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Higher Education in Europe


Маслова Н. І., ХНЕУ, Уткіна Г. Ф., ХНУ, м. Харків

Higher Education in Europe

Unified educational system in European countries: Bologna process


The purpose of Bologna process (or Bologna accords) is to create European higher education area by making academic degree standards and quality assurance standards more comparable and compatible throughout Europe. It is entitled after the place it was put forward, the University of Bologna, with the signing in 1999 of the Bologna declaration by Ministers of Education from 29 European countries in the Italian city of Bologna. This was opened up to other countries signatory by  the European Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe.  Further governmental meetings were held in Prague (2001), Berlin (2003), Bergen (2005) and London in Spring 2007.

The Bologna process was a major reform created with the claimed goal of providing responses to issues such as the public responsibility for higher education and research, higher education governance, the social dimension of higher education and research as well as the values and roles of higher education and research in modern, globalized and increasingly complex societies with the most demanding qualification needs.

With the Bologna process implementation, higher education systems in European countries are to be organized in such a way that:   

• it is easy to move from one country to another (within the European Higher Education Area) - for the purpose of further study or employment;

• the attractiveness of European higher education is increased so that many people from non-European countries also come to study and/or work in Europe;

• the European Higher Education Area provides Europe with a broad, high quality and advanced knowledge base, and ensures further development of Europe as a stable, peaceful and tolerant community benefiting from a cutting edge European Research Area;

• there will also be a greater convergence between the U.S. and Europe as European higher education adopts aspects of the American system.  

The new changes were closer to the UK and Ireland's models than those used in the rest of Continental Europe. In many countries the process was not implemented without criticisms.

In much of continental Europe, the previous higher education system was modeled after the German system, in which there is a clear difference of vocational and academic higher education. This mostly impacts the old engineer's degrees. The configuration of the two types of degrees can be counterproductive in the following cases:

• the vocational three-year degrees are not intended for further study, so those students who also want to advance to a master's degree will be at a disadvantage,

• the master's degree effectively becomes the minimum qualification for a professional engineer, rather than the bachelor's degree.

• the academic three-year degrees prepare only for continuing towards master's, so students who join the workforce at that point will not be properly prepared. Yet they would have the same academic title as the fully trained vocationally educated engineers.

The end-result of the change is that the agreements between professional bodies will require reevaluation in some cases as qualifications change.


Countries which are included in Bologna process


The situation in Austria is similar to that in Germany: the traditional "lowest" degrees are the Magister and the Diplom-Ingenieur, which can be obtained after at least four to six years of study. However, beginning with the year 2000, many curricula have already been converted into separate bachelor (Bakkalaureat, although this term will be replaced by Bachelor in most studies by 2007) and master (Magisterstudium) programs, with nominal durations of six semesters (three years) and three to four semesters (1.5–2 years), respectively. With few exceptions (e.g. studies of human and veterinary medicine), all university curricula will be remodeled to this format within the next years. Enrollment in a doctoral program generally requires a master's level degree in a related field. The nominal duration of doctoral programs is two or three years, but the actual time of graduation varies considerably and is generally longer than that.


In France, the first qualification, called the baccalauréat, ends the secondary education and allows students to enter a University. It is then followed by the Diplôme d'études universitaires generales or DEUG, which takes two years, followed by a third year, the licence. The licence is the equivalent of the UK BA. After the licence, students can choose to enter the maîtrise, which is a one-year research degree. The maîtrise may be followed by either a work-oriented one-year degree, the diplôme d'études supérieures spécialisées or DESS, or a one-year research degree, the Diplôme d'études approfondies or DEA. The DEA is one year of preparation for a doctorate, and can be considered an equivalent of a M. Phil. After DEA, students mауpursue a doctorat, which takes at least three years. Higher education in France is also endorsed by higher education establishments dedicated to specific domains. For example, the Diplôme d'ingénieur is awarded to students upon completly five years of study in state recognized Ecoles d'ingénieurs, especially the Grandes Ecoles. These degrees are usually preferred to university degrees due to the selection of students entering, in contrast,  the public universities are legally obliged to accept any students having High School certificates.

The baccalauréat and the doctorat status are unchanged under  the new Bologna system, but the DEUG and the old licence are merged in a new, three-year, licence, as the maîtrise, the DESS and the DEA in a two years master’s, which can be work-oriented (master professionel) or research-oriented (master recherche). The Diplôme d'ingénieur is still separated from the university degree but students having such a degree may lawfully claim a Master degree as well.

Strikes occurred in France in 2002–2003 and 2007 against the reforms of higher education.


