Bologna Process: Academic freedom relies on working conditions and democratic governance


The next EHEA Ministerial Conference will take place in Rome in November 2020. It is a strategic step for the future of the Bologna Process as 48 ministers will adopt the Rome Communique which sets the main goals and challenges for the next decade. As a preparation to the ministerial meeting ETUCE interviewed high-level representatives and experts of higher education and research trade unions on their views on the Bologna Process. 

Rob Copeland (UCU, UK) is the chair of ETUCE Higher Education and Research Standing Committee and represents ETUCE in the Working Group on Monitoring the Implementation of the Bologna Process which was set up by the Bologna Follow-up Group.. Within this interview Rob underlines the importance of academic freedom and staff centrality as demands of education trade unions for the future of the Bologna Process. He explains the importance of the work of this working group to enhance the implementation of the commonly agreed fundamental values and goals under the Bologna Process. 

As representative of ETUCE, Rob Copeland also underlines the importance that ministries recognise the academics and researchers as key stakeholders within the Bologna Process and their important role in achieving a quality higher education system. He also highlights that against the increasing nationalism and authoritarianism and other widespread forces across Europe it is essential to safeguard academic freedom as one of the fundamental values, with the support of establishing a framework to implement, monitor and measure academic freedom which has been a significant deficiency in the Bologna Process so far. 

Furthermore, as ETUCE, representing the voice of 11 million teachers across Europe, our effort has been to make clear that academic freedom relies on two crucial underpinnings which is working conditions and collegial and democratic governance. First and foremost, assuring fair working conditions lies within ensuring academic freedom. As it is  stated in the 1997 UNESCO Recommendation, there is a clear link between worsening working conditions and restriction of academic freedom. Secondly, it is important to guarantee collegial and democratic governance in institutions as students and teachers are the most involved stakeholders in the protection of academic freedom. 

More in practice, Rob Copeland underlines that the Rome Communiqué will have an impact on the daily work of teachers and researchers as it designs a common understanding for Europe and embeds academic freedom across Europe. Furthermore, the Rome Communiqué will be an opportunity to lobby with ministries and institutions to follow-up on the implementation of the Bologna Process and respect the commonly agreed goals within the Communique.