Follow-up to the Bologna Process on the European Higher Education Area

Recommendation on the Rome Communiqué and points for attention for Flanders

On 19 November 2020, the European Ministers of Education met to discuss cooperation and unification in higher education in Europe. The conclusions are compiled in the ‘Rome Communiqué’. It proposes to build a European Higher Education Area by 2030 around three central axes: ‘inclusive’, ‘innovative’, and ‘interconnected’.

The Vlor highlights a few points of attention and applies them to the Flemish context. The Vlor asks that the width of the points of attention in this recommendation also be taken into consideration in the further development of an internationalisation strategy for Flemish higher education.

Inclusive higher education

Collecting date on the social dimension of higher education will help to increase access and progression, especially for disadvantaged groups. The Vlor requests that the barriers hindering access to digital resources also be removed. Easily accessible physical mobility programmes, such as ‘summer schools’, project weeks and guided group travels, provide opportunities to offer students a foreign experience in an accessible way.

Innovative higher education

There should also be an effort towards student-centred learning, flexible tracks within the context of lifelong learning and inter- and trans disciplinarity in education and research. Finally, higher education must also innovate by developing 21st century skills and digital competences.

Interconnected higher education

Next to virtual and ‘blended’ mobility, the Vlor underlines that physical mobility must remain an option, also to the United Kingdom (after the Brexit) and the global south (so also outside Europe). In order to protect and strengthen the position of Flemish higher education, internationalisation must be viewed in a wider sense than international mobility. Structural European cooperation between higher education should also be promoted. And for many themes (such as the climate issue), a bridge needs to be built between higher education and other policy areas.

Academic freedom

The Communiqué reaffirms the promotion and protection of shared fundamental values in the European Higher Education Area. For the Vlor these values may be defined a little more clearly and academic freedom is also important for all staff in higher education institutions.

Global alignment

The Vlor supports the commitment to achieve an alignment framework for student and staff mobility, fundamental values and recognition of qualifications not only within the European Higher Education Area, but also globally. In this perspective, the synergy between the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and other educational processes, such as the European Education Area (EEA) and the ASEM Education Process (Asia-Europe Meeting) should also be protected.

Pioneering role

The Bologna Process is a very far-reaching process that has revolutionised higher education on a large scale, also in Flanders. To keep its higher education up to standard in terms of quality and thus internationally, Flanders must continue to play a pioneering role in the Bologna Process. Trough a circular learning process that raises all countries to a minimum level, discrepancies between countries can be reduced. Adequate financing and the removal of obstacles in the regulations are important predictions for achieving these goals, also at the Flemish level.