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ESU at the BFUG meeting in Vienna: First objective accomplished

Between 27-28 September 2018, the 63rd meeting of the Bologna Follow-Up Group (BFUG) took place in Vienna, Austria. Right after our European Students’ Convention 36 (ESC36), the three members of our presidency were ready to stand for the rights of 20 million students they represent. Adam Gajek (President), Katrina Koppel and Robert Napier (Vice-presidents) attended the meeting aimed at turning the policy commitments adopted during the Ministerial Conference in Paris into a real structure of work.

Social Dimension is back in Higher Education

One of the triumphs during the meeting was the adoption of the European Students’ Union (ESU) proposal for the creation of an Advisory Group to work on Social Dimension within the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) framework.

ESU had been entrusted by the BFUG Board to propose the terms of reference for an Advisory Group on the Social Dimension within Higher Education in order to achieve what is declared in the Paris Communique. Over the summer months, these terms were developed and several meetings were held with relevant stakeholders to ensure that the content aligned with the different perspectives and views on this subject, keeping the students’ voice at the centre of all discussions.

At the BFUG meeting in Vienna, ESU presented the proposal for an advisory group that will see the creation of Principles and Guidelines for Enhanced Social Dimension within Higher Education. The overarching objective is to start moving from policies into more concrete actions. Whilst understanding the different perceptions of the social dimension between different countries, ESU believes that through these principles and guidelines all EHEA countries will have the opportunity to start implementing the policies that have been previously agreed upon.

The work of this Advisory Group will focus on different levels. Primarily, it will seek to gather and examine existing data on good practices in the field of social dimension by examining the previously agreed commitments and collected data on this field. Following this, the principles and guidelines will be drafted and agreed upon by the members of this group. In line with this, the group should start working on Peer Learning Activities which will hopefully be increased after the adoption of the principles and guidelines at the next Ministerial Conference in 2020.

ESU is very much looking forward to working with the members of this group, and delivering concrete outcomes by the end of its mandate.

Implementation in focus

After years of struggle with the implementation of the Bologna reforms, the unequal introduction of the Bologna tools and the lack of political will to prioritize the Bologna process; a new agreement was established at the Ministerial Conference in Paris to create new structures to enhance the implementation of the reforms.

The European Students’ Union (ESU) will participate in three peer support groups, led by country representatives and supported by a grant from the European Commission. The aforementioned groups will aim at reinforcing the implementation and best practices on three matters – ECTS and qualifications frameworks; recognition in line with the Lisbon Recognition Convention and finally Quality Assurance complying with the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG).

The case of unfollowed Roadmap for Belarus was also discussed. The Belarussian students and other stakeholders rely on the Bologna reforms as the only chance for participation in a dialogue on higher education in their country. Belarus will have to report to the BFUG Board on the situation of the Roadmap’s goals introduction.

The aspects of learning and teaching will be addressed by a newly established working group; the tasks and structure of the group are yet to be developed, but it proves that European countries and stakeholders are setting these issues as priorities for the further development of Higher Education.

A Bologna implementation report will be issued by Eurydice in 2020 and introduced at the Ministerial Conference in Rome. The report will focus on specific issues such as fundamental values of higher education.

Bologna objectives and students’ perspective

ESU is glad to see the large alignment between the priorities of students and the priorities of the Bologna process in general.

This is particularly apparent when comparing looking at the outcomes of the student-led research project “Bologna With Student Eyes”, an analytical overview of the Bologna process that has been publishing results since 2005. The newest iteration of the “Bologna With Student Eyes” publication published in 2018 is available here.


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