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The next ten years of the Bologna process after Leuven

Kurt De Wit
University of Leuven
Kurt De Wit
University of Leuven
Open Panel

Abstract

The European ministers responsible for higher education in the 46 countries who have joined the Bologna reforms, convened in Leuven and Louvain-la-Neuve on 28 and 29 April 2009. This conference was announced as a historical event: to celebrate the tenth birthday of the original Bologna Declaration, and especially to set out the new course for the coming ten years. This was reflected in the title of the ministerial Communiqué: The Bologna Process 2020 - The European Higher Education Area in the new decade. The conference was meant to be a turning point in the Bologna Process. This process entails goals and actions that have to be implemented in different cultures, with different amounts of funding, with a different speed. The process clearly is not yet finished. The question is, therefore, whether the conference has really been a turning point for higher education, a critical juncture (Pierson & Skocpol 2002) reinforcing the path taken at this particular point in time, while excluding alternatives? In this paper, first the content and meaning of the Communiqué is explained, in terms of path dependency in a multi-level governance environment. Then an overview is given of reactions to the conference and the Communiqué by European and Belgian actors (employers, representative organizations of institutions, students, etc.), in order to explain the interaction between critical junctures and feedback mechanisms. Last, the expected evolution of the Bologna Process in the next ten years is sketched.