HomeThe Construction of the European Area of Higher Education, 20 years after the Launch of the Bologna Process

HomeThe Construction of the European Area of Higher Education, 20 years after the Launch of the Bologna Process

The Construction of the European Area of Higher Education, 20 years after the Launch of the Bologna Process

La construction de l’espace européen de l’enseignement supérieur, 20 ans après le lancement du Processus de Bologne

*  *  *

Published on Wednesday, June 19, 2019


20 years after the signing of the Bologna Process, the time seems right to take stock of its implementation. The aim is to focus on its procedural dimension and on the organisational and/or strategic developments and responses to its implementation by the higher education institutions concerned. The focus on the Bologna Process cannot be exclusively managerial. The implementation of the Bologna Process, which is non-prescriptive, with national variations often induced by specific policies, has often encountered difficulties in terms of ownership and legitimization by actors in higher education systems, which ultimately raises the issue of the effectiveness of the Process. It is also interesting to study universities as actors and producers of discourse in relation to European integration.


International Conference, October, 7-8, 2019

Matej Bel University

Faculty of Political Sciences and International Relations

Banská Bystrica – Slovakia


On 19 June 1999, 29 European countries signed the Bologna Declaration, marking the beginning of a long period of change, and thereby making the signatory countries aware of the fundamental need to reshape the European academic institutions in every aspect and in details.

The result of a long tradition of university rapprochement within Europe, the Bologna Process has “undeniably become the most important and transformative process of higher education reform in history” (Crosier & Pareva, 2014, 21). It is a fundamental step in European construction, which can strengthen (or build) the attractiveness of higher education institutions, to increase internal mobility (within the scope of the Bologna Process, and in particular with a harmonization of training), but also external. Ultimately, the aim is to make the university a major player in the construction of a “more complete and ambitious Europe based in particular on the strengthening of its intercultural, social, scientific and technological dimensions (Declaration of Bologna, 1999).

The Bologna Process is innovative in many ways: by its initial impetus and its birth outside the framework of the European authorities (the initiative goes mainly to the signatory countries of the Sorbonne Declaration - Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom), by the nature of the project and the scale of the transformations to be undertaken with a view to harmonization (initially about the structure of programmes, and progressively focused on the issues of learning outcomes, employability, quality and intercultural and linguistic skills) towards the creation of a European Higher Education Area (EHEA), but also by a three-level mode of piloting imbricating different logics (non-normative strategic logic at supranational level which sets objectives and priorities, coercive logic, most time, at the level of the signatory States, and logic of instrumentation allowing the translation of the objectives and priorities into instruments or approaches at the local level).

The gradual implementation of the Bologna Process is a synonym for European higher education institutions of essential and fundamental developments, especially in terms of governance and management, not without conveying a feeling of vagueness, a lack of clarity, which could harm the necessary appropriation of the Process by the actors in charge of its implementation, the stakeholders of the university (Lips, 2016).

48 member countries, thousands of higher education institutions in the current European Higher Education Area, so many organizational responses to the projects inherent to the changes in the university "world", so many strategies, so many ways to appropriate or criticize the process, and remain visible.

20 years after the initiation of the Bologna Process, the moment gives an opportunity to review its implementation. It is a question of concentrating in particular on its process dimension and on the evolutions and the answers brought to its putting into practice in organizational and strategic terms by the institutions of higher education concerned. The field of study of the Bologna Process from a managerial point of view is still very open and little explored. Such lighting could give rise to the birth of operational knowledge and new perspectives of questioning.

However, the study of the Bologna Process cannot be exclusively focusing on management. Indeed, since its initial objective is to make European higher education institutions the instruments for strengthening European integration, the analysis of political scientists seems to be complementary to a reflection stemming from management sciences. In addition, the question of intercultural and identity-based contributions to and for Eurogeneration should be addressed: a generation of “easy jetsetters”, accustomed to traveling in the European continent at a lower cost, brings out a new idea of the recognition of the time spent in a neighbouring European country. A new mobility has now been installed. However, recent identity movements, for example PEGIDA in East Germany, are redefining the European Union as a fortress open only to state nationals (and again, this is said without counting the implicit hierarchy between Europeans ...) (Bonnaire, 2018).

