Functioning of the Bologna Process
When ministers met in Prague in 2001, they confirmed the need for a structure for the follow-up work, consisting from then on of a follow-up group responsible for the continuing development of the process and a preparatory group responsible for the planning of the next ministerial conference. The Bologna Follow-up Group (BFUG) was composed of representatives of all participant countries and the EU Commission and chaired by the rotating EU Presidency. The preparatory group was a smaller group chaired by the representative of the country hosting the next ministerial meeting (Germany). The Council of Europe, the EUA, EURASHE, and ESIB took part as observers in both groups.
In the Prague Communiqué, ministers encouraged the Follow-up Group to organise a series of international seminars to explore the most important issues in the process.
After Prague, the BFUG developed a work programme for the period up to Berlin based on a number of seminars (ten in all), covering the issues of the Prague Communiqué. The ten seminars were realised in the period from spring 2001 to early summer 2003.
The BFUG also had to consider the enlargement of the Bologna Process and the handling of new applications for access. It formed several working groups to prepare particular issues for discussion. However, the BFUG devoted most of its working time and expertise to a discussion about stocktaking and possible directions for further development of the Bologna Process, and to consideration of issues important for the drafting of the Berlin Communiqué.
In its last meeting before Berlin, the BFUG discussed the future steering of the Bologna Process. The process had developed into a range of complex activities based on the common political will of ministers and aimed at strengthening the international co-operation between all member states and partners. In his report to the Berlin Ministerial Conference, professor Pavel Zgaga stated that the main tasks of the steering structures in the coming years would be:
(1) to organise the further follow-up programme after the Berlin Communiqué
(2) to organise the stock-taking exercise
(3) to secure continuity and further clarification of the principles of the Bologna Process
(4) to secure close co-operation with relevant stakeholders
(5) to prepare the next ministerial conference
The necessary link between national implementation and international co-operation can be guaranteed only by involving all members and by giving them a chance of active participation. This argument requires a large group with an overall responsibility for following up the decisions of ministers and preparing the next ministerial conference.
On the other hand the demanding and comprehensive programme after Berlin will require an efficient administrative and working structure.
The final result of the discussions was conveyed to the ministers and written into the Berlin Communiqué:
Ministers entrusted the implementation of all the issues covered in the Communiqué, the overall steering of the Bologna Process and the preparation of the next ministerial meeting to the BFUG, chaired by the EU Presidency, with the host country of the next ministerial conference as vice-chair.
After the Berlin summit, the BFUG consist of 40 member countries and the European Commission, with the Council of Europe, the EUA, EURASHE, ESIB and UNESCO-CEPES as consultative members.
A Board, also chaired by the EU Presidency, will oversee the work between the meetings of the Follow-up Group. The Board will be composed of the Chair, the next host country as Vice-Chair, the preceding and the following EU Presidencies, three participating countries elected by the Follow-up Group for one year, the European Commission and, as consultative members, the Council of Europe, the EUA, EURASHE and ESIB.
The Follow-up Group as well as the Board may convene ad-hoc working groups as necessary.
The overall follow-up work will be supported by a Secretariat provided by the country hosting the next Ministerial Conference (Norway).
The Board and the Secretariat
In its first meeting after the Berlin Conference, the Follow-up Group further defined the responsibilities of the Board and the tasks of the Secretariat.
The Board shall support the BFUG in its activities and provide efficiency to the management of the Bologna Process. The Board shall co-ordinate and monitor the implementation of the work programme.
The following list, which is not exhaustive, illustrates the scope of this responsibility:
- supporting the realisation of Bologna events
providing support and assistance to new members as they seek to meet the objectives of the Bologna Process
- co-ordinating actions for the preparation of the stocktaking
- organising Working Groups composed by BFUG members and /or experts on special issues decided by the BFUG
- overseeing the preparation of the next ministerial conference
The BFUG may delegate tasks to the Board when it deems it appropriate and necessary to achieve the objectives of the Bologna Process. However, formal decisions are the responsibility of the BFUG itself.
The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research has set up a Secretariat to support the overall follow-up work, as was foreseen in the Berlin Communiqué. The Secretariat is fully operational from December 2003 with a staff of three.
The tasks of the Secretariat will include:
- administrative and operational responsibility for the next ministerial conference
- secretarial functions as directed by the BFUG and the Board
- execution, under specific mandate from the BFUG or the Board, of special tasks concerning the implementation of the work programme