The Bologna process
In 1999, the ministers of education of 29 European countries signed the Bologna Declaration, which aimed to establish a European higher education area by 2010. The process that followed the Declaration is known as the Bologna Process.
All the countries that have signed the European Cultural Convention may apply for membership of the Bologna Process, which is thus not a European Union process, although it can be related to the EU's growing involvement in the educational sector. Because of the role played by the education system in the construction of national culture and identity, education has been regarded as a sensitive area and has therefore not been subject to supranational control.
Adherence to the Bologna Declaration, which makes cooperation in education more binding than formerly, was therefore only possible after decades of gradually expanding European Union cooperation in the field of education.
A joint European higher education area also forms part of the Lisbon Strategy, which defines the strengthening of educational and research cooperation in Europe as one facet of the process of turning the European Union into the world's leading knowledge-based economy.
The Bologna Process comprises ten priority areas:
1. Introduction of a common degree structure
2. Introduction of a two-tier system (bachelor's and master's levels)
3. Introduction of a common system for academic credit (European Credit Transfer System/ECTS)
4. Greater mobility of students and of academic and administrative personnel
5. Cooperation on educational quality assurance
6. Strengthening of the European dimension in education, through the development of study plans, joint programmes and institutional collaboration
7. Lifelong learning
8. Involvement of institutions and students as partners in the Bologna Process
9. Strengthening of the attractiveness and drawing power of the European education area
10. Creation of closer relationships and greater synergy between the European education area and European research cooperation.
In addition to the above ten points, the “social dimension” has been given greater emphasis in recent years; i.e. the value of balancing efficiency and competitiveness against equal access to higher education for all groups of the population. The Bologna Process has been developed in the course of biennial meetings of the ministers of education in the signatory countries. Between the ministerial meetings, the Bologna Follow Up Group (BFUG), with representatives from member states and key organisations from the education sector, leads efforts to make progress.
Norway has been a member of the Bologna Process since the beginning, and has implemented the new structures in the national education system. The implementation was mainly done in the Quality Reform, which came into effect in autumn 2003. The National Organ for Quality in Education (NOKUT) was established in 2002 with the purpose of quality assurance, accreditation and approval of foreign courses and degrees.
The establishment of SIU as a separate administrative organ of the Ministry of Education and Research (KD) in 2004 may also be seen in the context of the Bologna Process. SIU’s tasks include programme administration, competence development, and the profiling of Norway as an education- and research-intensive nation. SIU is also a member of the national Bologna contact group led by KD, and coordinates the efforts of the Bologna Expert Group to increase awareness of the Bologna Process in Norwegian educational institutions.