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  • Budget increase looms for 'Bologna'

    - The Bologna process is famous for its slow but steady pace. Under rapporteur Luigi Berlinguer the European Parliament and the Commission have now teamed up. They want: quality assurance, professional PhDs and EU-‘joint degrees’.

    The Bologna process has not been an easy travel. All the more reason for MEP (Member of European Parliament) Luigi Berlinguer to pride himself in the outcome of the parliamentary debate on his latest report. Speaking on the phone from Strasburg, the former Italian Minister of Education Berlinguer is quite pleased with the voting results. "The figures were 572 in favour, 89 against and 8 abstentions. That is not at all bad if you consider that the figure of 89 is mainly composed of eurosceptics who oppose everything anyway."

    One of the main critiques that Luigi Berlinguer voiced in his recent report is the fact that the connection between the Bologna process and the labour market has major flaws. "It is highly problematic that we lack one common labour market. Fragmenting that one labour market, as many European Member States are guilty of, is a big obstacle for development. It means that a degree obtained in one university is not necessarily valid in another EU-country."

    Doctorate level not recognized

    In the Bologna system there are three grades of higher education: the bachelor, the master and the PhD. "However", Berlinguer explains "in some countries the doctorate level is not recognized as a university degree that also has a value for professional careers, it is just seen as an academic career. It is therefore imperative that we articulate professional competences in a transparent manner."

    The Berlinguer-report consequently recognizes the importance of PhD-degrees, including those carried out in collaboration with enterprises, for a knowledge-based economy and economic growth. "We applaud the European Commission's commitment to developing a European Industrial PhD-scheme within the Marie Curie actions."

    Joint degrees

    By supporting the Berlinguer report, the European Parliament endorses a larger role for the European Commission in the Bologna process. Berlinguer: "Before, the European Commission was always a bit shy when it came to education, but now they have a statutory role, we would like them to help to move the Bologna process forward."

    The EP-report calls on the European Commission to encourage mutual recognition by eliminating the administrative obstacles and requests the Commission to develop a system of structured cooperation in order to deliver 'joint degrees' within clusters of disciplines, with recognition across the EU.

    "We welcome the Commission's proposal to increase significantly the funds devoted to European education and training programmes, although we do not yet know how large the budget increase will be", Berlinguer says.

    "Quality assurance is the key", Berlinguer concludes. "If you want to build up mutual recognition, you will have to build up mutual confidence." With a stable majority of MEPs behind him, the basis for that confidence seems to be laid.