Work programme 2012-2015
Working Group on Structural Reforms (Qualifications Frameworks, Recognition, Quality Assurance and Transparency) 2012-2015
The Working Group on Structural Reforms is mandated to develop proposals for policy and practice aiming to improve instruments for structural reform (qualifications frameworks, quality assurance, recognition of qualifications, transparency instruments) and the coherence between the main elements of structural reform within the European Higher Education Area as well as to oversee and advise the BFUG on the implementation of structural reforms.
Structural reforms have been at the core of the development of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) from the very beginning. The EHEA aims to allow students, staff, and graduates to move as freely as possible between all the countries and education systems making up the EHEA and to do so while preserving the full value of their qualifications for access to further studies, to the European labor market and, more broadly, in the context of lifelong learning. The EHEA aims to facilitate cooperation between systems, institutions, and individual staff and students throughout the EHEA and to make European higher education known and appreciated throughout the world. The EHEA is a European framework and not only the sum of individual higher education systems. The EHEA builds on what we have in common as Europeans while also allowing individual systems and institutions to draw on their particular strengths and traditions. The EHEA, therefore, provides for variation within an overall framework that ensures coherence. It is a framework for the development of common policies as well as for mutual learning.
An important reason why the Bologna Follow Up Group (BFUG) decided to establish a single Structural Reforms Working Group (SRWG) was a desire to see structural reforms as a coherent whole as well as a concern that structural reforms had so far been developed piecemeal and possibly even at cross purposes.
Composition, structure, and terms of reference
As noted, the main reason why the BFUG decided to appoint only four working groups in the 2012–2015 program, and to give each one a broad mandate, was a desire to provide a more coherent context and framework for the further development of the EHEA. This was not least the case for structural reforms and it gave rise to a broad mandate and a broad membership of the group, with four co-chairs (Council of Europe (coordinator), Belgium (Flemish Community), Holy See and Poland), and a membership of some 40 EHEA members and consultative members. The report as submitted should therefore reflect the concerns of a majority of EHEA members.
Four sub-structures have worked under the authority of the SRWG as a part of its broad mandate:
- The ad hoc working group on third cycle qualifications
- The ad hoc working group on revising the ECTS users’ Guide
- The network of national correspondents for qualifications frameworks
- The network on the recognition of prior learning
With the exception of the network on prior learning, all have contributed to the report. The report by the ad hoc working group on third cycle qualifications is particularly substantial and the SRWG recommends that it be given separate consideration by the BFUG, as will also be the case with the revised ECTS Users’ Guide.
True to its mandate, the SRWG in its report emphasizes the overarching issues of structural reforms, which are detailed in part III, preceded by an outline of the background and mandate of the SRWG (part I) and a consideration of the political and policy context of structural reforms (part II). The overarching issues discussed in this report are, in addition to making the case for the need to develop a coherent approach to structural reforms and developing a European infrastructure for transparency and recognition (introduction to part III):
- Learning outcomes (III.1)
- Employability (III.2)
- The use of qualifications frameworks to improve fair recognition (III.3) Ø Diversity and transparency (III.4)
- The global dimension of structural reforms (III.5)
In addition to considering the coherence of structural reforms, the SRWG has in its terms of reference been asked to consider specific policy areas, which it does in part IV of the report.
The SRWG has organized seven meetings during 2012-14 work period. Each meeting of the WG constructed around the four policy areas of the structural reforms enabled to elaborate the draft report of the SRWG. The meetings in 2014 were mainly devoted to the development of the draft report and its key recommendations.
The SRWG final report was submitted to the BFUG for consideration at its Rome meeting on 27-28 November 2014 and successfully adopted.