ETUCE Advocates for Academic Excellence at Bologna Process Conference


ETUCE continues demanding high value of the academic profession in the Bologna Process

ETUCE’s delegation was represented at the triannual Ministerial Conference and Global Policy Forum of the 47 Bologna Process countries on May 29-30 in Tirana, Albania. The topics discussed were good practices and challenges in the implementation of the Bologna Process, quality, inclusive and innovative higher education in the green and digital transition, and fundamental values of the Bologna Process.

Aligned with ETUCE’s campaign messages on empowering teachers and valuing the academic profession while supporting academic freedom and fighting for decent salary and working conditions for academics, ETUCE member organisations active in the higher education and research sectors adopted their Call to the ministers of the Bologna Process countries to which 19 national demands were added.  

ETUCE and Albanian education trade unions, FSASH and SPASH, jointly organized a panel discussion and press conference on May 28 in Tirana focusing on "The future of higher education in the Bologna Process – new challenges and opportunities." The discussions focused on the challenges higher education students and staff face in the green and digital transition (e.g., AI, ChatGPT), how the Bologna Process has changed academic work and jobs in academia in the last 25 years, and the role of the trade unions of academics role and social dialogue in shaping higher education and research policies. Albanian trade unions underlined the importance of investment in higher education in order to achieve high quality and more inclusive higher education for all students.

Rob Copeland (UCU, UK), chair of ETUCE's Higher Education and Research Standing Committee, expressed his concerns about public investment in higher education, particularly in the UK, where the funding model needs radical change. He underlined that "For the Bologna Process to meet its ambitious goals in the years ahead, we must ensure that higher education staff are properly valued and supported."

Chronic under-investment in Ireland has led to a greater casualization of academic work, which has a negative impact on staff and students, said Annette Dolan (TUI, Ireland), vice-chair of ETUCE's Higher Education and Research Standing Committee. She stressed that "The focus must be on securing a high percentage of permanent academic contracts on full hours for academic staff, together with fair career development pathways for staff to progress to senior academic roles. There must be prior meaningful communication, consultation, and negotiation with the trade unions."Precarity and casualisation of academics is also a problem in Germany, according to Andreas Keller, vice-president of ETUCE. In his speech at the ministerial conference, he highlighted that "Quality teaching and innovative research in order to cope with economic, social, and ecological challenges need attractive working conditions and reliable career paths. ETUCE appreciates that the ministers are strengthening the commitment to both the fundamental values and the social dimension of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) in the Tirana Communiqué and have established monitoring frameworks. We, as education trade unions, must continue to be involved in the follow-up to ensure that these commitments are being implemented."

ETUCE, as a consultative member of the Bologna Follow-Up Group, contributed to the drafting of the Tirana Communique, which will be a key document for the work of the Bologna Process countries for the next 3 years. In this document, the 47 ministers commit to respecting fundamental values, including academic freedom and the participation of students and staff in governance, as well as their right to organise autonomously. The Communique also mentions that the ministers "acknowledge the crucial role of teaching staff in supporting high-quality, learner-centered, and innovative learning and teaching. Teaching should be valued on an equal footing with research and other professional tasks, including transnational cooperation and community engagement. To ensure this, institutions need to offer adequate and attractive working conditions, staff development opportunities, and assessment and career progression based on appropriate criteria and metrics."

The outcomes of the Ministerial Conference and Global Policy Forum, including the Tirana Ministerial Communique and Global Policy Forum Statement, are available here: