TUNING USA: Echoes and translations of the Bologna Process in the US higher education landscape

As noted in two earlier GlobalHigherEd entries (‘Bologna: beyond 2010 and over the Ocean – but where to? On new Bologna reports and C. Adelman’s last essay‘ by Pavel Zgaga; ‘Tuning USA’: reforming higher education in the US, Europe style‘ by Susan Robertson) the US-based Lumina Foundation is sponsoring an action-oriented project (TUNING USA) on the relevancy of Europe’s Tuning process for the US higher education system. Lumina is working in association with the states of Indiana, Minnesota, and Utah.

As noted on the key Tuning website (run by Bologna Process follow-up group members at Universidad de Deusto and Rijksuniversiteit Groningen but sponsored by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Education and Culture):

TUNING Educational Structures in Europe started in 2000 as a project to link the political objectives of the Bologna Process and at a later stage the Lisbon Strategy to the higher educational sector. Over time Tuning has developed into a Process, an approach to (re-)designing, develop, implement, evaluate and enhance quality first, second and third cycle degree programmes. The Tuning outcomes as well as its tools are presented in a range of Tuning publications, which institutions and their academics are invited to test and use in their own setting. The Tuning approach has been developed by and is meant for higher education institutions.

The protection of the rich diversity of European education has been paramount in Tuning and in no way seeks to restrict the independence of academic and subject specialists, or undermine local and national authority.

Tuning focuses not on educational systems, but on educational structures with emphasis on the subject area level, that is the content of studies. Whereas educational systems are primarily the responsibility of governments, educational structures and content are that of higher education institutions and their academic staff.

As a result of the Bologna Process the educational systems in all European countries are in the process of reforming. This is the direct effect of the political decision to converge the different national systems in Europe. For Higher Education institutions these reforms mean the actual starting point for another discussion: the comparability of curricula in terms of structures, programmes and actual teaching. This is what Tuning offers. In this reform process the required academic and professional profiles and needs of society (should) play an important role.

The Tuning process is a fascinating lens through which to examine multiple dimensions of global regionalisms (including interregionalism) and the transformation of higher education. It is through ‘echoes’ like TUNING USA that the process unfolds in all its complexity. One component of this is the translation process, with new translations of the Tuning process emerging (e.g., see Anne Corbett’s take on this in ‘A European view of the new Adelman report on the Bologna Process‘). As Corbett notes, and as is evident in European policy debates, these translations feed back across the Atlantic to key centres of calculation (especially Brussels), helping to legitimize the Bologna process, while also generating ideas for its refinement. The feedback process is occurring via workshops on both sides of the Atlantic, the circulation of reports, international collaborative research projects, and also the consumption of complementary forms of communication including this illuminating 10 minute video titled Tuning: A Tale of Adventures in Learning (link to it via the title in my sentence, not the screengrab below):

In this context it is worth thinking about how the Lumina Foundation has translated Europe’s Tuning process, and how this “Indianapolis-based, private, independent foundation” is pushing forward its US-focused reform agenda through the use of Tuning, though adapted (hence the state-based pilot projects) to take into account the unique nature of the US higher education landscape.

The “echoes” noted in the Zgaga report (Looking out: The Bologna Process in a Global Setting) continue apace, making any examination of Bologna’s field of influence and relations a rather complicated yet entirely worthwhile endeavor.

Kris Olds


Mobility and knowledge as the “Fifth Freedom” in Europe: embedding market liberalism?

Europe has undoubtedly become a more mobile space. Borders have been erased, and people, capital, services and goods (factors of production, more generally) can theoretically move, unimpeded, across European space.

Apart from legal and regulatory shifts to enhance mobility, taken-for granted infrastructure systems are being constructed that enable people and their ideas to travel at enhanced speed across European space. These non-places of supermodernity, to use a phrase developed by Marc Auge, not only function to facilitate mobility, but they also signify mobility. Even within European nations, mobility is being enhanced as governments develop high-speed rail systems, for example, that enable people (including researchers and students) to cross space with increased ease.

