Ministers' Deputies / Rapporteur Groups
    GR-C
    Rapporteur Group on Education, Culture, Sport,
    Youth and Environment

    GR-C(2004)6 7 April 2004
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    Council of Europe contribution to the higher education area
    Draft reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1620 (2003)


    Item to be considered by the GR-C at its meeting on 17 May 2004


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    Background

    The Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly adopted Recommendation 1620 in Naples on
    8 September 2003. The Deputies considered it at their 853
    rd meeting (24 September 2003, item 3.1) and brought it to the attention of their governments; communicated it to the CD-ESR1 for possible comments by 15 December 2003; invited the GR-C2 to prepare a draft reply for adoption at one of their forthcoming meetings.

    The CD-ESR Bureau adopted its opinion on behalf of the CD-ESR at its meeting of 8 October 2003 (see Appendix to this document). The Deputies might wish to decide whether to append it to the reply to the Assembly.

    It should be noted that in spite of the interest of the Bologna Process, it may be necessary to reduce funding for this work in 2005 to release resources for activities of even higher priority.

    About the Recommendation

    The Bologna Process, the most important and wide-ranging reform of higher education in Europe since 1968, aims at the creation of a European Higher Education Area by 2010. This will be achieved by the adoption of a system of easily “readable” and comparable degrees, promotion of mobility, European co-operation in quality assurance, and other measures. In this connection, the Lisbon Convention3, signed by 43 states and ratified by 36, is a major instrument to further the goals of the Bologna Process.

    The Assembly recommends to the Committee of Ministers:

    i. study the means of enabling the Council of Europe to continue and step up its contribution to the establishment of the European higher education area, in particular:

    a. by further developing its activities concerning the recognition of qualifications with regard to the Bologna Process, notably the implementation of the Lisbon Recognition Convention;

    b. by analysing the links between the recognition of qualifications and quality assurance in higher education;

    c. by considering the issue of good governance in higher education, focusing especially on student involvement;

    d. by underlining the fundamental role of research in universities and the need to
    link the European higher education area with the European Research Area mentioned in
    Recommendation 1541
    (2001) on young scientists in Europe;

    e. by safeguarding cultural diversity, regional education powers and the autonomy of universities;

    f. by studying the role of the Steering Committee for Higher Education and Research as a link between the signatories of the Bologna Declaration and non-signatories and between ministry and academic representatives, as well as the student representatives with observer status on the committee;

    ii. call on all European states in the Bologna Process to ratify the Lisbon Recognition Convention as an essential means of facilitating the establishment of the European higher education area;

    iii. urge all member states that have not yet done so to base their higher education policies and reforms on the guidelines and priorities of the Bologna Process;

    iv. study the possibility of also involving states that are not signatories to the European Cultural Convention, such as the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean;

    v. initiate discussion on the definition of public authorities' responsibilities in higher education and research and on governance in higher education.

    Draft Decision

    The Deputies adopted the following reply to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1620 (2003):

    “The Committee of Ministers has taken note with interest of the Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1620 (2003) on the Council of Europe contribution to the higher education area and, in accordance with established practice, has brought it to the attention of the governments of the Council of Europe member states. The Committee of Ministers welcomes the Assembly's commitment to the establishment of a European Higher Education Area by 2010.

    The Committee of Ministers wishes to provide the Assembly with the following information on this question, which is also appended to this reply in the form of the detailed comments made by the Steering Committee for Higher Education and Research (CD-ESR):

    i. Study the means of enabling the Council of Europe to continue and step up its contribution to the establishment of the European higher education area4, in particular:

    i.a. by further developing its activities concerning the recognition of qualifications with regard to the Bologna Process, notably the implementation of the Lisbon Recognition Convention.

    The Council of Europe Steering Committee for Higher Education and Research has made substantial contributions to the Bologna Process through its projects as well as through its participation in the Bologna Follow Up Group and policy seminars. The Bologna Process is now the overarching framework for higher education policy and reform in Europe, and it is important that the Council of Europe continue to be one of the main contributors to the Process. A message from the Secretary General was presented to the Conference of Ministers of Education of the Bologna Process (Berlin, 18-19 September 2003) which the Assembly mentions in its text. On that occasion, Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Holy See, the Russian Federation, Serbia and Montenegro and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” were admitted to the Process as new members, following Croatia, Cyprus, Liechtenstein and Turkey who did so in 2001.

    Throughout the period 2001-2003, the Council of Europe has contributed to the Bologna process through the Follow Up Group, to policy seminars and as a bridge between states party to the Process and states not party to it.

    i.b. by analysing the links between the recognition of qualifications and quality assurance in higher education.

