The Bologna Process

On 19 June 1999, 29 Ministers1 in charge of higher education signed a declaration at a meeting in Bologna to establish a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) by 2010 and promote a European system of higher education worldwide. The aim of the Declaration is to make the higher education systems in Europe converge towards a more transparent system, whereby the different national systems would use a common framework. The Ministers affirmed in the Bologna Declaration their intention to:

  • adopt a system of easily readable and comparable degrees across Europe
  • adopt a structure with two main cycles (undergraduate/graduate)
  • establish a system of transferable credits
  • promote student mobility across Europe
  • promote European co-operation in quality assurance
  • promote the European dimension in higher education.

Since 1999 there have been a number of follow up meetings between the Ministers to assess progress towards the creation of the EHEA.

Prague 2001
Eight further countries joined the Declaration and three new action lines were added:

  • a focus on Lifelong Learning;
  • the inclusion of higher education institutions and the involvement of students in the process;
  • the promotion of the attractiveness and competitiveness of the European Higher Education Area to other parts of the world (including the aspect of transnational education).

Berlin 2003
It was decided that there would be a focus on three intermediate priorities for the following two years:

  • introduction of a quality assurance system to develop mutually shared criteria and methodologies
  • a two-cycle system and the development of an overarching European qualifications framework
  • recognition of degrees and periods of study, including the introduction of the Diploma Supplement by 2005.

Ministers also decided to go beyond the focus of two main cycles of higher education to include the doctoral level as the third cycle and to establish links between the European Higher Education and Research Areas. This became a new Action Line:

  • Doctoral studies and the synergy between the EHEA and the European Research Area (ERA).

Bergen 2005
It was decided that by the time of the London summit in May 2007, Ministers would be looking for progress in:

  • the implementation of the standards and guidelines for quality assurance;
  • the implementation of the national frameworks for qualifications;
  • the awarding and recognition of joint degrees;
  • the creation of opportunities for flexible learning paths in higher education, including procedures for the recognition of prior learning.

London 2007
This summit meeting led to the adoption of the London Communiqué - Towards the European Higher Education Area: responding to challenges in a globalised world. The communiqué took stock of the progress to date and set priorities for the 2009 summit in Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve hosted by the Benelux countries. Priorities included:

  • improving the attractiveness of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) to other regions. The Bologna follow-up group prepared a report on how this might develop after the target date and to presented this in Leuven.
  • continued exchange of experience on doctoral programmes across Europe.
  • supporting staff and student mobility and widening participation with new data collection and reporting national reporting arrangements.

The number of signatory countries has risen to 46.2

Benelux 2009
The most recent Ministerial Conference of the Bologna Process was hosted by the Benelux countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) on 28-29 April 2009 in Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium). It particularly highlighted the importance of widening access to higher education, lifelong learning, and mobility.

Further information about the Benelux summit is available:

Further information

All communiqués and related progress reports to date are available from the Bologna-Bergen website, currently operated by the Benelux Bologna Secretariat.

A detailed explanation of the Bologna Declaration is available from the European Commission, and a useful policy summary from Universities UK's Europe Unit.



1 Austria - Belgium- Bulgaria - Czech Republic - Denmark - Estonia - Finland - France - Germany - Greece - Hungary - Iceland - Ireland - Italy - Latvia - Lithuania - Luxembourg - Malta - the Netherlands - Norway - Poland - Portugal - Romania - Slovak Republic - Slovenia - Spain - Sweden - Swiss Confederation - United Kingdom.

2 Albania - Andorra - Armenia -Austria - Azerbaijan - Belgium - Bosnia and Herzegovina - Bulgaria - Croatia - Cyprus - Czech Republic - Denmark - Estonia - Finland - France - Georgia - Germany - Greece - Holy See - Hungary - Iceland - Ireland - Italy - Latvia - Liechtenstein - Lithuania - Luxembourg - Malta - Montenegro - Moldova - Netherlands - Norway - Poland - Portugal - Macedonia - Romania - Russia - Serbia - Slovakia - Slovenia - Spain - Sweden - Switzerland - Turkey - Ukraine - UK.


Last reviewed May 2009