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UK higher education sector celebrates the launch of the European Higher Education Area

Issued on 12 March 2010

As Ministers for higher education from 46 European countries gather in Vienna today (Friday) to celebrate the formal launch of the European Higher Education Area, the UK Higher Education (HE) Europe Unit has launched a campaign to profile the UK’s role in this landmark event.

The establishment of the European Higher Education Area has been driven by what has become known as the Bologna Process. One of its main aims is to enable students and academics to move more freely between European universities.

Professor Steve Smith, President of Universities UK (UUK), said that the UK had much to be proud of in its role in the Bologna Process. “The UK was one of the original four signatory countries to the Process, which has now expanded to include 46 (47[1]) European countries.

“The UK’s commitment to the Process and the realisation of the European Higher Education Area has truly been one that is sector-wide. UK ministers for higher education and their government departments, the Higher Education Funding Councils, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, the National Union of Students and institutions themselves have worked together to implement the aims of Bologna.

“The result of this work means that it is increasingly easier for staff and students to have a study or study-related work placement in Europe and have this counted towards their degree, and for other European universities and employers to understand and compare those degrees.

“It has also embedded a quality culture across European higher education, and emphasised the student experience. Bringing it all together, this has increased the attractiveness of European higher education, and the UK’s, in a time when there is increasing global competition in higher education, from the US, to China and Canada,” Professor Smith said.

Professor Colin Riordan, Chair of UUK’s International and European Policy Committee, is in Vienna representing the UK HE sector as part of the UK delegation, led by Minister of State for Higher Education, David Lammy.

On the agenda at the Anniversary Conference is the finalisation of the Budapest-Vienna Declaration to be issued jointly by the 46 [47] Ministers for higher education. The Declaration will note the unique partnership approach of the Bologna Process, taking stock of all the progress to date by participating countries in realising the EHEA.

Ministers will discuss the next decade of the Bologna Process, particularly areas of activity which still require implementation, such as degree and curriculum reform, recognition and widening participation. They will also reaffirm the principles of academic freedom, autonomy and accountability as cornerstones of the EHEA.


1. Ministers at the Anniversary Conference will discuss the inclusion of Kazakhstan in the Bologna Process. If Kazakhstan is included in the Process, 47 is the number to be used

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1. Ministers at the Anniversary Conference will discuss the inclusion of Kazakhstan in the Bologna Process. If Kazakhstan is included in the Process, 47 is the number to be used

Notes to Editors

  1. Journalists interested in receiving an advance copy of the Europe Unit publication should contact
  2. The campaign and the publication, The European Higher Education Area: Celebrating a decade of UK engagement, was launched by Professor Steve Smith at the Guardian HE conference on Friday 12 March. Visit the campaign website at and view the publication as an online book (Friday 12 March)
  3. The Bologna Process was launched in 1999 and is an intergovernmental Process involving 46 countries. The Process is driven by ministerial summits which review progress and set new priorities. The UK hosted the London ministerial summit in 2007. The Process aims to support mobility and employability in Europe and to make European HE more competitive internationally.
  4. The UK HE Europe Unit ( coordinates the UK HE sector's engagement in the Bologna Process and lobbies European decision-makers on behalf of the sector. It is funded by the UK’s three HE funding councils as well as Universities UK, GuildHE and the Quality Assurance Agency.
  5. The material for the campaign was produced for the Europe Unit by Howard Davies, higher education consultant, and Liz Lightfoot, freelance journalist and education writer.
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