At a seminar, late last week, for example, one of us (Kris) spoke to faculty who work at l’Université de Provence Aix Marseille 1, though who live not just in Aix-en-Provence, but also in Marseille, Paris, and places even further a-field, thanks to the high speed TGV train system. Indeed, any North American spending a year in Europe, like one of us is, cannot help but be enamored with the idea of hurtling 270km/h across the country while sipping an espresso, reading a book, and periodically gazing out at the blur of landscape that is the glorious French countryside.

In a sign that Europe is willing to use a wide variety of rationales for enhancing mobility even further, the EU spent the Spring of 2008 laying the groundwork for a “new freedom” – “the movement of knowledge”. On 15 February 2008, for example, Commissioner Janez Potočnik spoke to an AAAS High Level Panel:

Today’s Europe is built on the four freedoms of goods, services, capital and people. The knowledge society of tomorrow needs the freedom, the freedom of movement of knowledge.

But did he really mean ‘knowledge society’, or ‘knowledge economy’? Later on in February and March, the answer to this question was clear. On 14 March European Council leaders announced that:

Member States and the EU must remove barriers to the free movement of knowledge by creating a ‘fifth freedom’.

Background to this formal announcement is available in Key Issues Paper (KIP) 2008 (a contribution from the Competitiveness Council to the Spring European Council), and is worth examining for it highlights how the EU is entangling fundamental rights and freedoms with economic (market-oriented) logics, such that new rights are being created, though primarily for researchers (including non-Europeans).

Let is frame how the “fifth freedom” – the free movement of knowledge – is being conceptualized.

First the Competitiveness Council’s Key Issues Paper focuses on four core recommendations:

A. Investing more and more effectively in knowledge, research and innovation
B. Unlocking business potential, especially of SMEs
C. Transforming Europe into a sustainable economy
D. Encourage European Success in the Global Marketplace

Second, it is within A (Investing more and more effectively in knowledge, research and innovation) that the Fifth Freedom is embedded:

A.1. “Invest more and more effectively in Knowledge, Research and Innovation”
A.2 “The Fifth Freedom”
A.3. “Strengthen Europe’s Innovation System”

More specifically, the Fifth Freedom is framed as such:

In order to succeed in the transition to a highly competitive knowledge economy, the European Union needs to create a “fifth freedom” – the free movement of knowledge. Member States and the Commission are invited to deepen their dialogue and expand their cooperation in order to further identify and remove obstacles to the cross-border mobility of knowledge.

  • The Commission and Member States should take concrete steps to increase human resources for S&T and to enhance the mobility and career prospects of researchers through a coherent set of focussed measures taken in partnership (“European research career and mobility package”); this should also include the concept of “family-friendly scientific careers”, to be developed on the basis of the spring 2008 Presidency initiatives. The Council welcomes the Commission’s intention to present a communication on this in 2008.
  • Member States should continue to put their full efforts into implementing higher education reforms, including modernising universities so that they can develop their full potential within the knowledge triangle; a stronger emphasis should be put on life-long learning and cross-border learning opportunities. A review of future skills requirements should be envisaged at European level as part of the follow up to the “New Skills for New Jobs” initiative;
  • The European Union needs to continue to work for significant increases in broadband penetration. The Commission is invited to monitor the performance of the EU in the internet economy and report back in time for the 2009 European Council. The Commission is further invited to develop a strategy for e-science building on and strengthening e-infrastructures, so as to ensure the sustainability of European leadership in this field.
  • A Community-wide voluntary framework for the management of intellectual property at public research institutions and universities is needed. The Commission is invited to present its recommendation and Code of Practice on the Management of Intellectual Property (“IP Charter”) by public research organisations, with a view to their adoption in 2008 in order to enhance knowledge exchange between public research organisations and industry.

Announcing that ‘knowledge’ would be created as the Fifth Freedom to be championed by the EC within the EU, observers might be forgiven for thinking that the Presidency Conclusions from the 13/14th March meeting, and the background supporting documents, have somehow confused political and economic agendas. This is because we have tended to associate freedoms with political ideas like ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’, or human rights, such as the right to education.

