Conference of Ministers responsible
for Higher Education
in Berlin on 19 September 2003
On 19 June 1999, one year after the Sorbonne Declaration, Ministers responsible
for higher education from 29 European countries signed the Bologna Declaration.
They agreed on important joint objectives for the development of a coherent
and cohesive European Higher Education Area by 2010.
In the first follow-up conference held in Prague on 19 May 2001, they increased
the number of the objectives and reaffirmed their commitment to establish the
European Higher Education Area by 2010.
On 19 September 2003, Ministers responsible for higher education from 33 European
countries met in Berlin in order to review the progress achieved and to set
priorities and new objectives for the coming years, with a view to speeding
up the realisation of the European Higher Education Area. They agreed on the
following considerations, principles and priorities:
Ministers reaffirm the importance of the social dimension of the Bologna Process.
The need to increase competitiveness must be balanced with the objective of
improving the social characteristics of the European Higher
Education Area, aiming at strengthening social and gender cohesion and reducing
social inequalities both at national and at European level. In that context,
Ministers reaffirm their position that higher education is a public good and
a public responsibility. They emphasize that in international academic cooperation
and exchanges academic values should prevail.
Ministers take into due consideration the conclusions of the European Councils
in Lisbon (2000) and Barcelona (2002) aimed at making Europe the most competitive
and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable
of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social
cohesion? and calling for further action and closer co-operation in the context
of the Bologna Process.
Ministers take note of the Progress Report commissioned by the Follow-up Group
on the development of the Bologna Process between Prague and Berlin. They also
take note of the Trends-III Report prepared by the European University Association
(EUA), as well as of the results of the seminars, which were organised as part
of the work programme between Prague and Berlin by several member States and
Higher Education Institutions, organisations and students.
Ministers further note the National Reports, which are evidence of the considerable
progress being made in the application of the principles of the Bologna Process.
Finally, they take note of the messages from the European Commission and the
Council of Europe and acknowledge their support for the implementation of the
Ministers agree that efforts shall be undertaken in order to secure closer
links overall between the higher education and research systems in their respective
countries. The emerging European Higher Education Area will benefit from synergies
with the European Research Area, thus strengthening the basis of the Europe
of Knowledge. The aim is to preserve Europe's cultural richness and linguistic
diversity, based on its heritage of diversified traditions, and to foster its
potential of innovation and social and economic development through enhanced
co-operation among European Higher Education Institutions.
Ministers recognise the fundamental role in the development of the European
Higher Education Area played by Higher Education Institutions and student organisations.
They take note of the message from the European University Association (EUA)
arising from the Graz Convention of Higher Education Institutions, the contributions
from the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE)
and the communications from ESIB, the National Unions of Students in Europe.
Ministers welcome the interest shown by other regions of the world in the development
of the European Higher Education Area, and welcome in particular the presence
of representatives from European countries not yet party to the Bologna Process
as well as from the Follow-up Committee of the European Union, Latin America
and Caribbean (EULAC) Common Space for Higher Education as guests at this conference.
Ministers welcome the various initiatives undertaken since the Prague Higher
Education Summit to move towards more comparability and compatibility, to make
higher education systems more transparent and to enhance the quality of European
higher education at institutional and national levels. They appreciate the co-operation
and commitment of all partners - Higher Education Institutions, students and
other stakeholders - to this effect. Ministers emphasise the importance of all
elements of the Bologna Process for establishing the European Higher Education
Area and stress the need to intensify the efforts at institutional, national
and European level. However, to give the Process further momentum, they commit
themselves to intermediate priorities for the next two years. They will strengthen
their efforts to promote effective quality assurance systems, to step up effective
use of the system based on two cycles and to improve the recognition system
of degrees and periods of studies.
The quality of higher education has proven to be at the heart of the setting
up of a European Higher Education Area. Ministers commit themselves to supporting
further development of quality assurance at institutional, national and European
level. They stress the need to develop mutually shared criteria and methodologies
on quality assurance.
They also stress that consistent with the principle of institutional autonomy,
the primary responsibility for quality assurance in higher education lies with
each institution itself and this provides the basis for real accountability
of the academic system within the national quality framework. Therefore, they
agree that by 2005 national quality assurance systems should include:
- A definition of the responsibilities of the bodies and institutions involved.
- Evaluation of programmes or institutions, including internal assessment,
external review, participation of students and the publication of results.
- A system of accreditation, certification or comparable procedures. International
participation, co-operation and networking.
At the European level, Ministers call upon ENQA through its members, in co-operation
with the EUA, EURASHE and ESIB, to develop an agreed set of standards, procedures
and guidelines on quality assurance, to explore ways of ensuring an adequate
peer review system for quality assurance and/or accreditation agencies or bodies,
and to report back through the Follow-up Group to Ministers in 2005. Due account
will be taken of the expertise of other quality assurance associations and networks.
