The Bologna Process model for world regions: Lessons from the Europe of Knowledge

Europe of Knowledge |

The Bologna Process, inspired by the development of the Europe of Knowledge, has been an example for world regions[i]. The policy implementation experiences from the Bologna Process have been simulated by world regions that value higher education cooperation across countries. Across regions the degree of integration in higher education varies along the policy process from discursive originations to ranging extents of cooperation.


The following are some examples of how to the international policy convergence as undertaken by the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) has been applied to other regional integration schemes. The Bologna Process has provided a model for delivering and evaluating higher education for countries in the EHEA and beyond. In Africa, Asia, Latin America, and North America there are examples of international cooperation in higher education and research. As an accelerator for globalization in the early 1990s, the political transformations across Central and Eastern Europe provided impetus for globalization of the economy and correspondingly higher education.


The European Commission’s curriculum development initiative Tuning has a program for Africa called “Tuning Africa.” The neighborhood policies of the EU extend into North Africa, which has been an area of heightened interest politically since the Arab Spring in early 2011. Supported by the African Union, the African Higher Education Harmonization and Tuning Project (Tuning Africa 2013) is part of the Africa-EU strategic partnership. To implement the Plan of Action for the Second Decade of Education for Africa (2006-2015), the African Union Commission has established a framework for harmonization of Higher Education Programmes in Africa.


In South America there are efforts to cooperate in higher education with MercoSur-Educativo. Since its founding in 1991 with the Treaty of Asunción, MercoSur has not experienced the deepening of economic integration on par with the EU. However, even prior to the launch of the Bologna Process in 1999, there were efforts in the 1990s to harmonize higher education systems with MercoSur-Educativo. These preliminary efforts did not formalize institutionally as they did with the Bologna Process. The comparably moderate pace of integration in economics and higher education with MercoSur is even less for the Andean Community that was established in 1969 with the Cartagena Agreement. Some countries have vacillated in their alliances within regional groups in South America, and trade negotiations beyond the region have merited attention.


New trends in regional integration in Latin America are emerging. CELAC (the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) was formed in 2010, and it is the second largest group of countries in the region after the Organization of American States. UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations) was formed in 2008. The Spanish national quality assurance agency ANECA’s work extends beyond Spain to support quality assurance and accreditation in higher education through involvement with RIACES (Ibero-American Network of Accreditation Agencies). The primacy of state sovereignty that may limit regional cooperation in political economy is a trend observed in international politics to a greater extent in Latin America than in the EU.


Pacific coast South American countries, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Peru, have a westward orientation with the Pacific Alliance partnership formed  in 2011 to have a united position in negotiating trade with Asian countries. Among early agreements have been intentions to establish a joint university system where, as in Europe, students may receive academic credits for their studies in any of the participating countries.


Representatives from ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) were present as observers and participants in the Bologna Policy Forum at the EHEA Ministerial Conference in Bucharest in 2012.  In 2005 the ASEAN Ministers of Education embarked upon regional higher education collaboration with the decision to hold ASED (ASEAN Education Ministers’ Meetings). The APQN (Asia Pacific Quality Network), similar to the ENQA (European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education) and EQAR (European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education) for the EHEA, was established to support the national higher education quality assurance agencies in higher education in the region.


Potential collaboration in higher education and research were agenda issues covered in the meeting of the presidents of Mexico and United States in May 2013. Framed on the discursive level as an emerging issue, there are opportunities for mobility of higher education, research, and workforce development between the countries. The rigidities facing mobility of human capital and labor in North America confront a decades-long struggle for immigration reform. The regional economic relationship was formalized with NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) in effect in 1994, and the economic cooperation leads to opportunities to develop human capital in North America. Overcoming domestic political opposition is necessary to strengthen international mobility of human capital in higher education, research, and labor markets.


The preceding are examples of efforts and ongoing considerations to harmonize higher education policy within regions worldwide. As with the Bologna Process, these are efforts at harmonization, which is a process that is guided by the participating countries, with activities facilitated by regional institutions. Worldwide there are examples of regional integration through higher education that have some reference to the Bologna Process and the EHEA.


Beverly Barrett is a doctoral candidate in International Studies at the University of Miami. Current research interests include international political economy, regional integration, and governance with particular emphasis on education and economic development. She is Associate Editor of the Miami European Union Center of Excellence, and her doctoral dissertation is titled “Political Economy Influences on Implementing the Bologna Process.”


[i] For more information see Beverly Barrett (2013) “Comparative regional perspectives: The Bologna Process and Higher Education Attainment”, Vol.13, No.11, The Jean Monnet/Robert Schuman paper series, Miami-Florida European Union Center of Excellence.