But perhaps the freedoms and rights association is breaking down in contemporary Europe. Freedoms, it would seem, are now economic rather than political rights, embodied in labour and intellectual property, and embedded in market-oriented relations. They also apply unevenly to people (including non-EU citizens) depending on their status vis a vis the production of what is perceived to be valuable knowledge. This is akin to the concept of “graduated sovereignty” that Aihwa Ong has spoken about – the differentiated (graduated) existence of freedoms, rights and responsibilities, within territories, depending the economic status of the person in question. In Singapore, for example highly skilled temporary migrants have the right to rent and even buy apartments, while temporary migrants who work as domestic workers or construction workers are forced, by law, to reside in housing provided by their employers.

So, to return to the EU example, Commissioner Janez Potočnik is thus able to state, again at the AAAS High Level Panel:

For EU policy, I start with the – relatively – easy part: I have radically opened our funding programme, with a double strategy:

  • Full association of our neighbour countries, with focus on those who have a perspective to become Member States
  • Full participation of researchers all over the world. Every researcher is eligible as partner in a European research team. For all but the rich countries, eligibility equals funding. That is quite a step. We also fund the researchers from rich countries if this is what is needed for the scientific excellence of the project.

Thus one of us (Kris, a Canadian in the US) can now directly link into and benefit from one of Europe’s new freedoms – the freedom of movement of knowledge – given that “every researcher is eligible as partner in a European research team”, but this eligibility only applies so long as the person in question is a researcher (with PhD), and positioned within a network that has been vetted as a qualified “European research team”.

Freedoms framed this way also depend upon the reform of the practices of new types of institutions (in this case universities and research funding agencies), versus the reform of legal systems, for example.

The application of a freedom discourse to knowledge (the “freedom of movement of knowledge”) is but the latest example where a Europe of knowledge – in the service of the Lisbon Strategy – is being brought into being. The development process is a messy one, with entangled conceptual vocabularies, and periodic debates about possible contradictions (e.g, see Per Nyborg’s entry ‘Bologna and Lisbon – two processes or one‘). But the structural pressures to transform Europe’s economy, its many higher education systems and universities, and its research and development practices, will continue to create such confusions, and new concepts, for some time to come.

Kris Olds and Susan Robertson

Bologna and Lisbon – two processes or one?

pernyborg.jpgEditors’ note: as mentioned in relation to the 27 January entry ‘Bologna meets Russia: a case of ‘identity crisis’ over Europe?’, we are initiating a new series in GlobalHigherEd on the Bologna Process reforms in European higher education. Today’s contribution has been kindly developed by Per Nyborg (pictured to the left). Per Nyborg, a mathematician, has been intimately involved in Bologna-related reforms. His former positions include Director General, Norwegian Ministry for Scientific and Cultural Affairs; Director, Royal Norwegian Research Council for Science and Technology; Secretary General, Norwegian Council for Higher Education; Chair, Council of Europe’s Committee for Higher Education and Research (2001-2003); and Head, Bologna Process Secretariat (2003-2005).


Since 1999, the Bologna Process has stimulated formidable changes in higher education systems in the steadily increasing number of participating countries. A common European framework has been developed, starting from the pre-Bologna Lisbon Recognition Convention. In Bologna, it was agreed that the degree system should be organised in two cycles, later on a third cycle was included and a common qualifications framework set up. European standards and guidelines for quality assurance have been developed. Cooperation between states, organisations and higher education institutions is blossoming. By the 2010 deadline, many of the goals set down by the Bologna Declaration will be reached. The main structural elements of a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) will be in place, set up by the voluntary cooperation of 46 countries [see the NAFSA-produced map below]. It will be up to each participating country and its minister responsible for higher education to continue the development of its higher education system according to the commonly agreed principles.

bolognamapnafsa.jpgEncouraged by the success of the Bologna Process, a sequence of bi-annual ministerial conferences have added new policy areas to the process; the social dimension, employability, and the Bologna Process in a global setting. These are areas where ministers of education have great interest, but alas, little influence. To a certain extent this also goes for one of the original goals of the Bologna Declaration: Mobility. It costs money, and there is no money in the Bologna Process as such. So, in these areas, developments have been slow, and what has been achieved on the European level has mostly been done by the European Commission.

