In the early hours of this Friday, the Police had to intervene to evacuate several professors from the University of Valencia who were being held at the Faculty of Law. About 50 students prevented them from leaving after blocking all exits from the building. The young people were part of a group that had been camped for several weeks in the center to protest the application of the so-called Bologna Plan.
Like them, hundreds of other students, especially in Barcelona and in Valencia itself, but also in other cities, have played these days protests, occupations and confinements, in a climate of tension that has not stopped growing.
The protests, however, come from far and extend throughout the university community, practically since the reform was signed, nine years ago, and especially since the Spanish government ratified last year.
What is the Bologna process? What does it mean for European universities? Why do they protest? What do their advocates and their detractors say? The keys, in 20 questions and answers.
1. WHAT IS THE BOLOGNA DECLARATION?
The Bologna Declaration is an initiative to reform the European educational system, which was signed in this northern Italian city, on June 19, 1999, by 29 European countries : all those that made up then the European Union, Spain included, and others belonging to the European Free Trade Area and to the east and center of the continent.
With the signing of this Declaration, the so-called Bologna Process, or Bologna Plan, was adopted , which has subsequently been outlined, with various changes and the inclusion of more states, through four new agreements, specified in the Prague Communiqués (Republic Checa, 2001), Berlin (Germany, 2003), Bergen (Norway, 2005) and London (United Kingdom, 2007). The next follow-up conference will be held next year in Leuven (Belgium).
2. WHERE DOES IT HAVE ITS ORIGIN?
The origin of the Bologna Declaration is found in the Magna Carta of Universities signed by several rectors of European universities in 1988. But the decisive preliminary step did not take place until ten years later, when, on May 25, 1998, the ministers of Education from Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and France (that is, the four EU countries that belong to the G7, the group that make up the richest nations in the world) signed the so-called Sorbonne Declaration in Paris.
3. WHO PREPARED THE DECLARATION OF BOLOGNA?
The governments of the signatory countries, with the participation of student representatives, the European Commission and other organizations.
4. WHAT ARE YOUR OBJECTIVES?
The objective of the Bologna Process is to carry out a profound reform of the university system in Europe, through the construction of the so-called European Higher Education Area (EHEA), designed from the Anglo-Saxon model and organized according to the treaty itself, taking into account principles of quality, mobility, diversity and competitiveness.
In this sense, the Plan aims to achieve, among other things, the total student mobility within the continent and the homogenization of higher education in Europe, ending the current maze of validation.
It also aims to achieve a competitive higher education system , attractive to the rest of the world, and attract students and researchers from other countries, as well as adapt the lessons to the needs of the labor market.
In general, the concept of ” lifelong learning ” (lifelong learning ) is sought, in a permanent process of interaction between training and work, and a change in teaching methods, with more attention individualized to the student (more tutorials and personal work, less traditional classes).
The ultimate goal is to increase employment in the European Union.
5. WHAT CHANGES DOES IT INTRODUCE?
Fundamentally, there will be a new system of credits and degrees, a new financing of studies and more mobility for students, teachers, researchers and administration and services personnel.
6. HOW IS THE NEW CREDIT SYSTEM??
The credit is constituted in the academic unit of measure in official university education, together with the so-called Diploma Supplement (or Diploma Supplement, SD), a document attached to the degree that facilitates the academic and professional recognition of the grades obtained.
In general, all careers will have an initial training of 240 credits, equivalent in Spain to four years (more time in the case of some careers, such as Architecture or Medicine). With this first level of studies you will obtain the title of Bachelor, Engineer or Architect.
7. HOW ARE CREDITS OBTAINED?
They count not only the hours of theoretical classes (those taught by the teacher and the hours of examination), but also the work that must be done by the student (preparation of papers, seminars, study hours).
In general terms, students should do more practices and have a more active role. Each ECTS credit (European Credit Transfer System) corresponds to between 25 and 30 weekly hours , of which only 10 will be taught.
The credits are annexed to the title, describing the studies carried out to make possible the homologation at European level. With this, and based on the experience of the current Erasmus Program, it is intended to favor student and work mobility.