Axe 1: Top-down and Bottom-up, strategy and steering

The broad, non-normative lines of the Bologna Process are initially drawn at the supranational level. They then concentrate, in a top down logic, on higher education institutions. Between these two levels, the States remain sovereign in its strategic choices and responsible for the “proper” implementation of the objectives, according to their programmes and its priorities in the national questions of education. It is also at this level that the logic of coercion comes into play, with most states having introduced laws and regulations instituting the modalities of changes (Crosier & Parveva, 2014). As a result, the links between State and higher education institutions are particularly interesting.

The issues of local appropriation of the Bologna Process and of possible translations of its main lines are fundamental. It is also important to analyse the strategy of organizations, formal or not, to redesign structures, to redefine objectives, to move from a traditional organizational system to a new structure in the name of the Bologna Process.

How HEIs change, with what kind of management tools and (new) models of governance? Can specific models be brought to light? Which (new) actors allow and/or conduct these changes? Spaces of freedom left, deliberately or unintentionally, by the coercive logics of the States, obviously give a relative freedom to act to the actors of the local implementation of public policies (Lips, 2016). What roles does this freedom play in the implementation of instruments and approaches? The “way forward” for a “good” local implementation is not being totally initiated by States, and academics responsible for the implementation of BP may suffer from a lack of clarity? How to fix it?

The questions about the top-down aspects of the Process are numerous and ultimately reflect the process dimension of its implementation. Nevertheless, if the establishment of the European Higher Education Area mainly follows this top-down approach, many bottom-up mechanisms, planned or not, is to be taken into account, completing the procedure dimension of the construction of the BP. From this perspective, the institutions play (once again) a central role: they are the actors, with the support of the States, of the development of cooperation and networks, ensuring different mobilities (students, teachers, knowledge) and allowing the cementation of the foundations of the EHEA through exchanges and partnerships.

What strategies are set up for this purpose? Do rankings play a role that should not be underestimated in this development? Is interuniversity competition proving to be a relevant instrument? What roles do intermediate coordination structures play? In bottom-up logic, mobility issues are also crucial, as in the lifelong learning programmes? Still in this upward processual logic, should the question of how to return on experience, for example with implementation reports should be reconsidered for greater efficiency?

The reflection on the strategies is inseparable from that on the organizations. It is therefore important to consider also the Bologna Process, beyond the ambitions of harmonization in terms of changes of the training structures, from a managerial point of view, as a process likely to favour a harmonization of management and governance of the HEIs.

Indeed, if the harmonization of the EHEA is rooted in top-down logic and can be observed relatively easily, it is also (and above all?) fitted through bottom-up mechanism. In this respect, how are "good practices", by extension, diffusion, imitation or isomorphism, implemented by HEIs, by what types of actors and for what results? The question of evaluation and self-evaluation is fundamental, in the context of the standards and norms induced by the accreditation methods, which can determine conformity procedures. In particular, are evaluation practices in the context of the implementation of the main lines of the BP questionable? To which extent the establishment of a non-binding mode of coordination, thus respecting one of the pillars of the Bologna Process, of the Open Method of Coordination type, which combines top-down and bottom-up logic, could make up for the difficulties of certain institutions in appropriating and translating of the objectives? This harmonization of practices, teaching methods and skills assessment, this focus on professional integration and on lifelong learning, this constant concern to meet the expectations of companies while being a player privileged learning of citizenship and democracy, whether from a top-down or bottom-up process, raised the problem of homogenization of the management of universities and their possible transformation into “entrepreneurial university”, hereby integrating the NPM approach.

