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Advantages of the Bologna Process
What is Bologna?
Bologna refers to the New European Higher Education System. On June 19, 1999, 30 European states signed the Bologna Declaration, promoting the creation of a European Higher Education Area (EHEA), the formal name for a university system to which all officially accredited European universities belong.
What is Bologna for?
The European Higher Education Area is a common framework for European countries to encourage convergence in education, employability and mobility within Europe and attract students, professors and researchers from around the world.
What are Bologna's goals?
The EHEA has 6 main objectives which contribute to achieving its goals:
1. Mutual recognition of qualifications
A simple, transparent system to compare qualifications has been adopted. This involves, among other measures, introducing a Diploma Supplement or a European Degree Supplement.
2. Common degree structures
A system with two main cycles, Graduate and Postgraduate, has been adopted. This has been divided into 3 levels of study:
-Bachelor – Basic higher education aimed at acquiring the essential skills for professional life.
-Masters – Advanced postgraduate studies aimed at acquiring specific professional skills and/or research competencies.
-Doctorate – Advanced postgraduate studies which focus specifically on research.
3. Transferable credit system
The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) provides for immediate, automatic acceptance by a European university of the credits obtained at any other European university. Such credits are generally called ‘ECTS’ or ‘ECTS credits’.
4. Mobility programs
Mobility programs have been accelerated, and the common standards now adopted by all EHEA countries enable immediate free movement of students, professors, researchers and other staff among all universities and other higher education and research institutions.
5. Quality Assurance
EHEA countries have committed to uniform quality standards. This is reflected in standardized criteria and methods. The following guidelines are particularly relevant to students:
- Higher education institutions must define and publish their policy and procedures for the continuous improvement of their programs and qualifications.
- Procedures have been established for the approval, modification and monitoring of programs and qualifications.
- Consistent student assessment criteria have been implanted.
- Procedures ensuring the assessment and continuous improvement of teaching staff have been established.
- Procedures have been established to ensure the availability of appropriate learning resources for all programs.
6. Continuous professional development and lifelong learning
EHEA institutions may therefore provide opportunities for ongoing professional education, as well as facilitating access to higher education for students who require flexible programs outside the standard qualification structures. A provision that is especially relevant to students as it affects their daily lives is that:
- Higher education institutions may formally recognize and give credit for a substantial quantity of learning that is, by its nature, informal, as well as learning acquired through professional practice in the workplace.
How is it achieved?
As well as implementing its stated goals, the main activity within the EHEA is the introduction of new program structures. This is the aspect that is most visible to, and which has the greatest impact on today’s students.
The most important aspect of the introduction of new program structures (listed in number 2, above) is the following:
1. In Spain all universities had to adopt the new degree system by 2010
2. The most important characteristic of the new degrees transcends the hierarchy of qualifications and the credits system: they are centered on the process of learning. This is one of the great innovations of the EHEA. Program content and the courses leading to each qualification are focused on the student’s acquisition of competencies, rather than on the simple transfer of knowledge.
3. What is a competence?
A competence is a capability, ie. how well a student has been prepared to do a professional or academic activity. It entails the correct deployment of knowledge and skills, as well as appropriate attitudes, a sense of responsibility and autonomy, and professional values.
4. Which competencies are involved?
When devising the new programs, EHEA universities, with the assistance of institutions such as accreditation agencies and other bodies in each country that are responsible for overseeing higher education, had to identify the relevant competencies for each qualification, based on the minimum practice standards required in a particular professional or academic context. It is important to stress that a competence should not be understood as a ‘practical capability’.
This is something that sometimes leads to failure in understanding what Bologna is about, because a competence may contain a purely conceptual dimension. While knowledge of specific content is by no means irrelevant in the Bologna scheme, what is required is that the student understands the knowledge and learns how to use it.
5. Program content must be focused on learning outcomes, and must contain the following elements (we refer to Bachelor degrees):
- Basic training in the field of knowledge Core subjects
- Elective subjects
- Final-year project/thesis (between 6 and 30 ECTS credits)
- Other learning activities (seminars, supervised projects, etc.)
6. This is reflected in the credits that the student earns:
- In each program the ECTS are distributed among the course elements specified above. In other words, the student’s workload and corresponding credits are specified clearly.
- The student’s overall workload is the total number of hours of work required to complete all the tasks required in order to meet the objectives defined in the program content.
- One ECTS credit corresponds to 25-30 hours work by the student.
- A full-time student earns 60 ECTS credits per academic year, which entails a working week of approximately 40 hours - a total of 1400-1600 hours over one academic year (usually of 36-40 weeks).
What advantages does the student have?
There are four major advantages:
- All of the student’s completed courses (credits) are recognized throughout the EHEA. The obvious advantages of mobility, employability and the ability to transmit and deploy in society everything that makes up a student’s learning, and professional and academic competence can be added to this.
- An up-to-date education, centered on the acquisition of professional and academic competencies, providing enhanced opportunities for rapid entry into the professional workplace.
- A broad-based education in which reflection on individual personal and professional development is important – thus recovering the original spirit of higher education, namely a holistic approach to learning and personal development.
- Greater flexibility in tailoring the academic and professional curriculum, according to each student’s individual profile.
In short, we can say that university education today is more:
How is IE University adapted to Bologna?
IE University was one of the first universities in Spain and in Europe to adapt its practice to the EHEA. IE University has been awarding EHEA accredited Bachelor degrees since 2008.
Thanks to its origins, which are an extension of the IE Business School model, IE University has always subscribed to many of Bologna’s principles and objectives in its educational philosophy and methods. Although this was not formally within the new structures, some of Bologna’s most important characteristics were already part and parcel of IE’s educational model:
- Student-centered education, based on the student’s learning and development, through the acquisition of relevant competencies
- International outlook and promotion of student mobility: Importance of continuous professional development and lifelong learning, from the initial stages of higher education (postgraduate in the case of IE Business School) through to executive education
- Valuing and crediting learning acquired informally and/or in a professional context
- Tailoring the teaching methodologies and materials to the subjects taught
- Orientation toward employability
- Strategies, policies and procedures to ensure continuous improvement of programs, teaching, and communication with students
In the Methods section of the website, you can see exactly how these aspects are applied in the day-to-day student experience.
Even so, IE University’s commitment goes even further than Bologna. The EHEA provides IE University with the opportunity to extend, formalize and grow within the framework of its five guiding principles:
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