8. HOW ARE THE NEW TITULATIONS?
The degree system is structured in two cycles: Degree, more general education, and Postgraduate, specialized education. Access to the second cycle requires having successfully completed the first cycle in a minimum period of three years (in Spain, with exceptions, four). With the second cycle you get the master’s degree (Master) and / or doctor’s degree (Doctorate).
9. WILL THE DIPLOMATURES DISAPPEAR?
Yes. There will be no diploma courses or degrees, but, as in the Anglo-Saxon system, the aforementioned bachelor’s degrees (the English bachelor ) and Postgraduate.
10. WHAT ECONOMIC IMPLICATIONS DOES THIS HAVE?
Important The specialization (the second cycle) will be priced between 1,400 and 2,000 euros per course.
The Spanish Government is preparing a financing plan for the University, which does not rule out the mixed model, a mixture of public and private funds
11. WHAT ARE THE MAIN CRITICS?
The detractors of the Bologna Plan highlight that, in practice, the introduced credit system equates the student schedule to a working schedule, due to the increase in compulsory hours, and prevents combining studies with a job.
With respect to the new degrees, those who oppose the Plan denounce that the increase in the economic cost necessary to obtain the second cycle will result in an elitization of the University, since not all students will be able to afford it.
In this sense, they point out that the current scholarships will cease to exist, which will be replaced by the so – called scholarships-loans (bank loans to be returned with interest). They also criticize that the Bachelor’s degree will be comparable to the current Vocational Training and that it will involve basic and unspecialized training aimed at obtaining precarious workers.
It is also criticized that the careers that are given in the universities will be from now based on criteria of pure profitability, established by the Agency of National Assessment of Quality and Accreditation (ANECA), which will lead to the marginalization of less technical careers or “practices”.
Some critics have also pointed out the fact that, in addition to enjoying a one-year Erasmus scholarship, in Spain the number of students who wish to study, or work later, in other countries is not large enough to justify a reform of these dimensions.
It has also been reported that the Plan was approved without the necessary prior public debate .
12. WHAT IS THE FUND CRITICISM?
The majority of the criticisms against the Bologna Plan denounce that the reforms introduced tend towards the commercialization of the university world and have been done paying more attention to the economic interests of the big business conglomerates than to those of the educational community.
The detractors of the Process point out that the supposed positive objective of creating a common educational space hides the idea of turning the European university into a quarry for large companies, leaving aside its role as a place of human formation and development, and to be a mere factory of valid individuals for the labor market.
13. WHAT DO YOUR DEFENDERS ARGUMENT?
The supporters of the Bologna Plan maintain that this will improve the work opportunities of university students, since their degrees will be recognized in all the signatory countries, and the new curricula will be more oriented to the training of professionals demanded by society, with a greater specialization.
With regard to the credit system, they consider that it organizes in a more real way the time of the students, establishing limits of hours and creating the possibility of studying part-time to work, enrolling in fewer credits. They also defend that the overall work of the student and his initiative be valued more than the fact of simply attending master classes.
They also argue that the Graduate and Postgraduate system is the one that currently works in most countries of the world.
Basically, the Plan’s supporters understand that it is a medium and long-term strategic commitment to improve European society as a whole through the creation of employment, and through a more rational and universal university system. The new European society, they understand, needs trained university students more in line with current work needs, more adaptable and more willing to change place and position.
This same week, the adviser of Universities of the Generalitat of Catalonia, Josep Huguet, warned to the students against the Plan that “the alternative is nothing more than the autarky” and “the return to a model of Francoist university”.
14. IS IT AN IMMEDIATE COMPLIANCE TREATY?
No. It is a political declaration made around various agreements and commitments, which establishes a deadline, until 2010, for the achievement of the EHEA. It contemplates biennial phases of execution, each of which ends with the corresponding Ministerial Conference, which reviews what has been achieved and establishes guidelines for the future.
15. WHAT COUNTRIES HAVE SIGNED IT?
The Bologna Declaration has been signed, so far, by 47 countries. In 1999 they did Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Croatia, Cyprus, Turkey and Liechtenstein signed it in 2001. Albania, Andorra, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Vatican, Macedonia, Russia and Serbia did so in 2003; Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, in 2005 and, finally, Montenegro, in 2007.
