Harmonisation by Stealth: The Bologna process and European higher education law
Title: Harmonisation by Stealth: The Bologna process and European higher education law
Author: GARBEN, Sacha Margaretha Maria
Citation: Florence, European University Institute, 2010
Series/Report no.: EUI PhD theses; Department of Law
The Bologna Process is a powerful reform movement, aimed at establishing a European Higher Education Area, most specifically by introducing a common standard of a three-cycle Bachelor, Master, Doctorate system for higher education degrees all over Europe. The Process is based on the non-binding Sorbonne and Bologna Declarations, and is a powerful follow-up process consisting of regular Ministerial Conferences and in-between follow-up meetings. In this sense, the Bologna Process is an important de-nationalisation of higher education. However, the strictly inter-governmental Process takes place outside the institutional framework of the European Union, even though all the EU Member States take part. Also the framework of the Council of Europe has been avoided. This exclusion of the European Organisations is remarkable, especially considering the large overlap between the subject matter of the Bologna Process and their activities. Most notably, the Bologna Process deals with diploma and study credit recognition, student and teacher mobility, research, lifelong learning, quality assurance and a European dimension in higher education, which are all well-established fields of activity of both the EU and the Council of Europe. In this way, it is argued, Bologna detracts from the large body of EU higher education law, and the – often underestimated – legal competence of the EU in higher education. Therefore, the Bologna Process can also be considered as a re-nationalisation of higher education. The Bologna Process is controversial. Some consider Bologna to be a great success, as it has spurred an overwhelming amount of (legislative) changes in almost all European countries through voluntary convergence, whereas others oppose it for precisely this reason. This thesis provides a legal analysis of the Sorbonne and Bologna Declarations and the ensuing Process. From a European law perspective, there are several grave concerns about the way the Bologna Process was created and how it is currently operated. Using the option of operating within the EU framework, most particularly the option of a Bologna Directive, as a comparison, it is argued that with the Bologna Process the Member States have chosen to harmonise their higher education system by less accountable, less transparent, less democratic and less effective means. This is why the Bologna Process amounts to harmonisation by stealth.
LC Subject Heading: Educational law and legislation -- European Union countries; Bologna process (European higher education)
Defense date: 14/06/2010; Examining Board: Prof. Bruno de Witte (European University Institute) Prof. Marise Cremona (European University Institute) Prof. H. Schneider (Maastricht University) Prof. M. Dougan (University of Liverpool); In 2012 awarded the ‘The Jacqueline Suter Prize for the Best Doctoral Thesis in European Law’
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