Fostering equal access to academic careers in the Bologna Process


In order to ensure that diversity of the society is fully reflected among higher education students and staff, more research and more effective actions are needed. This was the conclusion of the discussion which took place among the trade unions of higher education and research staff and representatives of ministries of higher education and stakeholders who are following up the implementation of the Bologna Process on their joint meeting on 24 April 2023 .

The Working Group on Social Dimension of the Bologna Follow-Up Group is developing a list of indicators to enhance the implementation of the Principles and Guidelines to Strengthen the Social Dimension of Higher Education in the EHEA, which is an annex to the Rome Ministerial Communiqué (2020). The aim is to ensure diversity in higher education by creating inclusive learning and work environments.

ETUCE member organisations underlined the importance of equal access to the academic profession by fair recruitment and retention policies and practices, which needs to incorporate good working conditions, job security, and equity, inclusion, and diversity for a positive and sustainable work environment. To achieve these goals, it is necessary to involve both students and staff representatives in decisions on national and institutional equality strategies, and to provide them counselling and guidance.

As earlier discussed, there is a significant gender imbalance in the academic profession still in too many countries, with males holding the majority of permanent positions. Female academics face difficulties in their everyday work in finding opportunities to find research funding, within treatment in daily work, performance assessment, distribution of work tasks, which lead to less career opportunities, less possibilities for permanent position and professorship, and lower salary. The participants underlined that higher education and research systems need to address gender inequality and higher education institutions should create a more inclusive work environment where women have equal opportunities to advance in their careers.

Staff diversity is important as academics are also role models for their students. At the same time, in many EU countries the socio-economically most advantaged ones can afford to stay and step up in the academic career while many leave the profession due to project-based contracts and precarious situations. The participants raised concerns regarding recruitment practices and accessibility to diverse studies in higher education, as there is a recruitment bias towards certain groups of the society and high tuition fees for non-EU students. It was stressed that equal access to higher education studies strongly links to equal opportunities to the academic careers. However, reliable data on the socio-economic diversity of the academic staff is still lacking.

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