Student Participation and Social Dimension

The Social dimension of the Bologna Process and Student Participation in Higher Education Governance

Social Dimension in the Scope of Bologna Process:

  • What is Social Dimension?

The social Dimension of the envisaged European Higher Education Area aims at:
equality of opportunities in higher education , in terms of: access, participation and successful completion of studies; studying and living conditions; guidance and counseling; financial support, and student participation in higher education governance. This implies also equal opportunities in mobility, when it comes to portability of financial support, removing barriers, and providing incentives. Both enhance the quality, attractiveness and competitiveness of the European Higher Education Area.

The main objectives of the "Social Dimension" in higher education listed/ explained as follows:

1) To have the equal chance to access to the higher education

2) Strengthen the developments of social, cultural and economic developments of the societies

3) To raise the quality and attractiveness of European higher education

4) To set suitable work and study circumstances for students

5) To provide the support of the government to the disadvantageous student groups

6) To provide flexible education methods for the access to the higher education and within the higher education

7) To provide the participation of the students to the governance of the higher education

  • When did the "Social Dimension" mentioned in the Bologna Process?

The social dimension has been an integral part of the Bologna Process since the first ministerial follow-up meeting inPrague in 2001. The social dimension was included in the Prague Communiqué at the suggestion of the student representatives. In subsequent communiqués the social dimension has been recognized as crucial for the success of the European Higher Education Area.

With the 2005 Bergen Communiqué, Ministers declared the social dimension an integral part of the Process of creating the European Higher Education Area (EHEA):

"The social dimension of the Bologna Process is a constituent part of the EHEA and a necessary condition for the attractiveness and competitiveness of the EHEA. We therefore renew our commitment to making quality higher education equally accessible to all, and stress the need for appropriate conditions for students so that they can complete their studies without obstacles related to their social and economic background. The social dimension includes measures taken by governments to help students, especially from socially disadvantaged groups, in financial and economic aspects and to provide them with guidance and counselling services with a view to widening access."

Given that considerable differences exist in relation to the social dimension of higher education between the countries participating in the process of creating the European Higher Education Area, it was not considered appropriate to narrowly define the social dimension or to suggest a number of detailed actions for all countries to implement.

  • What decisions have been taken about the Social Dimension in the London Communiqué?

With the London Communiqué of May 2007, Ministers responsible for Higher Education in the countries participating in the Bologna Process confirmed the relevance of the social dimension:

"Higher education should play a strong role in fostering social cohesion, reducing inequalities and raising the level of knowledge, skills and competences in society. Policy should therefore aim to maximise the potential of individuals in terms of their personal development and their contribution to a sustainable and democratic knowledge-based society.

We share the societal aspiration that the student body entering, participating in and completing higher education at all levels should reflect the diversity of our populations. We reaffirm the importance of students being able to complete their studies without obstacles related to their social and economic background. We therefore continue our efforts to provide adequate student services, create more flexible learning pathways into and within higher education, and to widen participation at all levels on the basis of equal opportunity."

  • When did the Social Dimension Working Group established and what are the objectives?

Instead, the 2005-2007 social dimension working group, which had been set up after the Bergen ministerial meeting, recommended that each country develops its own strategy, including an action plan, for the social dimension. To help countries with devising national strategies on the social dimension and to facilitate the necessary national debates, the working group proposed a structure and topics for such a debate. For more background information and the detailed recommendations read the full 2007 Working Group Report. 

  • What steps had been taken for the Social Dimension of the Bologna Process in Turkey ?


The EUROSTUDENT project collates comparable data on the socio-economic background and living conditions of students throughout Europe. In the third round of the study, 23 countries have taken part, which means that the data covers most of larger Europe and very diverse higher education systems. The EUROSTUDENT data set includes nearly 250 key indicators. The project is coordinated by the Higher Education Information System (HIS) Hanover,Germany.

The objectives of EUROSTUDENT are:

· To deliver comparable key data and basic information in order to describe and map out the socio-economic living conditions of students in Europe

· To provide a structured and standardized monitoring system with which the effects of structural measures and changes can be identified for specific student groups

· To describe the current situation and with the aid of international comparison to identify obstacles to an inclusive and effective European Higher Education Area (EHEA)

These objectives complement the goals of the Lisbon strategy and the Bologna Process to create an attractive and a competitive European Higher Education Area which can maximize the potentials of individuals in terms of their personal development and their contribution to society and the economy.


23 countries (Austria, Bulgaria, CzechRepublic, England/Wales, Estonia, France, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy,Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, SlovakRepublic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, theNetherlands and Turkey) have participated in the third round of EUROSTUDENT. The five countries (Croatia,Denmark, Georgia, Greece and Hungary) are observers to the current round and will potentially join the project in the fourth round, which begins in 2008.

In accordance with the Decision of the Council of Higher Education (YÖK) of February 3, 2006, the EUROSTUDENT III project has been carried out in Turkey by a national commission headed by Professor Nezih Guven (Middle EastTechnicalUniversity, Ankara, Turkey). The other members of the commission are Associate Professor Ayse Gunduz Hosgor (Middle EastTechnicalUniversity, Ankara, Turkey) and Assistant Professor Mustafa Sen (Middle EastTechnicalUniversity, Ankara, Turkey). Within the framework of the project, an online survey has been carried out in 2007 with the participation of about 15.000 students enrolled in undergraduate programmes.

The report of the project has been published in August 2008.

  • Student Participation

Another keystone of the Social Dimension is the participation of the students to the governance of the higher education and to take place as an "equal stakeholder" in the decision process.


