Bologna reforms taking hold
Even in fields of study such as Teacher Training, Law, Medical Studies and Engineering – generally known as areas in which implementing the objectives of the Bologna Process is particularly difficult – substantial curriculum reforms are being introduced across Europe. This is a central finding of a study carried out by a consortium of CHE - Centre for Higher Education Development, NIFU-STEP (Norway) and the European Centre for Strategic Management of Universities ESMU (Belgium) led by CHEPS (Netherlands).
On behalf of the Directorate-General for Education and Culture of the European Commission, the research team examined 32 European countries in,terms of how the fields of study of Teacher Training, Law, Medical Studies, Engineering and History have changed in the context of the Bologna and Lisbon Processes. Many of these degree programmes have been restructured along the principle of competence-based learning, are modularised and have been made compatible with the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). Difficulties in realising a Bachelor degree that is relevant to the job market are common.
For the subject of History, this aspect raised comparatively few problems in the different countries. For Teacher Training, often primary teacher training is offered at the Bachelor level. The Swiss Medical Studies programmes are an outstanding example of the consistent conversion to the Bachelor-Master-structure in this field. In Law, many countries are moving to a two-cycle system, but access to professional training remains at the Masters level except for the United Kingdom. In Engineering, parallel training at universities (up to the Masters level) and at other types of higher education institutions continues to be typical. Efforts are however being made for better transition between the different types of higher education institutions.
The curriculum reforms are driven by the Bologna Process but also by diverse national priorities and varied national interpretations of the common European agenda. This leads to great variation in terms of implementation. Especially with respect to the duration of degree programmes, there are lots of models, from 3+1 (for Bachelor and Masters) via 3+2, 4+1, and 3.5+1.5 to 4+2 years. Overall, it becomes clear that there are many more areas in which curriculum reforms take place beyond transition to a Bachelor-Masters system. Successful reforms can therefore not only be measured in terms of the conversion to the two-cycle degree structure.
The study, in which Dr. Johanna Witte took a lead role for the CHE, has now been published on the homepage of the European Commission under the title “The extent and impact of higher education curriculum reform across Europe” (see link at the right).
Under this link, a comparative study by the same research team on the change of higher education governance in 32 European countries is also available.