    The recognition of qualifications is one of the Council of Europe's long standing contributions to higher education in Europe. In addition to the Lisbon Convention, one should draw attention to the Code of Good Practice in the Provision of Transnational Education. The Council of Europe is working with the ENIC5 and NARIC6 Networks on relations between the recognition of qualifications and quality assurance.

    At its meeting in 2003 (Vaduz, 18-20 May), the ENIC Network approved a draft Recommendation on the Recognition of Joint Degrees in order to submit it to the Lisbon Convention Committee for adoption, which will meet in Strasbourg on 9 June 2004.

    i.c. by considering the issue of good governance in higher education, focusing especially on student involvement and (v) by initiating discussion on the definition of public authorities' responsibilities in higher education and research and on governance in higher education:

    Anticipating and contributing to the identification of priorities for the Bologna Process in 2003 – 2005, the
    CD-ESR has launched work in two areas: public responsibility for higher education and research and higher education governance.

    Already in 2003, the Council of Europe actively participated in a Bologna Seminar on “Student Participation in Higher Education Governance” (Oslo, June), sharing, inter alia, experience of its project “University as a Site of Citizenship”, as well as in “The Social Dimension of Higher Education” (Greece, February), where it made a presentation on “The role of higher education in GATS and on the public responsibility for higher education”. A seminar on “The Public responsibility for higher education and research” will be held in Strasbourg on 23-24 September 2004.

    i.d. by underlining the fundamental role of research in universities and the need to link the European higher education area with the European Research Area mentioned in Recommendation 1541 (2001) on Young Scientists in Europe; i.e. by safeguarding cultural diversity, regional education powers and the autonomy of universities; and i.f. by studying the role of the Steering Committee for Higher Education and Research as a link between the signatories of the Bologna Declaration and non-signatories and between ministry and academic representatives, as well as the student representatives with observer status on the committee.

    The role of the Steering Committee for Higher Education and Research has always been defined and very clear; from its creation (and even before, when the CD-ESR was a subordinate committee to the Council for Cultural Co-operation), with a double representation of government and academic representatives of each of the 48 States party to the European Cultural Convention.

    ii. call on all European states in the Bologna Process to ratify the Lisbon Recognition Convention as an essential means of facilitating the establishment of the European higher education area, and iii. urge all member states that have not yet done so to base their higher education policies and reforms on the guidelines and priorities of the Bologna Process.

    As of 4 March 2004, 36 states had ratified the Lisbon Recognition Convention and a further 8 have signed the Convention and are in the process of ratification.

    Ukraine has expressed interest in acceding to the Bologna Process, the Council of Europe organised a national seminar in Kyiv on 24-25 November 2003.

    i.v. study the possibility of also involving states that are not signatories to the European Cultural Convention, such as the countries on the southern shore of the Mediterranean

    The Council of Europe contributes to the external dimension of the Bologna Process through its contribution to the UNESCO Global Forum on International Quality Assurance, Accreditation and the Recognition of Qualifications. Several UNESCO Regions are now considering revising their respective regional conventions on the basis of the Lisbon Recognition Convention, and the African Region is already doing so. It seems likely that UNESCO will launch a feasibility study as a first step of the overall revision of its Conventions, and that the Council of Europe will be invited to contribute to this.

    * * * * *

    As can be seen, the Council of Europe is carrying out a wide range of activities that contribute to the establishment of the European Higher Education Area, which gives the Council of Europe high visibility as one of the key actors in the area of European higher education policy and reform.

    APPENDIX

    DRAFT OPINION BY THE CD-ESR BUREAU ON PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY RECOMMENDATION 1620 (2003) ON THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE CONTRIBUTION TO THE HIGHER EDUCATION AREA

    The CD-ESR Bureau warmly welcomes Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1620 (2003) and the Assembly's commitment to the establishment of a European Higher Education Area by 2010.

    The CD-ESR Bureau fully shares this commitment and has already made the Council of Europe's contribution to the Bologna Process the mainstay of its work programme. A message from the Secretary General was presented to the conference of Ministers of Education of the Bologna Process held in Berlin on 18–19 September 2003. The Bureau therefore fully supports the Assembly's recommendation that the Committee of Ministers “study the means of enabling the Council of Europe to continue and step up its contribution to the establishment of the European Higher Education Area” (paragraph 6).

    Throughout the period 2001 – 2003, the Council of Europe has contributed to the Bologna Process in several ways:

    (i) as an observer in the formal structures of the process; on the Follow Up Group as well as on the Preparatory Group7;
    (ii) as a platform for debate between Ministry and academic representatives, through the double composition of CD-ESR representatives, and the role of the EUA8 and ESIB9 as observers on the Committee as well as the Council's close cooperation with both organizations;
    (iii) as an important actor in the field of recognition of qualifications;
    (iv) through other aspects of the activities programme;
    (v) as a bridge between those countries party to the Process and the remaining European countries that may benefit from the Process but that are not party to it.