The quality approaches, a lot of self-evaluations, the facilitated mobility are considered to be positive, especially by the students. But the limitation, de facto, of the role of academics in the governance of the HEIs can be a potential source of an important phenomenon of bureaucratization, accentuated by various and varied mechanisms of isomorphism. The question then arises of the resilience capacity of traditional university models and their national dimension. Could the European university, resulting from the Bologna process, still be a national model?

Axe 2: The Bologna Process as vector of internationalization of education and of European identification systems

A well-developed, high-quality education system that meets the requirements of an innovative economy, integrated in an international dimension, is an element of competitiveness and attractiveness for a State. For this purpose, a policy of improving the quality of education and preparing students for a globalized world is crucial and therefore has been articulated with an internationalization policy. In Europe, this process began to evolve, with the Bologna Process and the European student mobility programmes. Strengthening of the international cooperation among higher education institutions is not only a source of soft power, but also of improving the quality of teaching. The aim is also to strengthen European competitiveness by increasing cooperation among Member States and their citizens, developing a knowledge-based economy and strengthening an inclusive social system.

The Bologna Process is part of this process and it is interesting to put it in perspective also with the evolution of the identity of the European Union, and even of the identities of the citizens of the European Union. The exercise of European citizenship, in fact, is based on identity constructions, based on principles, values, common actions, but especially by mobilizing the capacity of every citizen of a Member State to be able to identify with a representation of the whole. Democracy is not a disembodied value. It is enabled by the institution and is specified in practice, in everyday life. We do not build citizenship; we acquire it, recognize it, and understand it. On the other hand, identity is the result of  social, psychological, cultural and political, evolutionary and plural processes. Citizenship is unique, in a specific context and logic, whereas identity is plural, evolutionary, linked to cultures and circumstances, to interpersonal relationships as well as to social representations.

The link between European citizenship and European identity is both instrumentalized and obvious. The more the EU acquires roles that are recognized and legitimized by the citizens, the more the politics takes precedence over the economic, the more the European identity can demonstrate that it begins to exist.

What role has the Bologna Process really played in community integration? Faced with Brexit, the rise of extremes and Euroscepticism, what has been its role for European cohesion?

The implementation of the Bologna Process, which is non-prescriptive, with national variations often induced by particular policies, has often encountered difficulties of appropriation and legitimation by the actors of the higher education systems, which poses the problem, ultimately, of the effectiveness of the BP. Is it a revelation of the weakness of the European construction?

The mobilities induced by the Process contribute to changing attitudes, but with what results related to European identities? The proportion of “mobile” citizens is increasing, but does this contribute to the formation of a European identity, to an increase in employability on a labour market that goes beyond local or national frameworks?

The Bologna Process goes beyond the framework of the European Union and has rapidly spread to the countries of the Council of Europe. It has also inspired other approaches for international interuniversity alliances, such as the African and Malagasy Council for Higher Education (CAMES). In the end, are the Bologna Process and its national variations vehicles for encouraging internationalization, and if so, how?

Is this Process a "driver" of reform for other regions and to what extent? Conversely, is the EHEA inspired by other alliances to learn from its mistakes? Does its export ultimately represent an opportunity to measure the efforts that need to be continued in the construction of the EHEA? Can we talk here about Europeanisation of universities, curricula, staff and students?

Axe 3: The Bologna Process and intercultural links within the European area

If we consider the Bologna Process no more from the point of view of politics and governance, but of exchange and mobility, we must ask ourselves to what extent this process really played a role in integrating and strengthening European links? However, the Commission announced “more than one million European babies” since the programme was created, or rather Erasmus programmes. What impact does this have on the daily lives of the inhabitants of the European Union? Does not a form of European elitism exist there, for those who are involved and the other inhabitants of the EU from a third country outside Europe? Does the image of others, of “European others”, influence the media discourse on Europe and the Bologna Process or vice versa? The Bologna Process seems to have helped to change the image of Europe, thanks to extended intercultural competences, for example acquired during an Erasmus(+) stay in a neighbouring country. Have films such as Cédric Klapisch’s L’Auberge espagnole or Les Poupées Russes, based on the EHEA and an Erasmus stay, “democratized” an idea of Europe, but also of European mobility?

