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What is Bologna Process?

The Bologna Process is a collective effort of public authorities, universities, teachers, and students, together with stakeholder associations, employers, quality assurance agencies, international organisations, and institutions, including the European Commission.

Bologna Process aims to create the European higher education area by harmonising academic degree standards and quality assurance standards throughout Europe for each faculty and its development by the end of 2010.

The objectives are the introduction of undergraduate and postgraduate levels in all countries, with first degrees no shorter than 3 years; a European Credit Transfer System; the elimination of remaining obstacles to the mobility of students and teachers.

The name comes because the process was proposed at the University of Bologna with the signing, in 1999, of the Bologna declaration by ministers of education from 29 European countries in the Italian city of Bologna. This was opened up to other countries, and further governmental meetings have been held in Prague (2001), Berlin (2003) and Bergen (2005); the next meeting will take place in London in Autumn 2007.

General Information and Background

In May 1998 the ministers in charge of higher education of France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany signed the so-called Sorbonne Declaration at the Sorbonne University in Paris. Other European countries later subscribed to the Declaration. 

The Sorbonne Declaration focused on;

-a progressive convergence of the overall framework of degrees and cycles in an open European area for higher education

-a common degree level system for undergraduates (Bachelor's degree) and graduates (Master's and doctoral degree)

-enhancing and facilitating student and teacher mobility (students should spend at least one semester abroad); removing obstacles for mobility and improving recognition of degrees and academic qualifications.

(Bologna 1999) In June 1999, 29 European ministers in charge of higher education met in Bologna to lay the basis for establishing a European Higher Education Area by 2010 and promoting the European system of higher education world-wide. In the Bologna Declaration, the ministers affirmed their intention to:


-adopt a system of easily readable and comparable degrees

-adopt a system with two main cycles (undergraduate/graduate)

 -establish a system of credits (such as ECTS)

-promote mobility by overcoming obstacles

-promote European co-operation in quality assurance

-promote European dimensions in higher education

 Convinced that the establishment of the European Higher Education Area would require constant support, supervision and adaptation to continuously evolving needs, the ministers decided to meet again in two years time.

(Prague 2001)As it was planned, two years after the Bologna Declaration, the ministers in charge of higher education of 33 European signatory countries met in Prague in May 2001 to follow up the Bologna Process and to set directions and priorities for the following years.

The ministers decided that the next follow-up meeting of the Bologna Process should take place in 2003 in Berlin to review progress and to set directions and priorities for the next stages of the process towards the European Higher Education Area.

 (Berlin 2003) When ministers met again in Berlin in September 2003, they defined three intermediate priorities for the next two years: quality assurance, the two-cycle degree system and recognition of degrees and periods of studies. Specific goals were set for each of these action lines.  

Quality assurance

Ministers stressed the need to develop mutually shared criteria and methodologies and agreed 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

The two-cycle system

Ministers asked for the development of 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.

Recognition of degrees and periods of studies

Ministers underlined the importance of the Lisbon Recognition Convention, which should be ratified by all countries participating in the Bologna Process. Every student graduating as from 2005 should receive the Diploma Supplement automatically and free of charge. 

The third cycle

Ministers also considered 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 and to promote closer links between the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and the European Research Area (ERA). 

This added a tenth action line to the Bologna Process:

Doctoral studies and the synergy between EHEA and ERA. 

Ministers charged 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 period.

What is a credit system?

The credit system is a systematic way of describing an educational program by assigning loans to each of its components. Identification of loans in the higher education system can be based on various parameters, such as the student's load, learning outcomes and the amount of classroom load.

What is ECTS?

The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) is a system developed for the benefit of students and is based on determining the student load that is needed to achieve the programs goals. It is necessary to refine these goals, namely the results of learning and acquired skills.

How has ECTS been developed?

ECTS was developed in 1989 under the Erasmus program, which is currently part of the Socrates program. ECTS is the only successfully tested credit system used throughout Europe.

Initially, ECTS was intended only for credit transfer. The system contributed to the offset of education that was obtained abroad, and thus increased the quality and quantity of mobile students in Europe. Recently, ECTS has been transformed into an accumulation system that is being introduced across Europe at the institutional, regional and national levels. This is one of the key goals of the Bologna Declaration of 1999.

Why do you need ECTS?

ECTS simplifies understanding and comparison the curricula for all students (domestic and foreign). ECTS stimulates mobility and academic recognition. It helps universities to organize and review their curricula. ECTS can be used for different curricula and forms of study. This system makes obtaining higher education in Europe more attractive to students from other continents.

What are the main features of ECTS?

  • ECTS is based on an agreement that 60 credits represent the full-time student's load during the academic year. In most cases, the student's full-time load in Europe is 36/40 weeks a year, and in those cases, one loan is equal to 24-30 working hours. Load refers to the approximate time required by the average student to achieve the required learning outcomes.
  • Credit is also a way to transfer the learning outcomes quantitatively. The last one are the set of skills that means that they must know, understand, and be able to complete a student, regardless of the duration. ECTS credits can be obtained only after the completion of the required work and the corresponding assessment of the results of learning.
  • Distribution of ECTS credits is based on the official duration of the training program cycle. The total load required for a bachelor's degree, which requires 3-4 years of study, is equal to 180-240 credits.
  • Students' load in ECTS includes time spent listening to lectures, seminars, self-study, preparation and examinations, etc.

Credits are distributed across all educational components of the training program (modules, disciplines, internships, thesis, etc.) and reflect the amount of work required to complete each component due to the total number of required work to complete the full year of study in this program.

  • Student’s success is characterized by local / national assessments. Additional ECTS assessments are desirable, especially for the case of transfer of loans. The ECTS scores students on a statistical basis. The distribution of assessments among students who received an assessment above the unsatisfactory course is as follows:

A - the best 10%;

B - the next 25%;

C - the next 30%;

D - the next 25%;

E - the next 10%.

For unsuccessful students, there are FX and F estimates. Between them, there is a difference that FX means: "did not perform any part of the work necessary to obtain an assessment above unsatisfactory", and F: "did not do all the necessary work." The inclusion of FX and F estimates in decoding evaluations is optional.

What documents are essential for ECTS?

  • The current Information Package / Catalog of educational institutions in two languages (or only in English for the programs taught in this language) is posted on the Internet and / or published solidly in one booklet or in more booklets. Information package / Catalog of disciplines must contain a document that allows foreign students to receive information of interest to him.
  • An education agreement contains a list of disciplines to be studied by the student, agreed with the responsible department of the educational institution, where the student will undergo training. In case of a need for credit transfer, the Education Agreement must be agreed upon between the student, the old and the new facilities before leaving the student for a new institution, and updated as the changes occur.
  • Decoding grades (Academic Reference) reflects the student's progress, showing the list of disciplines he/she studied, received credits and local assessments (possibly, ECTS estimates). In the case of a credit transfer, the decoding of the ratings is issued before the student’s leaving, his/her institution of education, and the other institution - the student coming to study at the end of his period of study.

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