The challenges meeting all Bologna countries and also the European Union when it comes to realising the social dimension and improving employability are formidable. Operational goals are yet not even set. If the EHEA shall have working relations with organisations in other regions, a proper organisation must be set up. One may ask if the Bologna Process is strong enough to embark on these tasks. In any case, when the Bologna Ministers meet again in Leuven next year, they will have to decide whether their pan-European process should end in 2010, having developed the common structure of the EHEA, or continue at least up to 2020 for the further development of their common policy areas. Then they also should clear up the relationship between the Bologna Process and specific European Union policies.

The Bologna Ministerial Conference was not a EU event and the Commission was not a formal participant. However, the European Union was not far away, as can be seen from the opening lines of the Bologna Declaration: The European process… has become an increasingly concrete and relevant reality for the Union and its citizens. When a Bologna Process Follow-up Group (BFUG) was established, the EU Presidency was asked to chair the group and the Commission became a member on equal terms with representative of participating countries.

The Commission’s participation has meant a lot to the Bologna Process. The EU mobility programmes certainly gave a European dimension to mobility, and as the Lisbon Strategy started to develop in 2000, higher education became an important element in the EU strategy to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.

As the Bologna Process fitted nicely into the Lisbon Strategy, Commission activities related to Bologna increased – also to the benefit of the Bologna Process as such. However, the Lisbon Strategy has shifted the focus from cooperation in higher education to global competition. In the document From Bergen to London – The contribution of the European Commission to the Bologna Process (May 2007) it is said that

The European Commission aims to support Member States in their efforts to modernise higher education systems, in all their areas of activity making them more coherent, more flexible, and more responsive to the needs of society. Modernisation is needed in order to face the challenges of globalisation and to develop the skills and capacity of the European workforce to be innovative. Reforms should enable universities to play their role in the Europe of Knowledge and make a strong contribution to the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs.

This statement builds on a 2006 Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament, urging Member States to press on with the modernisation of Europe’s universities:

Universities will not become innovative and responsive to change unless they are given real autonomy and accountability. Member States should guide the university sector as a whole through a framework of general rules, policy objectives, funding mechanisms and incentives for education, research and innovation activities. In return for being freed from overregulation and micro-management, universities should accept full institutional accountability to society at large for their results.

What sort of policy objectives? Clearly those of the Lisbon Strategy. When this Communication was presented, commissioner Potočnik remarked that universities will need to adapt to the demands of a global, knowledge-based economy, just as other sectors of society and economy have to adapt. The discussion of the Communication in the EU system has lead to a Resolution on modernising universities for Europe’s competitiveness in a global knowledge economy from the EU Competitiveness Council (November 2007) .

This is of course very relevant to the European Union and its 27 member countries. It is not equally relevant to all the other participating countries in the Bologna Process. Some hope to join the European Union at a later stage, but for instance the largest Bologna country – Russia – cannot be seen in that position. However, as the Commission, also the Russian government may want to “modernise” the universities to improve Russia’s competitive advantage. University and student organisations being partners in the Bologna Process may not wish to be partners to the Lisbon Strategy; but they certainly want to continue a pan-European cooperation in higher education.

This may be extended to a global cooperation. In their 2005 Bergen Communiqué, the “Bologna” Ministers stated that:

We see the European Higher Education Area as a partner of higher education systems in other regions of the world, stimulating balanced student and staff exchange and cooperation between higher education institutions. We underline the importance of intercultural understanding and respect. We look forward to enhancing the understanding of the Bologna Process in other continents by sharing our experiences of reform processes with neighbouring regions. We stress the need for dialogue on issues of mutual interest. We see the need to identify partner regions and intensify the exchange of ideas and experiences with those regions.

zgaga-cover.jpgIn their next meeting in London in 2007 they adopted a Strategy for the European Higher Education Area in a Global Setting. According to the strategy, there is a need for enhanced cooperation with non-EHEA countries in a spirit of partnership and solidarity, aiming at mutual benefit on all levels. This need for cooperation and partnership extends to all regions of the world, covering highly developed, emerging and developing countries alike.

However, there is also a global market for educational services where individual EHEA countries are active. The strategy does not mention the global market for higher education and the inherent competition. The strategy states that policies should be tailor-made for each region and take due account of relevant European Union policy. Seen from outside, the Lisbon strategy may more look like competition than cooperation. It was already present in the Bologna Declaration: We must in particular look at the objective of increasing the international competitiveness of the European system of higher education. If the Bologna Process shall continue, it would be better to separate its policies on external relations from the Lisbon strategy and also here focus on cooperation in higher education.

