The Bologna Process is a series of ministerial meetings and agreements between European countries designed to ensure comparability in the standards and quality of higher education qualifications. Through the Bologna Accords, the process has created the European Higher Education Area, in particular under the Lisbon Recognition Convention. It is named after the place it was proposed, the University of Bologna, with the signing of the Bologna declaration by Education Ministers from 29 European countries in 1999, forming a part of European integration.
It was opened up to other countries signatory to the European Cultural convention, of the Council of Europe; further governmental meetings have been held in Prague (2001), Berlin (2003),Bergen (2005), London (2007), and Leuven (2009).
Prior to the signing of the Bologna declaration, the Magna Charta Universitatum had been issued at a meeting of university rectors celebrating the 900th anniversary of the University of Bologna – and thus of European universities – in 1988. One year before the Bologna declaration, education ministers of France, Germany, Italy and UK signed the Sorbonne declaration in Paris 1998, committing themselves to "harmonising the architecture of the European Higher Education system".
The Bologna Process currently has 47 participating countries.
Current signatories and thus members of the "European Higher Education Area" are:
• from 1999: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary,Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia,Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.
• from 2001: Croatia, Cyprus, Liechtenstein, Turkey
• from 2003: Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vatican City (Holy See), Russia, Serbia, Macedonia
• from 2005: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine
• from May 2007: Montenegro
• from 2010: Kazakhstan
Qualifications Framework of the European Higher Education Area
The basic framework adopted is of three cycles of higher education qualifications. The framework of qualifications adopted by the ministers at their meeting in Bergen in 2005 defines the qualifications in terms of learning outcomes. These are statements of what students know and can do on completion of their degrees. In describing the cycles the framework makes use of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS):
• 1st cycle: typically 180–240 ECTS credits, usually awarding a bachelor's degree.
• 2nd cycle: typically 90–120 ECTS credits (a minimum of 60 on 2nd-cycle level). Usually awarding a master's degree.
• 3rd cycle: doctoral degree. No ECTS range given.
In most cases, these will take 3–4 years for a bachelor's degree, 1–2 years for a master's degree, and 3–4 years for a doctoral degree, respectively to complete. The actual naming of the degrees may vary from country to country.
One academic year corresponds to 60 ECTS-credits that are equivalent to 1,500–1,800 hours of study.
The Bologna Process was a major reform created with the claimed goal of providing responses to issues such as the public responsibility for higher education and research, higher education governance, the social dimension of higher education and research, and the values and roles of higher education and research in modern, globalized, and increasingly complex societies with the most demanding qualification needs.