 1-2 March 2005, the Bologna Follow-up Group (BFUG) adopted criteria for consultative members. The BFUG will advise Ministers that consultative membership of the BFUG should remain restricted and that potential new consultative members should satisfy these criteria. Decisions are made by the Ministerial Conference. The BFUG also decided that relevant organisations may be accepted as BFUG Partners, receiving information and invitations to seminars, being invited to participate under relevant agenda points at BFUG meetings, and also being invited to send an observer to the Ministerial Conferences. Such decisions will be made by the BFUG. The criteria for new consultative members and for BFUG Partners focus on the added value to the Bologna Process, relevance of the stakeholder group, representativeness of the organization and its organisational form.

1. Added value to the Bologna Process 

Present consultative members are either inter-governmental organisations active in higher education or organisations representing higher education institutions or students. Any new consultative member or partner of the BFUG should give the process an added value, meaning that their contribution should be relevant to the work of the BFUG.

1.1 Additional criteria on added value for new consultative members 

Any new consultative members should also meet the following criteria:
their contribution cannot be easily covered by an existing consultative member;
cooperation with the BFUG may not be better covered at another level.

2. Relevance of the stakeholder group

Organisations that may contribute to stronger links between higher education and the labour market are relevant to the Process. Organisations that may contribute to stronger links between higher education and other educational fields may also be relevant. Organisations representing special professions do not match the BFUG, which deals with general principles and structures in higher education.
Organisations should have higher education as a central field of interest.
 The stakeholder group should be relevant to the principles, action lines and goals of the
Bologna Process.

3. Representativeness

A new consultative member or a partner should not be a sub-organisation of a member or

consultative member of the Bologna Follow-up Group.

3.1 Additional criteria on representativeness for new consultative members 

Any new consultative member should:
be the most representative organisation in its field of interest,
be a European organisation, or a European branch of an organisation,
accept organisations from all the Bologna member states as full members,
have full members from no less than 50 % of the Bologna countries,
have full members from countries outside the EU/EEA and EU candidate countries.

4. Organisational form 

A new consultative member or a partner should either be a non-governmental organisation

(NGO) or an inter-governmental organisation.

4.1 Additional criteria on organisational form for new consultative members

Its mandate should reflect its relevance to the Bologna Process and its right to give an opinion on behalf of its members on matters relating to the Bologna Process.

5. Procedures

Potential new consultative members should send an application to the Secretariat of the BFUG, documenting that they satisfy the listed criteria for consultative members. The Secretariat will place the application on the agenda of the BFUG, which will advise Ministers. Decisions are made by the Ministerial Conference.

Relevant organisations may be accepted by the BFUG as BFUG Partners, provided they satisfy

the listed criteria for such partnership.

Participating countries
There are 47 member countries participating in the Bologna Process, all party to the European Cultural Convention.
Holy See
Russian Federation
Slovak Republic
Czech Republic
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
United Kingdom
European Students' Union
European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education
Education International Pan-European Structure