Degree structure: Adoption of a system essentially based on two main cycles
Ministers are pleased to note that, following their commitment in the Bologna
Declaration to the two-cycle system, a comprehensive restructuring of the European
landscape of higher education is now under way. All Ministers commit themselves
to having started the implementation of the two cycle system by 2005. Ministers
underline the importance of consolidating the progress made, and of improving
understanding and acceptance of the new qualifications through reinforcing dialogue
within institutions and between institutions and employers. Ministers encourage
the member States to elaborate a framework of comparable and compatible qualifications
for their higher education systems, which should seek to describe qualifications
in terms of workload, level, learning outcomes, competences and profile. They
also undertake to elaborate an overarching framework of qualifications for the
European Higher Education Area. Within such frameworks, degrees should have
different defined outcomes. First and second cycle degrees should have different
orientations and various profiles in order to accommodate a diversity of individual,
academic and labour market needs. First cycle degrees should give access, in
the sense of the Lisbon Recognition Convention, to second cycle programmes.
Second cycle degrees should give access to doctoral studies. Ministers invite
the Follow-up Group to explore whether and how shorter higher education may
be linked to the first cycle of a qualifications framework for the European
Higher Education Area. Ministers stress their commitment to making higher education
equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means.
Promotion of mobility
Mobility of students and academic and administrative staff is the basis for
establishing a European Higher Education Area. Ministers emphasise its importance
for academic and cultural as well as political, social and economic spheres.
They note with satisfaction that since their last meeting, mobility figures
have increased, thanks also to the substantial support of the European Union
programmes, and agree to undertake the necessary steps to improve the quality
and coverage of statistical data on student mobility. They reaffirm their intention
to make every effort to remove all obstacles to mobility within the European
Higher Education Area. With a view to promoting student mobility, Ministers
will take the necessary steps to enable the portability of national loans and
Establishment of a system of credits
Ministers stress the important role played by the European Credit Transfer
System (ECTS) in facilitating student mobility and international curriculum
development. They note that ECTS is increasingly becoming a generalised basis
for the national credit systems. They encourage further progress with the goal
that the ECTS becomes not only a transfer but also an accumulation system, to
be applied consistently as it develops within the emerging European Higher Education
Recognition of degrees: Adoption of a system of easily readable and comparable
Ministers underline the importance of the Lisbon Recognition Convention, which
should be ratified by all countries participating in the Bologna Process, and
call on the ENIC and NARIC networks along with the competent National Authorities
to further the implementation of the Convention. They set the objective that
every student graduating as from 2005 should receive the Diploma Supplement
automatically and free of charge. It should be issued in a widely spoken European
language. They appeal to institutions and employers to make full use of the
Diploma Supplement, so as to take advantage of the improved transparency and
flexibility of the higher education degree systems, for fostering employability
and facilitating academic recognition for further studies.
Higher education institutions and students
Ministers welcome the commitment of Higher Education Institutions and students
to the Bologna Process and recognise that it is ultimately the active participation
of all partners in the Process that will ensure its long-term success. Aware
of the contribution strong institutions can make to economic and societal development
Ministers accept that institutions need to be empowered to take decisions on
their internal organisation and administration. Ministers further call upon
institutions to ensure that the reforms become fully integrated into core institutional
functions and processes.
Ministers note the constructive participation of student organisations in the
Bologna Process and underline the necessity to include the students continuously
and at an early stage in further activities. Students are full partners in higher
education governance. Ministers note that national legal measures for ensuring
student participation are largely in place throughout the European Higher Education
Area. They also call on institutions and student organisations to identify ways
of increasing actual student involvement in higher education governance. Ministers
stress the need for appropriate studying and living conditions for the students,
so that they can successfully complete their studies within an appropriate period
of time without obstacles related to their social and economic background. They
also stress the need for more comparable data on the social and economic situation
Promotion of the European dimension in higher education
Ministers note that, following their call in Prague, additional modules, courses
and curricula with European content, orientation or organisation are being developed.
They note that initiatives have been taken by Higher Education Institutions
in various European countries to pool their academic resources and cultural
traditions in order to promote the development of integrated study programmes
and joint degrees at first, second and third level.
Moreover, they stress the necessity of ensuring a substantial period of study
abroad in joint degree programmes as well as proper provision for linguistic
diversity and language learning, so that students may achieve their full potential
for European identity, citizenship and employability. Ministers agree to engage
at the national level to remove legal obstacles to the establishment and recognition
of such degrees and to actively support the development and adequate quality
assurance of integrated curricula leading to joint degrees.
Promoting the attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area
Ministers agree that the attractiveness and openness of the European higher
education should be reinforced. They confirm their readiness to further develop
scholarship programmes for students from third countries.