    The Chair of the CD-ESR and the Secretariat have participated actively in all meetings of the Bologna Follow Up and Preparatory Groups, which also include a number of Bureau members and other members of the Committee in their capacities as national representatives. The Council of Europe has also contributed to paying the expenses of the Rapporteur of the Bologna Follow Up Group to the Berlin Ministerial meeting, Professor Pavel Zgaga, as a supplement to the grant the Rapporteur receives from the European Commission for this task, and which presupposes some additional funding from other sources. In addition, the Council of Europe offered to pay travel and subsistence expenses for one participant from each of the four applicant countries from South East Europe to all official Bologna seminars after the Bologna Follow Up Group in May 2002 decided that these seminars should also be open to the four applicant countries qualified for accession under the criteria established in the 2001 Praha Communiqué.

    The Council of Europe further played a crucial role in expanding the criteria for accession to the Process to comprise all countries Party to the European Cultural Convention provided they at the same time declare their willingness to pursue and implement the objectives of the Bologna Process in their own systems of higher education. Their applications should contain information on how they will implement the principles and objectives of the declaration. The Council of Europe contributed and served as the secretariat to the working group suggesting these new criteria. These criteria in turn made it possible to admit Andorra, the Holy See and Russia as new members of the Process at the Berlin Conference, in addition to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, which were qualified under the criteria established in 2001.

    The role of the Steering Committee for Higher Education and Research (CD-ESR) is crucial in that it comprises government and academic delegates from the 48 states party to the European Cultural Convention as well as observers representing countries10 relevant to the external dimension of the Bologna Process and international IGOs and NGOs active in the higher education field, notably the EUA and ESIB. At the 2001 and 2002 plenary sessions of the Committee, its round table debate focused on the Bologna Process. The debates were of high quality and also fulfilled an important information function, in particular with regard to “non-Bologna” countries. The Bologna debate at the 2003 session is expected to follow in this track and will take on particular importance as it comes at the outset of new two-year period of the Process.

    The Council of Europe has also contributed through organizing, in cooperation with the Portuguese authorities, one of the official Bologna seminars in the work programme between the Ministerial conferences of Praha and Berlin. The conference on Recognition Issues in the Bologna Process was held in Lisboa on 11 - 12 April 2002 and also marked the fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Lisboa Recognition Convention. The proceedings of the seminar have now been published in book form11.

    In addition, the Council of Europe has been a very active contributor to several Bologna seminars organized in 2003:

    · the Social Dimension of Higher Education (Greece, February): presentations on the role of higher education in GATS and on the public responsibility for higher education, respectively
    · Student Participation in Higher Education Governance (Oslo, June): presentation of a survey on student participation, placing it in a context drawing on the pilot project on the University as a Site of Citizenship as well as other relevant elements.
    · presentation to the seminar on Integrated Programmes (Mantova, April).
    · the Secretariat provided the Rapporteur to the seminars Qualifications Structures (København, March) and Credit Systems in the Context of Lifelong Learning (Praha, June).

    The recognition of qualifications is one of the Council of Europe's long standing contributions to higher education in Europe and one that plays a key role in the Bologna Process. The Council of Europe/UNESCO Recognition Convention and the Code of Good Practice in the Provision of Transnational Education are important standard setting instruments. The Recommendation on criteria and procedures should also be noted in this context. The ENIC Network, in close cooperation with the NARIC Network, is working on areas of importance to the Bologna Process, including the cooperation between the recognition and quality assurance communities. The importance of the ENIC Network as an advisory body to the CD-ESR should be made more visible.

    At its 2003 meeting the ENIC Network approved a draft Recommendation on the Recognition of Joint Degrees and decided to submit it to the Lisboa Recognition Convention Committee for adoption. The Convention Committee will meet in Strasbourg on 9 June 2004, end-on with the ENIC/NARIC meeting.

    Anticipating and contributing to the identification of priorities for the Bologna Process in 2003 – 2005, the CD-ESR Bureau has launched work in two areas:

    · public responsibility for higher education and research;
    · higher education governance.

    Both are key elements of the Bologna Process, and both go beyond this Process. Thus, the discussion on public responsibility is also of crucial importance in the context of GATS. A Working Party has been appointed for each activity, and it is important to underline that these two activities will constitute an important part of the Council of Europe contribution to the Bologna Process over the next couple of years. A seminar on the public responsibility will be held in Strasbourg on 23 – 24 September 2004 as a contribution to the Bologna Process.

