Education International
Education International

Putting the Bologna Process into practice

published 9 November 2005 updated 9 November 2005

As in the classroom, there are good and weak students among the countries involved in the Bologna Process. Whilst Higher Education unions in Poland and Portugal are well informed on the process of convergence between universities, their governments are rather slow on the uptake. "I would say that Poland is in the middle pack along with France and Germany, whilst Portugal is trailing behind with the United Kingdom, Greece and Sweden," comments Ryszard Mosakowski, professor at the Technological University of Gdansk and representative of the Polish trade union Solidarnosc-Science. Ryszard Mosakowski has shown a long-term interest in the Bologna Process, and has also written a number of books on the subject, unfortunately only available in Polish.

Ryszard also drew his minister’s attention to the Bologna Process some months before the Berlin Ministerial Conference in 2003, and the minister replied that: "we have no obligation to this, so we will do nothing". Since then, the minister has become involved in the Bologna Process, and is now convinced of its relevance. Furthermore, the union activist Ryszard Mosakowski has been invited to sit on the Polish committee for the implementation of the Bologna Process. This summer, the Polish parliament passed a law which will oblige higher education institutions to co-ordinate in accordance with the Bologna Process. According to Ryszard, 20% of institutions are currently compliant. The cycles of study, copied from the German model, are relatively close to the degree structure set out at Bologna (three years for a Bachelor’s Degree and two extra years for a Masters). The situation is different in Portugal. A law was passed to change the degree structure, because the Portuguese system included an extra year. "However, the government did not involve the trade unions, among other reasons because there are two unions," explains Manuel Dos Santos from FENPROF Portugal, professor of physics at the University of Evora. "Also, there was no discussion over the impact of these changes on academic staff. Now teaching a subject in either four or three years makes a hell of a difference and will require retraining". FENPROF has asked to be involved in government discussions, as recommended in the Bergen ministerial declaration, but the minister for education has not yet responded to this. Solidarnosc-Science and FENPROF have organised seminars to disseminate information on Bologna to teachers and also to the public. "This is quite a politicised issue in Portugal," says Manuel, "the Bologna Process raises all the major fears over globalisation, privatisation and the WTO, which means that it is not easy for a trade union to encourage constructive debate". The fact remains that staff, rectors and ministers seem in no hurry to implement the other Bologna recommendations on staff mobility and restructuring into centres of excellence.