The grouping of different programmes (Leonardo, Comenius, etc.) under a single appellation, which has become Erasmus+, does not in itself lead to the legitimization of the “Europe for all”, political project likely to be carried by a hyper-open “generation”, mobile and intercultural, apprentices, schoolchildren, students, young workers (see documentary Arte, The Children of Erasmus).

It is interesting to study the universities as actors and producers of discourse related to the construction of Europe, until the trivialization of the project. In considering discourses on the internationalization of universities or international academic exchanges, Erasmus programmes have often been, de facto, positioned in a hollowing out of a more “exotic” internationalization. But do the different European university actors have the same view; do they ultimately have the same uses (attractiveness, image, quality, etc.) of international student exchanges or European research projects? Does the local university context favour local translations of discourses on the Europeanisation of Universities and how is the “local-European” built by the actors? Are the hierarchies of the “good” local universities maintained at the European level? Is international dynamism a real “reputation” lever?

If we consider the benefits of internationalization or at least the Europeanisation of the EHEA, we must also take into account the transformations of academic cultures, which are gradually feeding on exchanges and projects in mobility. Thus the evaluation of universities, but also of researchers, is increasingly based on their involvement in networks. The presence of many Erasmus students, but also the possibility of pursuing a master or doctorate programme in another EU country may change the perception of academic cultures, the results, and the scientific way to tackle a problem.

In addition, the ability to create double degrees or joint degrees in the frame of the BP, strengthens the employability and openness of graduates as well as their cross-cultural skills and their willingness to live and adapt in another country and abroad, in another academic culture (cf. French-German University).

The ability to think and write in several languages, but also the quasi obligation to write or communicate in English, changes the way scientists and students work, but also the evaluation and the results, because once more, theoretical texts apply new methods or hybrid methods. The results of the research and the work are therefore enriched by this process of openness and convergence.

Finally, the mobility aspect of the EHEA institutions also favours, in the long term, the soft-power effect thanks to the implementation of specific measures for internationals and exchanges (Nye, 2019). The socio-psychological and structural aspects are transformed by the convergent aspects implied by the BP and create a new European scientific space. Nevertheless, even if language skills are increased, it is not clear that intercultural skills and knowledge are increasing. On the contrary, could we not assume that stereotypes can be formed, following a (short) mobility?

The image of the European neighbour could, then, be changed with particular clichés that could be considered as grounded because the people who peddle them have the authority of their experience? Can we say that there is a convergence of a certain European reflection within the EHEA, but also beyond, in civil society, among others in the media?

Do international exchanges, especially within the EU, have an impact on academic organizations; promoting democratic or collegiate modes of functioning, and contribution to changing relations between teachers and students? Do stays abroad, especially in the context of pivotal years of European elections such as 2019, promote the awareness of the democratic duty also on a European level?

What is the impact of digitalisation, especially distance learning devices, from one country to another, on interculturality and intercultural communication? Does the possibility of working remotely via digital tools promote the emergence of a European digital public space? Can it be observed across the EHEA and evaluated the impact on teaching and learning? Is there a correlation between exchanges and digital development in universities?


Aristomenopoulou, Angelik et Apostolidis, Andreas, Les Enfants d’Erasmus – L’Europe pour tous ?, ARTE, Anemon Productions, 2019.

Bonnaire, Anne-Coralie, 2017, « Les discours de peur en ex-Allemagne de l’Est: PEGIDA, AfD & Co. », in Hermès 77 (1) Incommunicabilités européennes, 87–91.

