Outcomes of the EHEA Ministerial Conference
YEREVAN- On the 14th and 15th of May the ministers of education in the European Higher Education Area meet in Yerevan, Armenia to discuss the priorities for higher education for the next three years. The European Students’ Union were present representing the students in the Area at the table. In addition, students took part in many countries’ delegations.
The European Students’ Union had three key priorities from the start of the discussion of the Ministerial Conference Communiqué as well as throughout the work with the follow-up structures of the Bologna Process over the past years. These include (not in hierarchical order):
- To integrate student-centred learning within the Bologna tools, and ensure that countries commit to learning and teaching as a priority in the upcoming period. This was addressed as a strong priority in the Yerevan Communiqué, and it is also now included in the newly revised European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area, as well as the new ECTS users guide.
- To ensure that countries live up to their commitments to the social dimension of higher education through active work in the EHEA and improved research on the situation in the countries. While the social dimension has been highlighted as a priority in the communiqué and the social dimension strategy was adopted, ESU still has concerns about the genuine commitment of countries when it comes to concrete action.
- To support and encourage the correct implementation of Bologna commitments and reforms to ensure students’ access to quality higher education throughout the entire EHEA. Countries committed to intensify their work on implementation, and a door was opened in the communiqué for those wishing to go further. In the upcoming period, ESU looks forward to work to ensure that Bologna reaches its goals by 2020.
- All throughout ESU’s work student participation is also an active theme. This issue also came to the forefront of the debates in a more heated way due to the discussions on Belarus’ accession to the EHEA. The wording on student representation was strengthened at the meeting, however Belarus was still accepted as a conditional member of the EHEA. ESU stressed that academic freedom must be a fundamental value for the EHEA in the upcoming period, and countries must genuinely protect and support students and academics in exercising their right to academic freedom. This was meet with strong support, however the question remains what impact this will have on the ground.
In addition, ESU was happy to support a stronger reference to work on gender equality in the next period. Generally, it can be said that ESU is rather pleased with the outcomes of the Ministerial Conference. Each of our priorities were addressed clearly in the Communiqué and throughout several of the adopted tools. However, several major concerns must be addressed head-on if we are to ensure the success of the Bologna Process as a whole. Mainly this has to do with the interest of countries as ESU addressed early on at the Conference. There needs to be an open and serious dialogue about how to improve the situation so that the goals set out can be reached in the coming period. However, as a whole, the Ministerial Conference was a welcomed light in the dark of the Process, and we look forward to seeing a full house of ministers in Paris in 2018.
Finally, ESU would like to thank all of the active student delegates who worked hard to ensure the student voice was heard, as well as our partners in the Bologna Process over the years that have passed, including both stakeholders and countries. In addition, we would like to thank the work of the Armenian Bologna Secretariat who organised a successful conference. We also wish the best of luck to the French Bologna Secretariat who has now taken over. We mark the end of this chapter in the Bologna Process and look forward to the next.
For more information, watch EHEA Conference video: