Ministers agree to introduce innovative, digital, inclusive & labour market-oriented higher education
The main higher education ministerial event in the last three years – the Yerevan Ministerial Conference and the Fourth Bologna Policy Forum – concluded with an endorsement of the Yerevan Communiqué, an agreement which provides higher education priorities for the period up to 2018.
One of the main accents of the ministerial meeting – the need for all the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) member states, a total of 48, to implement the structural reforms, making common degree system and quality assurance standards. The Communiqué also states a need for pedagogical innovations, exploiting full potential of digital technologies, strengthening the links with employers and promoting mobility of students and staff, especially from conflict areas and persons with disadvantaged backgrounds. Also the need to make universities more inclusive and focusing on lifelong learning was stressed in the Communiqué.
Opened by the President of Armenia, Mr Serzh Sargsyan, the event comprised about 500 delegates from all 48 EHEA countries, including Belarus which was officially announced as a member of EHEA during this ministerial meeting thus committing itself to a process of major structural reforms over a course of three years.
Co-chaired by the Latvian Minister for Education and Science Ms Mārīte Seile and the Icelandic Minister for Education Mr Illugi Gunnarsson, the meeting evaluated the future prospects of higher education and the Bologna Process in the light of such current socio-economic challenges as demographical changes, employment rates, growing demands of the labour market, technological developments, migration streams, conflicts and marginalization. Against this backdrop, in his speech during the opening session the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Mr Tibor Navracsics noted a need for fresh boost for the cooperation and a review priorities and commitments of the Bologna Process.
Through the Bologna Process and the EHEA, both students and teaching staff as well as society at large have benefited from education systems becoming more and more comparable, students and teachers becoming more mobile and internationally competitive.
"Despite some critical voices from time to time, it is evident that the European Higher Education Area has made a good progress in meeting the current socio-economic challenges. Today we are speaking about higher education that not only corresponds to labour market requirements, but also creates one," said Ms Mārīte Seile. However, the minister also added that progress is not equally evident in all countries. "It is necessary to continue the work started, to ensure high quality of learning and teaching, to support student-centred learning and to facilitate the beneficial use of modern technologies in the educational process".
With ministerial meetings being held every three years, the daily progress is overlooked by the Bologna Process Follow-Up Group (BFUG), which has already met twice under the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Based on the Yerevan Communiqué, the BFUG will set out a Work Plan and manage it over the upcoming three years. The next ministerial meeting will take place in France in 2018.
European Higher Education Area
Since the inception of the Bologna Process in 1999, creating a single European Higher Education Area was its main objective. The EHEA – an international cooperation on higher education aimed at making education systems more transparent, comparable – became reality in 2010.
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