On October 17th 1982 seven national unions of students (NSU Norway, NUS United Kingdom, SFS Sweden, SHÍ Iceland, UNEF-IDFrance, DSF Denmark and ÖH Austria) gathered in Stockholm to create WESIB, the West European Student Information Bureau.

The aim of WESIB was to coordinate the flow of information between the members and from European and international bodies such as the Council of Europe, the European Communities and UNESCO. In line with this aim, WESIB organised seminars twice a year on matters relating to higher education, and held its highest decision making meetings - Board Meetings - at the same time.

WESIB was chaired by one of its member unions and headed by an employed Director. From the beginning the WESIB secretariat was situated in Stockholm, but in 1986 it moved to London.

The political changes in eastern Europe at the end of the 1980s affected WESIB as well, as it was opened for national unions of students from the former east and at the 17th Board Meeting (BM17) in February 1990, WESIB dropped the "W" to become the European Student Information Bureau (ESIB). These changes resulted in a surge of membership applications and the number of members rose from 16 in 1990 to 31 in 1992. The fact that the WESIB secretariat had moved to Vienna in 1988 and by that had come very close to the events of 1989 probably also helped in getting new members from the former east.

As the European Communities started to gain more influence on the scene of higher education in Europe with its exchange programmes Socrates and Erasmus, the national unions of students in Europe decided to change the aim of ESIB from just an information sharing organisation to a political organisation that represented the views of students to European institutions. Thus the members gave ESIB policy-making powers at BM21 in November 1991. At BM23 in November 1992 the Director also got more representative powers and Working Groups were established. As ESIB no longer was only an information bureau, the Board decided at BM24 in May 1993 to change the name once more, this time to The National Unions of Students in Europe, but retaining the old and well-known abbreviation ESIB. The representative powers of ESIB demanded more work from its members and at BM31 in November 1996 it was decided that ESIB should be headed by a chairperson together with an Executive Committee rather than by one of its member NUSes.

Even though ESIB had both representative and policy-making powers, its field of work was somewhat limited during the 1990s as higher education wasn't within the competencies of the European Union or any other European institution for that matter. This situation came to an abrupt end in 1999, when ministers of education from 29 European countries signed the so called 'Bologna declaration', where they stated the intention to create a European Higher Education Area by the year 2010. This gave ESIB a European arena to act on and at the Bologna ministerial follow-up summit inPrague in May 2001, ESIB became an official observer in the Bologna Process, representing the students of Europe.
As the Bologna process demanded a greater presence by student representatives on a European level, BM37 in November 1999 decided to form expert committees who could deal with certain aspects of higher education. At that board meeting, the Committee on Prague was created (today:Bologna Process Committee) and it was to be followed at BM40 in May 2001 by the Committee on Commodification of Education. As more and more policy and decision making at European higher education was centered to Brussels in the 1990s, ESIB moved its secretariat there in 2000.

ESIB went on to become the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 36 countries and, through these members, represent more than 10 million students.

In May 2007, at the 52nd Board Meeting , held in London, it was decided that ESIB needed to change its' name in order for the role of the organisation to be better reflected nominatively. The ESIB acronym no longer represented the work of this organisation and, with the 25th Anniversary fast approaching, this seemed as good a time as any.

The Executive Committee proposed ESU - Europeans Students' Union. This was unanimously accepted by the Board of members.

The aim of ESU is to represent and promote the educational, social, economic and cultural interests of students at a European level towards all relevant bodies and in particular the European Union, Bologna Follow-Up Group, Council of Europe and UNESCO. 


"Regulation on Student Councils of Higher Education Institutions and the National Student Council of Higher Education Institutions in Turkey", was enacted by CoHE after its publishing in the Official Journal no. 25942 of September 20, 2005. In accordance with this regulation, a national-level student council was established following the election of the president and the bodies of the national student council that took place in December 2005.

The new regulation provides students with a complete bottom-up organizational power in the most democratic manner starting from the departments/programme/major level at the bottom to the higher education institution and the national level at the top and aims to increase the student participation, involvement and contribution and take active part at every level of academic and administrative meetings of higher education institutions and that of student representation at national and international level through the national student councils of higher education institutions.

President of university student union can attend the Senate and the Executive Board meetings of the university concerned if student-related issues are in the agenda of the meetings (Article 24/e of the Regulation). Likewise, president of the national student council can attend the General Board of CoHE and the Interuniversity Board, which is advisory body to CoHE, meetings upon the invitation of the President of CoHE if student related issues are to be discussed in these meetings (Article 35/f of the Regulation). However, under the existing HE Law, student representatives do not have the right to vote. This shortcoming of the existing Law is emphasized in the draft report on strategy for HE to 2025.

One student appointed by the National Student Council acts as a full member of the national Quality Assurance Agency, YÖDEK in accordance with the amendment to the regulation adopted following its publishing in the Official Journal No.26390 of December 28, 2006. Students are to participate as full members in external review teams and in decision-making. They exercise the same roles as the other members of the team. At institutional level, on the other hand, all universities, in accordance with the regulation, are required to include one representative from the university student union in their "Academic Assessment and Quality Improvement Board (ADEK)" as a full member (Article 8 of the regulation)

The National Student Council Board Meeting took place in 5-6 January 2007, in GaziUniversity and Volkan Yılmaz had been elected as the president of the council. The next Board Meeting and elections will be took place in 27- 29 December 2008 in GaziUniversity.

· For the further information of the Social Dimension of the Bologna Process in Turkey, you can also check the National Report of Turkey 2005-2007  and 2007-2009

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