EI and its affiliates from the higher education sector are partners in the current ministerial conference in Bergen (Norway, 19-20 May) aimed at developing a European Higher Education Area. This participation is an official recognition that academics are the "third pillar" of the Bologna process.
In February, an EI/ETUCE conference of academic staff unions adopted a policy statement requesting to be involved in the Bologna process at the European and national levels. A union survey, commissioned by EI, highlighted in April 2004, the lack of direct representation of academic and research staff in the Bologna Process. Trade unions have already reinforced their cooperation with representatives of the European higher education institutions (EUA) and with the European Association of Students (ESIB). The Bologna Process The Bologna Process aims to establish by 2010 a European area of higher education formed by 45 countries, achieving full student mobility and mutual recognition of credits and degrees. This will no doubt affect staff working in the higher education sector. Launched in 1999, the Bologna Process did not immediately involve the organisations representing higher education staff on both national and European levels, although student organisations were already engaged in the debate. Nevertheless, trade unions have inserted themselves into the debate. Discussion on the topic was initiated by in EI Europe’s Standing Committee on Higher Education and Research. Furthermore, higher education is the theme of a discussion network managed by EI coordinator Monique Fouilhoux under the aegis of the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE).