Work programme of the Bologna Follow-Up Group 2003-2005
An overarching framework of qualifications for the EHEA
In Berlin, Ministers encouraged participating countries to elaborate a framework of comparable and compatible qualifications for their higher education systems, describing qualifications in terms of workload, level, learning outcomes, competences and profile. They also undertook to elaborate an overarching framework of qualifications for the EHEA.
Meeting in March 2004, the BFUG approved the establishment of a Working Group to coordinate the work on the development of an overarching framework of qualifications for the EHEA. The Working Group was joined by a number of experts.
The report from the Working Group was presented in December 2004 for discussion at the Bologna Follow-up Seminar in Copenhagen in January 2005. The Working Group has since revised the report and presented it to the BFUG in March 2005 for advice to the Ministerial Conference in Bergen.
The Working Group has drawn upon work done by others, especially that of the Joint Quality Initiative who formulated and further developed the “Dublin Descriptors”. It has drawn on experiences from countries that have already established qualifications frameworks for their national higher education systems, and conducted a comparative study of existing national frameworks. It has also consulted other organisations and taken into account other policy areas, including those within the Copenhagen Process and the wider Lisbon Agenda.
The report builds on the assumption that qualifications are primarily a matter of national concern and articulated in national qualifications frameworks, and that such national frameworks can be inter-connected through linkage to the overarching framework of the EHEA. The Working Group and its experts provide a series of recommendations and proposals regarding the framework for qualifications of the EHEA, and advice on good practice in developing national (or equivalent) frameworks.
It is recommended that:
- the framework for qualifications in the EHEA should be an overarching framework with a high level of generality, consisting of three main cycles, with additional provision for a short cycle within the first cycle.
- the framework should include cycle descriptors in the form of generic qualification descriptors that can be used as reference points. It is proposed that:
- the Dublin Descriptors are adopted as the cycle descriptors for the framework for qualifications of the European Higher Education Area. They offer generic statements of typical expectations of achievements and abilities associated with awards that represent the end of each Bologna cycle.
- responsibility for the maintenance and development of the framework rests with the Bologna Follow-up Group and any successor executive structures established by the Ministers for the furtherance of the EHEA.
- all signatories will complete the self-certification process by 2010.
It is proposed that guidelines for the range of ECTS typically associated with the completion of each cycle include:
- Short cycle (within the first cycle) qualifications may typically include / be represented by approximately 120 ECTS credits;
- First cycle qualifications may typically include / be represented by 180-240 ECTS credits;
- Second cycle qualifications may typically include / be represented by 90-120 ECTS credits, with a minimum of 60 credits at the level of the 2nd cycle;
- Third cycle qualifications do not necessarily have credits associated with them.
It is proposed that criteria for the verification that national frameworks are compatible with the EHEA framework include:
- The national framework for higher education qualifications and the body or bodies responsible for its development are designated by the national ministry with responsibility for higher education;
- There is a clear and demonstrable link between the qualifications in the national framework and the cycle qualification descriptors of the European framework;
- The national framework and its qualifications are demonstrably based on learning outcomes and the qualifications are linked to ECTS credits
- The procedures for inclusion of qualifications in the national framework are transparent o The national QA system refers to the national framework of qualifications and is consistent with the Berlin Communiqué and any subsequent communiqués agreed by Ministers in the Bologna Process
- The national framework, and any alignment with the European framework, is referenced in all Diploma Supplements
- The responsibilities of the domestic parties to the national framework are clearly determined and published.
It is proposed that each country should certify the compatibility of its own framework with the overarching framework, and that details of this self-certification be published, with the following procedures used for self-certification of compatibility:
- The competent national body/bodies shall self-certify the compatibility of the national framework with the European framework
- The self-certification process shall include the stated agreement of the QA bodies in the country in question recognised through the Bologna Process
- The self-certification shall involve international experts
- The self-certification and the evidence supporting it shall be published and shall address separately each of the criteria set out
- The ENIC/NARIC network shall maintain a public listing of States that have completed the self-certification process
- The completion of the self-certification process shall be noted on Diploma Supplements issued subsequently
It is proposed that national frameworks shall include awards that integrate recognition of non-formal and informal learning experiences.
Advice on good practice to facilitate the creation of successful new national frameworks of qualifications includes:
- the development and review process for producing good national frameworks are mosteffective when they involve all relevant stakeholders both within and outside higher education. Higher educations frameworks naturally link to vocational education and training and secondary education and as such are best viewed and treated as a national initiative. This also makes possible the inclusion of, or links to, other areas of education and training outside higher education.
- a framework for higher education qualifications should identify a clear and nationally agreed set of purposes. Frameworks for higher education qualifications benefit from the inclusion of cycles and /or levels, and articulation with outcome-focused indicators and/or descriptors of qualifications. Higher education frameworks of qualifications can also benefit from being directly linked to credit accumulation and transfer systems.
- frameworks for higher education qualifications should explicitly link academic standards, national and institutional quality assurance systems, and public understanding of the place and level of nationally recognised qualifications. Public confidence in academic standards requires public understanding of the achievements represented by different higher education qualifications and titles.
The report stresses the importance of national authority in the development of national frameworks, and the importance of considering the EHEA framework, the Dublin descriptors, and the guideline ranges on ECTS credits as ‘reference points’.
The framework of qualifications for the European Higher Education Area
|Short cycle (within the first cycle) qualification||
Qualifications that signify completion of the higher education short cycle (within the first cycle) are awarded to students who:
|Approximately 120 ECTS credits|
|First cycle qualification||Qualifications that signify completion of the first cycle are awarded to students who:
||Typically include 180-240 ECTS credits|
|Second cycle qualification||
Qualifications that signify completion of the second cycle are awarded to students who:
|Typically include 90-120 ECTS credits, with a minimum of 60 credits at the level of the 2nd cycle|
|Third cycle qualification||
Qualifications that signify completion of the third cycle are awarded to students who:
Considerations by the Bologna Follow-up Group
The Bologna Follow-up Group discussed the revised report from the Working Group in its meeting in March 2005 and after further discussions in April decided to advise Ministers that they may adopt the overarching framework for qualifications in the EHEA, comprising three cycles (including the possibility of shorter higher education linked to the first cycle), generic descriptors for each cycle based on learning outcomes and competences, and credit ranges in the first and second cycles.
The BFUG also advised Ministers to commit themselves to elaborating national frameworks for qualifications compatible with the overarching framework for qualifications in the EHEA by 2010, and to have started work on this by 2007.
Furthermore, the BFUG advised Ministers to underline the importance of complementarity between the overarching framework for the EHEA and the broader European framework of qualifications for lifelong learning encompassing general education as well as vocational education and training as it is now being developed within the European Union. Ministers may ask the European Commission to consult all parties to the Bologna Process as work progresses.
Source: General Report to the Bologna Follow-Up Group to the Conference of European Ministers Responsible for Higher Education - Bergen 19/20 May 2005
Bologna Process between Berlin and Bergen
- 16 January 2004 - Dublin
- 11 March 2004 - Dublin
- 24 May 2004 - Copenhagen
- 30 June 2004 - Edinburgh
- 10 September 2004 - Stockholm
A Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area 2005, final report of the Bologna Working Group on Qualifications Frameworks (18 February 2005).
- A Framework for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area 2005
- The framework of qualifications for the European Higher Education Area - May 2005
- BFUG5_3 ENQA on the European Register Committee
- BFUG4_4a Recommendations from the Bologna seminar on Qualifications Frameworks
- BFUG3_5_Status report on Overarching Frameworks Qualifications
- Maastricht Communique on Vocational Education and Training