General description on topic
The study is a follow-up on an earlier literature review of the Bologna Process, It aims to present an updated position, with a specific focus on the critical viewpoint that was found in the previous review, to raise further awareness about risks and ‘pitfalls to avoid’ as well as possibilities. The discussion deepens the reflection on plurality and standardisation in higher education.
Over the past decades and the time ahead, internationalisation has been a significant movement in higher education throughout the world and in Europe (EUA, 2013; De Wit et al., 2015). It is a major challenge in an age of complexity, where previous paradigms of higher education are disrupted by cultural flows, technological innovation, and economic conflicts of interest (Wihlborg and Avery, in progress; Wihlborg & Teelken, 2014). The significance of internationalisation arises not only in terms of volume of exchanges or cooperation. Above all, it creates tensions and dilemmas at systemic levels, and thus becomes a driver of change (cf. Sursock & Smidt, 2010). Beyond simply looking at ways to support internationalisation, we therefore need to look at consequences that different conceptualisations can have in terms of quality and content of education, as well as their impact for overarching research agendas.
In a European context, the Bologna Process (cf. European Commission, 2010, 2013, 2015) represents the most systematic drive to date for increased international academic cooperation and mobility. Initially, this process was acclaimed and regarded as a coherent harmonious phenomenon that would promote mutually enriching exchanges (cf. Keeling, 2004). But actual effects may not match the initial ambitions. The Leuven declaration (2009), the Budapest-Vienna declaration (2010), and the Bucharest Communique (2012) have all highlighted some critical issues concerning the Bologna Process, and several authors have raised questions about “what the actual effects of the policy changes have been” (Leisyte, 2014). Nevertheless, the bulk of the Bologna literature does not pursue the issues of long-term effects at a structural level. Previous literature reviews (Wihlborg & Teelken, 2010, 2014) instead indicates lack of critical examination on the outcomes concerning the Bologna Process and few studies have discussed the systemic consequences in a more reflected way. A lack of critical reflection concerning the Bologna Process has also been recognised by Huisman (2009), Neave & Amaral (2008) and others. Considering the numerous ways Bologna can affect conditions for future developments in higher education across Europe, structural implications deserve closer attention.
Theoretical framework and premises
In our previous study, critical reflections about indicators or criteria supporting diversification of national higher education systems (Sursock & Smidt, 2010) was used as a point of departure. The issue of structural conditions promoting diversity and creativity in higher education is further developed in the present study. The main premise remains that ’common standards’ must be framed in such a way that they do not stifle diversity, innovative teaching practices and creative research, and so they can instead promote quality levels substantially through the central role of HEIs. Quality criteria have a strategic role in this respect. Formulating European policies for innovation and creativity in higher education becomes meaningless, if structural conditions, drivers and accountability mechanisms do not enable them (see also Adelman, 2009). In a recent article (Brögger, 2016, p. 87) it is argued that “the rule of this competitive, mimetic desire for ‘better performance’ is what makes the Bologna mode of governance feasible”. The question is if this kind of ontology of the Bologna Process is desirable, and what the long-term consequences of a possible reproduction and maintenance of standardised higher education structures will be.
Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources UsedThe study follows up on a previous conducted literature review of the Bologna Process for the period 2004-2012, bringing it up to date and looking specifically at studies expressing a critical viewpoint. Thus, this follow-up study only targets the studies (in the previous review and according to the search from 2012-2015) that match specific inclusion criteria concerning the theme ‘critical standpoints’ (Wihlborg &Teelken, 2014). The discussion deepens and problematises the issues found in the earlier review, supported with the voice of Biesta (2013) and Marginson et al., (2010), concerning negotiation and difference. Data was collected through the international database ERIC for the social sciences and education area. Although the choice of database has led to a dominance of studies written in English (previous study n=161), the literature review nevertheless provides an overview of the field. This follow-up study comprised studies from March 2012 to October 2015 (in addition 29 articles).The analysis is still in progress and further exclusions are not decided yet. The analysis also includes the studies from 2004-2012 that were included in (one of the initial three themes), the theme ‘critical standpoints’ (n=24) from the previous review (Wihlborg & Teelken, 2014). Using the rationale based on Hart (2003a,b), data collection was conducted in several steps. For the analysis, studies were read in their full length and valued by both authors. Key elements and themes were identified using a content analysis approach. Interpretations of the overall meaning of the emerging themes involved a summative approach to content analysis. Once identified, these components may be subjected to either quantitative or qualitative analysis or both. In this analysis a qualitative approach is used. Rather than analysing the data as a whole, the text is approached in relation to particular content, and focus is on meanings in relations to the contextual frame (Mayring, 2000). An analysis of the patterns leads to an interpretation of the contextual meaning of this content. Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or FindingsThe studies included in the review and analysis all take a critical stance concerning the Bologna Process. The themes found in the literature review display variations in meaning and knowledge aspects, as well as concerning the consequences that have been observed on various levels concerning Bologna impacts on higher education. Identified themes are discussed in relation to future demands and challenges concerning internationalisation in general, and an internationalised higher education in particular, focusing on aspects of knowledge and quality. Epistemological issues are raised, and the discussion further touches on the tensions between ‘educational standards’ and ‘plurality’, heterogeneity and individual development with references to (Meyer & Meyer, 2007; Meyer et al., 2010) among others. Ultimately, this is a matter of finding strategies for a future European higher education system open to multiple variations and innovative developments, avoiding the pitfall of systemic drivers of standardisation and lack of margins for negotiations of differences. ReferencesAdelman, C. 2009. The Bologna Process for U.S. Eyes: Re-learning Higher Education in the Age of Convergence.. Biesta, G. (2013). Knowledge, judgement and the curriculum: on the past, present and future... Brögger, K. (2016). The rule of mimetic desire in higher education: governing through naming, shaming and faming. British Journal of Sociology and Education... Bucharest Communique (2012). 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Trends 2010: A decade of change in European Higher Education. EUA-publications.. Teelken, C. & Wihlborg, M. (2010). Reflecting on the Bologna outcome space: Some pitfalls to avoid? Exploring universities in Sweden and The Netherlands. EERJ Wihlborg, M., & Teelken, C. (2014). Striving for Uniformity, Hoping for Innovation and Diversification: a critical review concerning the Bologna Process–providing an overview and reflecting on the criticism. Policy Futures in Education... Wihlborg, M & Avery, H. (in progress). The Bologna Process on the highway or sideway – making way for innovation and creativity – a critical stance… Intent of PublicationEuropean Educational Research Journal alt., Policy Futures in Education alt., Higher Education.
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