In Germany, the process of change is already underway, many subjects in the humanities  and social studies can be completed with a B.A. and many subjects of the natural sciences with a B.Sc. at an increasing number of universities. The Bachelor's degree in engineering can be a B.Eng. or a B.Sc, depending on the focus of study. The new postgraduate Master's degrees (M.A., M.Sc, M.Eng. and others) are seen as equivalent  to the old five year first degrees Diplom (one subject, can be in all sciences) and Magister Artium (interdisciplinary, common in social and cultural sciences). The number of old degree courses is declining and they will have been replaced by the new degrees by 2010 in some Universities.                                       


Greecejoined the Bologna Process from the very beginning, in 1999. Since 2007, more intensive steps towards the establishment of the European Higher Education Area have been completed.                                                                                          

During the years 2006–2007, the Greek government led by New Democracy, with the consent of PASOK, tried to implement the declaration of Bologna through massive reforms aiming at the university system. These actions led to universities being taken over by the students, massive protests, police violence and riots. These reactions brought about the failure of the constitutional change of article 16 that prohibited the founding of private universities and also blocked the law reform regarding the internal workings of universities. In 2008, a group of engineering schools in Greece took steps to silently implement parts of the Bologna declaration. The daily Eleftherotypia wrote on 18 March 2008 that the major engineering schools in Greece will issue certificates to all their graduates recognizing their diplomas as master’s level degrees. Engineering studies in Greece last 5 years and by identifying the corresponding diplomas as master’s, the schools silently adopt Bologna's directive that the undergraduate studies should be at least 3 years long, thus leaving room for master level studies in the 5 year period required for an engineering degree in Greece. Engineering schools in Greece objected to the Bologna process for years, which might explain the silent  adoption of the process.

The Netherlands                                           

Bachelor (3 years) / Master (1 or 2 years) system exist in the country. The old "HBO" (polytechnicaleducation) has also moved to the Bachelor (generally 4 years) / Master (1 year) system, which has caused a lot of confusion, especially as to whether students can shift from the polytechnical level to the university level.                                             

Previously, there used to be a “propedeuse” (propaedeutics) (1 year) followed by three or four years of further studies to obtain a “doctoraal” degree not to be confused with the “doctoral” degree which, furthermore, requires the writing of  a dissertation and may be comparable to a PhD.                             


Education in Poland starts at the age of 7 with 6 years of primary school (Polish Szko?a podstawowa). Next is the lower secondary level consisting of 3 years in a gymnasium (Gimnazjum), starting at age 13–14 it ends up with an exam. This is followed by the upper secondary level, which has several alternatives, the most common being the 3 years in High School (Liceum) or 4 years of Technical School. Both end with a maturity examination (matura, roughly equivalent to a British GCE examination as  it is taken after 12 years of schooling), and may be followed by several forms of higher education. The Polish equivalent of an Associate's degree, Bachelor's of Arts or Bachelor's of Science degree (given by a University) is claimed to be licencjat, while in a Technical University one gets a title of Engineer (in?ynier). Magister is claimed to be the Polish equivalent of a Master's degree. Doktor is the Polish equivalent of a Doctoral degree (Ph.D.). However, some British universities (such as LSE) are currently requiring as a minimum requirement to enter their post-graduate courses (i.e. Master's degrees) a Magister (which itself is claimed to be a Master's degree) or a licencjat from 2003 onwards with an average mark of 4+ (5 being the maximum mark possible and thus very difficult to average). British universities also require that the entrants for BA programs have very high matura scores (i.e. a minimum mark of 90%). It should also be noted that a Magister can be completed part-time (usually with classes every weekend or every other weekend) in five years.

United Kingdom

The UK is almost unique as graduates with a Bachelor's (Honours) degree can undertake doctoral studies without first having to obtain a Master's degree.

Support for this is widespread in the UK because it costs students less to obtain a Ph(D), both in terms of time and money, than in other EU countries. Opponents argue that a Master's degree experience is required to train the student for his/her doctoral studies - both in practical applications and enhanced knowledge of a field.

Each part of the United Kingdom has a separate education system. Overall, the UK's official literacy rate (99%) is normal by a developedcountry standards. The Programme for International Student Assessment ranked theUKas l4th in the world in 2006 in  science, being statistically significantly higher than the OECD average.

Education in England is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills, though the day to day administration and funding of stale schools is the responsibility of Local Education Authorities. Universal state education in England and Wales was introduced  at the primary level in 1870 and at the secondary one in 1900. Education is mandatory from ages five to sixteen (15 if born in late July or August).

The majority of children are educated in state-sector schools, only a small proportion of which is selected on the grounds of academic ability. Despite a fall in actual numbers, the proportion of children in England attending private schools has risen to over 7%. Justover half of those studying at the leading universities of Cambridge and Oxford had attended state schools. State schools which are allowed to select pupils according to intelligence and academic ability can achieve comparable results to the most selective private schools: out of the top ten performing schools in terms of GCSE results in 2006 two were state-run grammar schools. England has some of the top universities in the world with Cambridge, Oxford, and London ranking amongst the top 20 in the 2007 THES–QS World University Rankings. There are fears,however, that a decline in the number of those studying a foreign language in England  will have a negative effect on business.

In Scotland, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning is responsible to the Scottish Parliament for education, with day to day administration and funding of state schools being the responsibility of Local Authorities. Scotland first legislated for a universal provision of education in 1696. The proportion of children in Scotland attending private schools is just over 4% though it has been rising slowly in recent years.Scottish students who attend Scottish universities pay neither tuition fees nor graduate endowment charges as the fees were abolished in 2001 and the graduate endowment scheme was abolished in 2008.

The National Assembly for Wales has the responsibility for education in the country. A significant number of students in Wales are educated either wholly or largely through the medium of Welsh and lessons in the language are compulsory for all till the age of 16. There are plans to increase the provision of Welsh Medium schools as part of the policy of having a fully bilingual Wales.

The Northern Ireland Assembly is responsible for education in Northern Ireland though the education at a local level is administered by 5 Education and Library Boards covering different geographical areas.

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