Bologna Ministerial Meeting 2020: ETUCE called on 49 ministers of the Bologna Process countries to ensure academic freedom and good working conditions for staff


On 19 November 2020, the Rome Ministerial Conference of the Bologna Process convened online gathering the education ministries of the 49 member countries and the stakeholders of the Bologna Process.

ETUCE, consultative member within the Bologna Follow-Up Group, the governing body of the Bologna Process, took part in the meeting with a delegation led by Andreas Keller, ETUCE Vice-President (GEW-Germany) and joined by Rob Copeland, Chair of the Higher Education and Research Committee (UCU-UK); HERSC Vice-Chairs Annette Dolan (TUI-Ireland) and Alessandro Arienzo (FLC GIL-Italy). From the ETUCE Secretariat Susan Flocken, European Director and Agnes Roman, Senior policy coordinator participated. 

The ministers adopted the Rome Communiqué, drafted by the Bologna Follow-Up Group, and welcomed the Republic of San Marino as the 49th member of the Bologna Process. Twenty-one years after the adoption of the Bologna Declaration, this meeting was also the occasion to rediscuss the priorities that will be at the core of the next decade of the Bologna Process. Representing the voice of academics and researchers, ETUCE has been advocating within the Bologna Follow-up Group for appropriate working conditions and salaries for staff, the participation of academics and staff in the institutional governance, and the respect of fundamental values in higher education and research.

ETUCE succeeded to make working conditions of academic staff fully recognised in the Bologna Process within the Rome Communique. The text of the adopted Communiqué affirms that “Academic staff, including junior academics, require stable employment and career opportunities, parity of esteem for teaching and research, attractive working conditions, access to up-to-date staff development, and recognition of their achievements”. ETUCE welcomes that the Rome Communiqué entails other demands of education trade unions, such as the implementation of the social dimension, support of teaching and learning, and the respect of academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Nevertheless, education trade unions are extremely worried about the increasing threats undermining the respect of the fundamental values in higher education.

Leading the ETUCE delegation, in his speech to the ministers Andreas Keller underlined that “Teachers are crucial actors in higher education, and they should be at the centre of the Bologna Process. Higher education academics and researchers need permanent job security, reliable career paths and quality continuous professional development. Moreover, quality teaching requires the freedom of teaching and discussion, the freedom in carrying out research and publishing its results, the freedom to express opinions about the institution and system in which academics work – thus the right to academic freedom.” Furthermore, Andreas Keller recalled the ETUCE report which explains how privatisation and commercialisation of higher education are undermining the quality and inclusiveness of the higher education systems. He also urged the ministers to protect academic freedom, as well as to strengthen social dialogue with the education trade unions and collegial governance with staff to safeguard academic freedom: “Quality teaching requires freedom of expressing opinions. As representative of academics and researchers, ETUCE calls on the ministers to acknowledge the increasing threats against academic freedom in Europe which is being seriously violated in Turkey, Hungary and Belarus”.

The co-chairs of the Bologna Process (Germany, UK and Scotland) presented a statement to the ministerial conference that condemns the repeated violations of human rights and academic freedom to the detriments of students, academics and researchers in Belarus. In line with ETUCE concerns about the Belarusian situation, ETUCE fully supports the statement.

The Ministerial Conference adopted the following papers:

Read the ETUCE Report to the Rome Ministerial meeting here.

Read the ETUCE Call to the ministries of education here.