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The Bologna Process and European Higher Education Area (EHEA)

The Bologna Process, launched with the Bologna Declaration of 1999, is the main voluntary process concerning Higher Education at European level. It is nowadays implemented in 49 States, which define the European Higher Education Area (EHEA).

By signing the Bologna Declaration in 1999, the Ministers of initially 29 European countries committed to a unique process of higher education reform, at European, national and institutional level. Based on voluntary inter-governmental cooperation and involving representatives of the main stakeholders (institutions, students, teachers, employers, etc.) since 2001, the initial goal of the Bologna Process was to contribute to enhancing the competitiveness and attractiveness of higher education in Europe. Therefore, the Ministers formally established the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) in 2010. This area is to be understood as an area offering students, graduates and academic staff mobility without obstacle and fair and democratic access to quality higher education.

To date, the members of the Bologna Process are 49 countries, together with the European Commission, the Consultative Members (UNESCO, EUA, ESU, EURASHE, ENQA, Education International, BUSINESSEUROPE) and partners.

The Bologna Follow-Up Group (BFUG), supported by the BFUG Secretariat, organises a Ministerial Conference every 3 to 4 years at which a Ministerial Communiqué is adopted.

The last Ministerial Conference was held in 2020 and the Rome Communiqué was adopted with the following keypoints concerning recognition:

We will strengthen the implementation of the Council of Europe/UNESCO Lisbon Recognition Convention and apply its principles to qualifications and periods of study outside the EHEA, using common assessment criteria and reports, in collaboration with the Lisbon Recognition Convention Committee and the ENIC and NARIC Networks.


We will ensure automatic recognition of academic qualifications and periods of study within the EHEA so that students, staff and graduates are able to move freely to study, teach and do research. We will make the necessary legislative changes to guarantee automatic recognition at system level for qualifications delivered in EHEA countries where quality assurance operates in compliance with the ESG and where a fully operational national qualifications framework has been established. We also encourage the application of agreed and secure systems of digital certification and communication such as blockchain, as well as the further development of the Database of External Quality Assurance Results (DEQAR) to facilitate automatic recognition.


In the 2018 Paris Ministerial Conference we decided to devote special effort to completing implementation of three “Key Commitments” essential for the functioning of the EHEA: the Qualifications Frameworks and ECTS, the Lisbon Recognition Convention and the Diploma Supplement, and Quality Assurance according to the Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area (ESG).


Digital solutions will facilitate secure, efficient and transparent exchange of data. Joint digital approaches to enhance recognition, quality assurance and mobility are needed.


We commit to reviewing our own legislation, regulations, and practice to ensure fair recognition of qualifications held by refugees, displaced persons and persons in refugee-like situations, even when they cannot be fully documented, in accordance with Article VII of the Lisbon Recognition Convention.


We welcome the adoption of the UNESCO Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education and commit to ratifying it promptly, in order to facilitate fair recognition of qualifications and periods of study from outside the EHEA, using Lisbon Recognition Convention compliant assessment criteria and reports.

Some sub-groups of the BFUG, e.g. the Thematic Peer Group B on the Lisbon Recognition Convention (TPG B LRC), the Task Force on Enhancing Knowledge Sharing in the EHEA community, the Coordination Group on Global Policy Dialogue and others meet regularly and discuss, among other tipics, also recognition related issues.


The next Ministerial Conference is taking place on 29 and 30 May 2024 in Tirana, Albania.