22 SES 05 B, Policy, Management and Governance in Higher Education
Research topic and question
The implementation of the Bologna Process (BP) did not go as smoothly as the Bologna Follow-Up evaluations suggest, and the consequences of the BP for the various European higher education systems and universities are much more diverse than represented in these various studies. Relatively few research and policy documents taking up a more critical stance are currently available while a systematic overview of such studies is still lacking. Purpose of this paper is to provide an overview and consequently reveal the most prominent views concerning the BP, as well as emphasize the critical developments over a longer time period. A longitudinal literature review was carried out, consisting of 161 studies between 2004-2013, resulted in a final selection of 91 studies. Our paper demonstrates that the studies available in our search show that issues concerning challenges, tensions and critical viewpoints about BP exist and yet confirms that further research is called for. It is further suggested that the impact of the BP discourse would benefit from the adaptation of a continuously critical reflective approach, as an on-going part in the overall discussion about the BP.
We are using the following steppingstones (Sursock & Smidt, 2010) as they illustrate, the inherently controversial character of the BP that is of interest in our literature search, and frame our point of direction and research inquiry:
(i) Critical reflections about the concretizing of internal and external quality assurance processes involved in the BP discourse. ‘Are internal and external quality assurance processes supporting the modernisation agenda of higher education institutions, their strategic orientations and the requirements of knowledge-driven societies?’ (ibid).
(ii) Critical reflections about the use of indicators: ‘Is the use of indicators or criteria sufficiently flexible to support the diversification of national higher education systems?’ (ibid). The conditions are that on an ‘European level the challenge is to support diversity across – and within – 46 countries while adhering to unifying principles and values’, and also that ‘common standards’ must be framed in such a way that they do not stifle diversity, innovative teaching practices and creative research, and that they do promote quality levels substantially through the central role of HEIs.’ (ibid).
These stipulated and unification intentions represent the core nature of the BP. Together, both (i) and (ii) show a contradiction, as on the one hand, the Bologna intentions attempt to stimulate comparability, and search for equality of higher education provision at macro level. Higher education institutions should supposedly be able to compete, support creativity and stimulate innovative developments at the level of the individual courses at the micro level. This contradiction between homogeneity versus heterogeneity is an essential cause for the creation of strains within the ongoing Bologna Process, as both parts of the coin apparently need to be present in coherence, at one and the same time (authors, 2010). A longitudinal search and analysis of research studies found in research databases (ERIC) was conducted. Given the complexity and the impact of this process, which has been going on for more than a decade, it should be noted that at least up to 2008, there were few studies that took a distinct critically stance on matters concerned with the BP. To our knowledge a systematic, longitudinal overview of such studies is currently unavailable. Therefore, our attempt has been to trace, frame and draw from policy documents and research studies about the BP, by selecting those retro perspective studies providing any attempt for conducting a critical view, in order to adopt a more balanced picture of the ongoing Bologna process and higher education in Europe.
A list of all included reviewed articles is provided in the original paper. The Bologna Process 2020 (2009). The European HE Area in the new decade… Bucharest Communique (2012) Making the Most of Our Potential: Consolidating the European HE Area Budapest-Vienna Declaration on the European HE Area (2010) *Cernetic, M. (2011) Lisbona's Goals and Bolonian Process-Issue of Education in EU Integration… *Dahl et al (2009). Conformity or Confusion? Changing HE Grading Scales as a Part of the Bologna Process. .. *Damian, R.M. (2011). The bologna process as a reform initiative in HE in the Balkan countries: The case of Romania. European Education… *Despotovic, M. (2011). The interpretation and implementation of the bologna process in Serbia. European Education… European Commission (2013) The Bologna Process - Towards the European HE Area *Greenwood. D. J. (2009). Bologna in America: The Spellings Commission and Neo-Liberal HE Policy…The International Journal of HE in the Social Sciences… Hart, C. (2003b) Doing a Literature Review. London: SAGE. Huisman, J. (2009). The Bologna Process towards 2020: Institutional diversification or convergence? in B. Kehm, J. Huisman & B. Stensaker (Eds.), The European HE Area… Leuven Declaration (2009) The Bologna Process 2020 - The European HE Area in the new decade Communiqué of the Conference of European Ministers Responsible for HE, Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve, 28-29 April. *Luchinskaya, Daria ; Ovchynnikova, Olena (2011) The Bologna Process Policy Implementation in Russia and Ukraine: Similarities and Differences. European Educational Research Journal… *Portela, M., Sa, C., Alexandre, F and Cardoso, A-R. (2009). Perceptions of the Bologna Process: What Do Students' Choices Reveal? HE: The International Journal of HE and Educational Planning… *Rauhvargers, A. (2011). Achieving bologna goals: Where does Europe stand ahead of 2010. Journal of Studies in International Education… Sursock, A & Smidt, H. (2010) Trends 2010: A decade of change in European HE. EUA-publications… *Teelken, C. & Wihlborg, M. (2010). Reflecting on the bologna outcome space: Some pitfalls to avoid? Exploring universities in Sweden and The Netherlands European Educational Research Journal… Trends IV (2007) Universities shaping the European HE Area. An EUA report. Trends V (2011) Universities shaping the European HE Area… Van der Westerheijden, D.F. van der, et al., (2008) The first decade of working on the European HE Area, The Bologna Process Independent Assessment Volume 1… Wihlborg, M. (2009) Quality in internationalising H E - A challenging pedagogical & didactical issue for the 21st century. European Educational Research Journal…
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