Ministers declare that transnational exchanges in higher education should be
governed on the basis of academic quality and academic values, and agree to
work in all appropriate fora to that end. In all appropriate circumstances such
fora should include social and economic partners. They encourage the co-operation
with regions in other parts of the world by opening Bologna seminars and conferences
to representatives of these regions.
Ministers underline the important contribution of higher education in making
lifelong learning a reality. They are taking steps to align their national policies
to realise this goal and urge Higher Education Institutions and all concerned
to enhance the possibilities for lifelong learning at higher education level
including the recognition of prior learning. They emphasise that such action
must be an integral part of higher education activity.
Ministers furthermore call those working on qualifications frameworks for the
European Higher Education Area to encompass the wide range of flexible learning
paths, opportunities and techniques and to make appropriate use of the ECTS
credits. They stress the need to improve opportunities for all citizens, in
accordance with their aspirations and abilities, to follow the lifelong learning
paths into and within higher education.
European Higher Education Area and European Research Area - two pillars of
the knowledge based society
Conscious of the need to promote closer links between the EHEA and the ERA
in a Europe of Knowledge, and of the importance of research as an integral part
of higher education across Europe, Ministers consider it necessary to go beyond
the present focus on two main cycles of higher education to include the doctoral
level as the third cycle in the Bologna Process. They emphasise the importance
of research and research training and the promotion of interdisciplinarity in
maintaining and improving the quality of higher education and in enhancing the
competitiveness of European higher education more generally. Ministers call
for increased mobility at the doctoral and postdoctoral levels and encourage
the institutions concerned to increase their co-operation in doctoral studies
and the training of young researchers.
Ministers will make the necessary effort to make European Higher Education
Institutions an even more attractive and efficient partner. Therefore Ministers
ask Higher Education Institutions to increase the role and relevance of research
to technological, social and cultural evolution and to the needs of society.
Ministers understand that there are obstacles inhibiting the achievement of
these goals and these cannot be resolved by Higher Education Institutions alone.
It requires strong support including financial and appropriate decisions from
national Governments and European Bodies. Finally, Ministers state that networks
at doctoral level should be given support to stimulate the development of excellence
and to become one of the hallmarks of the European Higher Education Area.
With a view to the goals set for 2010, it is expected that measures will be
introduced to take stock of progress achieved in the Bologna Process. A mid-term
stocktaking exercise would provide reliable information on how the Process is
actually advancing and would offer the possibility to take corrective measures,
Ministers charge the Follow-up Group with organising a stocktaking process
in time for their summit in 2005 and undertaking to prepare detailed reports
on the progress and implementation of the intermediate priorities set for the
next two years:
- quality assurance,
- two-cycle system,
- recognition of degrees and periods of studies
Participating countries will, furthermore, be prepared to allow access to the
necessary information for research on higher education relating to the objectives
of the Bologna Process. Access to data banks on ongoing research and research
results shall be facilitated.
Ministers consider it necessary to adapt the clause in the Prague Communiqué
on applications for membership as follows: Countries party to the European Cultural
Convention shall be eligible for membership of the European Higher Education
Area provided that they at the same time declare their willingness to pursue
and implement the objectives of the Bologna Process in their own systems of
higher education. Their applications should contain information on how they
will implement the principles and objectives of the declaration. Ministers decide
to accept the requests for membership of Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
"the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", Holy See, Russia, Serbia
and Montenegro and to welcome these states as new members thus expanding the
process to 40 European Countries.
Ministers recognise that membership of the Bologna Process implies substantial
change and reform for all signatory countries. They agree to support the new
signatory countries in those changes and reforms, incorporating them within
the mutual discussions and assistance, which the Bologna Process involves.
Ministers entrust 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 a Follow-up Group, which shall be composed of the representatives
of all members of the Bologna Process and the European Commission, with the
Council of Europe, the EUA, EURASHE, ESIB and UNESCO-CEPES as consultative members.
This group, which should be convened at least twice a year, shall be chaired
by the EU Presidency, with the host country of the next Ministerial Conference
A Board also chaired by the EU Presidency shall 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, ESIB and UNESCO-CEPES.
The Follow-up Group as well as the Board may convene ad hoc working groups
as they deem necessary. The overall follow-up work will be supported by a Secretariat
which the country hosting the next Ministerial Conference will provide. In its
first meeting after the Berlin Conference, the Follow-up Group is asked to further
define the responsibilities of the Board and the tasks of the Secretariat.
Work programme 2003-2005
Ministers ask the Follow-up Group to co-ordinate activities for progress of
the Bologna Process as indicated in the themes and actions covered by this Communiqué
and report on them in time for the next ministerial meeting in 2005.
Ministers decide to hold the next conference in the city of Bergen (Norway)
in May 2005.