    The Council of Europe's role as a bridge between “Bologna” and “non-Bologna” countries implies a particular role in helping disseminate information on the Bologna Process in the countries party to the European Cultural Convention that are not party to the Bologna Process as well providing advice on higher education reform. The most comprehensive examples of this is the Council's efforts, with the European University Association, in favour of higher education in Serbia as well as its work on higher education legislation in Kosovo. The aspect of Bologna was also very present in the advice given on draft higher education legislation for Republika Srpska in May – July 2002. In 2003, the Council has given advice on legal reform in “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and is engaged in a large-scale effort to propose a framework law for higher education in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    The Council has organized information seminars on the Bologna Process in countries in South East Europe that acceded to the Bologna Process on 18-19 September 2003, to be followed up by more targeted activities on specific topics. Thus seminars were held in Tirana on 7-8 November, in Sarajevo on
    11-12 November 2002 and in Skopje on 5 February 2003. In Serbia and Montenegro, this work is further advanced, as there was a large conference on higher education policies and reform in March 2001 that was followed up by a conference on quality assurance and evaluation in November 2001. The EUA has since carried out an institutional self-evaluation programme, and the Council contributed to the final conference of this project, held in Beograd on 14-15 November 2002. The Council and the EUA also organized the higher education component of a large-scale conference on education reform in Beograd on 5-7 September 2002, and the Council of Europe organized a seminar on the recognition of qualifications in Beograd in September 2003.

    In 2002, Russia also expressed a strong interest in the Bologna Process, and, with the Russian authorities, the Council of Europe organized a major national conference in Sankt Peterburg on 2-3 December 2002. The Russian Minister of Education, Professor Filippov, the Chair of the Duma Education Committee, Dr. Shishlov, and a high number of Rectors and Vice Rectors participated in the conference, as did the Chair and Vice Chair of the CD-ESR, the Chairs of the Bologna Follow Up and Preparatory Groups, the Rapporteur of the Follow Up Group for the Berlin Higher Education Summit, the Council of Europe Secretariat, representatives of ESIB and international experts. This seminar played an important role in preparing Russia's accession to the Bologna Process at the Berlin Ministerial Conference on 18-19 September 2003. A follow up conference will be held on 29-30 October 2004, also in Sankt Peterburg.

    Ukraine has now also expressed an interest in acceding to the Bologna Process.

    The Council of Europe further contributes to the external dimension of the Bologna Process through its contribution to the UNESCO Global Forum on International Quality Assurance, Accreditation and the Recognition of Qualifications12 (Paris, 17 – 18 October 2002 and Oslo, 26 – 27 May 2003) and its participation in the working group that prepared the Global Forum. Several UNESCO Regions are now considering revising their respective regional conventions on the basis of the Lisboa Recognition Convention, and the African Region is already doing so. It seems likely that UNESCO will launch a feasibility study as a first step of the overall revision of its Conventions, and that the Council of Europe will be invited to contribute to this. Developments in the Bologna Process have also been prominent in the discussions of the Global Forum and the working group.

    As can be seen, the CD-ESR is already carrying out a wide range of activities that contribute to the establishment of the European Higher Education Area, and thanks to these, the Council of Europe is now considered as an important and well established actor in this process.

    The Bureau must, however, underline that this effort can only be sustained with reasonable resources in terms of both programme funds and staff. Our contribution to the Bologna Process takes the form of both “classical” Council of Europe activities and projects - such as the recognition of qualifications, the public responsibility for higher education and research and higher education governance – and contribution to a wide range of activities organized by other partners in the Bologna Process. These two facets of the CD-ESR activities complement each other. Together, they ensure that the Council of Europe is considered a key actor in European higher education policies in the most important area of this field: the most important and wide ranging reform of higher education in Europe since the immediate aftermath of 1968. Only by contributing to the various aspects of the Bologna Process will the Council of Europe continue to be seen as an important actor in European higher education policies.

Note 1 Steering Committee for Higher Education and Research.
Note 2 Rapporteur Group on Education, Culture, Sport, Youth and Environment.
Note 3 The Council of Europe/Unesco Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education in the European Region.
Note 4 One of the goals of the Bologna Process.
Note 5 European Network of national Information Centres on academic mobility and recognition, coordinated jointly by the Council of Europe and UNESCO.

    6 Network of National Academic Recognition Centres, coordinated by the European Commission.

Note 7 From 19 September 2003, as a consultative member of the Follow Up Group and Board.
Note 8 European University Association.
Note 9 National Unions of Students in Europe.
Note 10 Currently Canada, Israel, Japan, Mexico, the USA.
Note 11 Sjur Bergan (ed.): Recognition issue in the Bologna Process (Strasbourg 2003: Council of Europe Publishing, ISBN 92-871-5150-4).


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