Crosier, David, & Parveva, Teodora, 2014, Le Processus de Bologne : son impact en Europe et dans le monde, Institut International de Planification de l’Éducation, Paris, Unesco.

Déclaration de Bologne, 19 juin 1999, disponible sur <http://www.unige.ch/formev/Archives/bologne/basic/DeclarationBologne.pdf>.

Deutsch-Französische Hochschule, 2014, Ergebnisse der Absolventenstudie 2014, Saarbrücken. Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency, « EMJMD Catalogue », https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/erasmus-plus/emjmd-catalogue_en (25 janvier 2019).

Jones Elspeth et Brown Sally, 2007, « Contextualising international Higher Education. Chapter 15 », in Brown Sally et Jones Elspeth (eds.), Internationalising higher education, London, New York, Routledge, p. 195–200.

Leask Betty, 2015, Internationalizing the curriculum, London, Routledge (coll. « Internationalization in higher education series »).

Lips, Christophe, 2016, L’appropriation du Processus de Bologne par les acteurs de l’université, enjeux et perspectives, thèse de doctorat, Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin en Yvelines.

Nye, Joseph Soft Power and Higher Education. Forum for the Future of Higher Education. Cambridge, MA. En ligne : http://forum.mit.edu/articles/soft-power-and-higher-education/, consulté le 25 janvier 2019.


This conference is organized in partnership with the management research laboratory LAREQUOI of the University of Versailles St-Quentin-en-Yvelines and the Department of International Relations and Diplomacy of the Faculty of Political Science and International Relations, Matej Bel University of Banska Bystrica.

Presentations and exchanges will be the subject of a valuation, especially in the form of publications and may also allow the establishment of a collective research.

Submission Guidelines

Communications: English, French, Slovak

Written contributions: English, French

Proposals for contributions (title, abstract of the proposal - 150 words -, 4 to 6 keywords, personal presentation of the author or authors) should be sent

before September 3, 2019,

simultaneously to:

Radovan Gura, radovan.gura@umb.sk & Gilles Rouet, gilles.rouet@uvsq.fr

The selected authors will have to send their text after the conference, before October 30, 2019 (20 to 40 000 characters). A publication will then be made.

Scientific committee

  • Mourad Attarça, ISM, Larequoi, Université de Versailles St-Quentin-en-Yvelines
  • Anne-Coralie Bonnaire, Université de Chemnitz
  • Hervé Chomienne, ISM, Larequoi, Université de Versailles St-Quentin-en-Yvelines
  • Thierry Côme, Larequoi & Université de Reims-Champagne-Ardenne
  • William Gueraiche, University Wollongong, Dubaï 
  • Radovan Gura, Université Matej Bel, Banska Bystrica
  • Branislav Kováčik, Université Matej Bel, Banska Bystrica
  • Christophe Lips, Université d’Augsburg
  • Jana Marasova, Université Matej Bel, Banska Bystrica
  • Stela Raytcheva, ISM, Larequoi, Université de Versailles St-Quentin-en-Yvelines
  • Gilles Rouet, ISM-UVSQ & Université Matej Bel, Banska Bystrica
  • Maria Rostekova, Université Matej Bel, Banska Bystrica
  • Peter Terem, Université Matej Bel, Banska Bystrica                                                                 


  • Faculté de Sciences Politiques et des Relations Internationales - Kuzmanyho 1, 974 01, Banska Bystrica
    Banská Bystrica, Slovakia (974 01)


  • Tuesday, September 03, 2019


  • Processus de Bologne, Européanisation, Universités, Enseignement Supérieur


  • gilles rouet
    courriel : gilles [dot] rouet [at] uvsq [dot] fr

Reference Urls

Information source

  • gilles rouet
    courriel : gilles [dot] rouet [at] uvsq [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« The Construction of the European Area of Higher Education, 20 years after the Launch of the Bologna Process », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, June 19, 2019, https://calenda.org/637788

Archive this announcement

  • Google Agenda
  • iCal
Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search