Kyrgyzstan, Israel, Kosovo and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus have requested to be included in the Process, but have been rejected, the first three, for not signing part of the European Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe, and the fourth, for not be recognized as an independent political entity by none of the signatories of the Declaration.
16. HOW IS IT APPLIED IN SPAIN?
The Organic Law 4/2007 of April 12, which modified the Organic Law of Universities (LOU), of 2001, laid the foundations in our country for the full integration of the Spanish university system in the EHEA. Before, in September 2003, the Council of Ministers had already approved the new European System of Credits and the Qualifications in university degrees, and in October last year did the same with the Regulation of University Teaching, which sets the new European structure of titles.
In Spain, the application of the Bologna Process, whose first pilot experience was carried out at the University of Murcia, in the 2005-2006 academic year, had foreseen that from the present academic year 2008-2009, the current degrees and diplomas would disappear. . However, until 2015, university students who study before the Bologna Plan will be able to choose between continuing in the regime in which they started or opting for the new model.
The studies of Degree will be completed in our country in four courses and 240 credits, except Architecture, with 300 credits and Medicine, with 360.
In order to access the Master’s studies , which is decided by each university, the Bachelor’s degree and a minimum of 60 credits and a maximum of 120 will be required.
The third cycle, or Doctorate studies (between 3 or 4 years), includes a period of training and another of research, requires the presentation of the doctoral thesis and it is essential to have passed a minimum of 300 credits between the first and second cycle, with the requirement that a minimum of 60 correspond to postgraduate education.
17. WHAT CAREERS WILL BE IN OUR COUNTRY?
For the current 2008-2009 academic year, it was planned that a total of 162 courses could be taken in Spain , corresponding to the branches of Arts and Humanities, Sciences, Health Sciences, Social and Legal Sciences and Engineering and Architecture, all of them adapted to the EU and validated by the aforementioned National Agency for the Evaluation of Quality and Accreditation (ANECA), with the approval of the Council of Universities.
Of the 162 careers designed by the universities, 92, that is, 57%, will be taught by 17 private universities and the Church, and 16 public universities will provide the rest.
18. WHAT IS ANECA?
The National Agency for the Evaluation of Quality and Accreditation depends on the Ministry of Science and Innovation, was created in 2002 and has the mission to evaluate, certify and accredit higher education, teachers and institutions.
19. WHAT HAVE BEEN AND ARE THE MAIN PROTESTS?
Demonstrations, strikes, imprisonment … Students from all over Spain have taken to the streets against the new university model, although the biggest protests, which have exploded in recent weeks, have focused, above all, in Granada, Barcelona, Murcia, Seville and Madrid.
In April and May of this year a group of students from the Autonomous University of Barcelona were recorded after assaulting the president’s office during the protests. They could be expelled from the University for a period of up to eleven years .
In Madrid, in the Faculty of Philosophy of the Complutense University, 200 students remained locked up between April and June. At the University of Barcelona more than 300 students were still sleeping until Friday in corridors and classrooms of six faculties. In the Autonomous University of Barcelona 160 students of Philosophy and Literature and Communication carried out “informational pickets” and had practically paralyzed the activity in the centers. In Valencia, this week there were still enclosures in seven centers of the University: History, Philosophy, Philology, Medicine and Psychology.
In some of these demonstrations there have been fierce clashes between students and the police.
Outside of Spain there have also been numerous protests, the most important ones, in Greece, where the Government has come to propose a thorough revision of the reform.
Against the Bologna Process, not only students, but also professors and politicians have manifested themselves .
20. WHAT POSTURE DOES THE GOVERNMENT HAVE?
The Government, like the main political parties, supports the Plan. However, as reported by the newspaper El País, the Executive has agreed to review the “issues that are not working well” and “is open to make certain changes” , such as the elimination of excess documentation that requests ANECA centers to approve the new degrees, or the review of the evaluation teams that perform them.
For its part, and according to said newspaper, the Minister of Science and Innovation, Cristina Garmendia, will keep in the coming days a meeting with the rectors of the five most affected university centers, and on day 4, a extraordinary session of the Council of Universities to address the problem.
Garmendia affirmed last 17th that the implantation of the EHEA in Spain, “will not suppose the commercialization of the universities”. “I would ask the students: Would you like to have to be two years to homologate your degree in a country different from yours?” He said.