To clear up the relations between the Bologna Process and the Lisbon Strategy, one might wish for a dialogue between the Commission and the BFUG. That, however, may not be so simple, as the EU Presidency would be the representative of BFUG. Nevertheless, it should be sorted out what tasks should be included in a continuation of the Bologna Process and what responsibilities should better be left to the EU system and the Commission to handle. There are elements in higher education policy where a strong organisation is necessary for obtaining results. In its ninth year, the Bologna Process has not even set up a proper organisation.

Assuming that the 46 “Bologna” countries wish to retain the ownership and take the responsibility for the European Higher Education Area after 2010, an adequate organisation should be established. Based on the principle of public responsibility for higher education, objectives, obligations of participating countries, and organisational structure might be expressed in a joint declaration to be signed as countries satisfy the requirements set down in the declaration. The organisation may be quite simple; with a General Assembly taking over from the BFUG, a Board elected by the General Assembly, and a small but permanent secretariat with a budget to support its activities.

Otherwise, the further process on European level will be in the hands of the Commission, as the agenda for development of higher education in Europe more and more is being set by the Commission in its efforts to realise the Lisbon Strategy. The Bologna Process should have a broader scope. It also has a broader membership than the European Union. There should be room for a continuing Bologna Process of cooperation in higher education.

Per Nyborg

Is the EU on target to meet the Lisbon objectives in education and training?

The European Commission (EC) has just released its annual 2007 Report Progress Towards the Lisbon Objectives in Education and Training: Indicators and Benchmarks. This 195 page document highlights the key messages about the main policy areas for the EC – from the rather controversial inclusion of schools (because of issues of subsidiarity) to what has become more standard fare for the EC – the vocational education and higher education sectors.

As we explain below, while the Report gives the thumbs up to the numbers of Maths, Science and Technology (MST) graduates, it gives the thumbs down to the quality of higher education. We, however, think that the benchmarks are far too simplistic and the conclusions drawn not sufficiently rigorous to support good policymaking. Let us explain.

The Report is the fourth in a series of annual assessments examining performance and progress toward the Education and Training 2010 Work Programme. These reports work as a disciplinary tool for Member States as well as contributing to making the EU more globally competitive.

To those of you unfamiliar with EC ‘speak’ – the EC’s Work Programme centers around the realization of 16 core indicators (agreed in May 2007 at the European Council and listed in the table below) and benchmarks (5) (also listed below) which emerged from the relaunch of the Lisbon Agenda in 2005.



Chapter 7 of this Report concentrates on progress toward modernizing higher education in Europe, though curiously enough there is no mention of the Bologna Process – the radical reorganization of the degree structure for European universities which has the US and Australia on the back-foot. Instead, three key areas are identified:

  • mathematics, science and technology graduates (MST)
  • mobility in higher education
  • quality of higher education institutions

With regard to MST, the EU is well on course to surpass the benchmark of an increase in the number of tertiary graduates in MST. However, the report notes that demographic trends (decreasing cohort size) will slow down growth in the long term.


While laudable, GlobalHigherEd notes that it is not so much the number of graduates that are produced which is the problem. Rather, there are not enough attractive opportunities for researchers in Europe so that a significant percentage move to the US (14% of US graduates come from Europe). The long term attractiveness of Europe (see our recent entry) in terms of R&D is, therefore, still a major challenge.

With regard to mobility (see our earlier overview report), the EU has had an increase in the percentage of students with foreign citizenship. In 2004, every EU country, with the exception of Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary and Slovakia, recorded an increase in the % of students enrolled with foreign citizenship. Austria, Belgium, Germany, France, Cyprus and the UK have the highest proportions with foreign student populations of more than 10%.

Over the period 2000 to 2005 the number of students going to Europe from China increased by 500% (from 20,000 in 2000 to 107,000 in 2005; see our more detailed report on this), while numbers from India increased by 400%. While there is little doubt that the USA’s homeland security policy was a major factor, students also view the lower fees and moderate living costs in countries like France and Germany as particularly attractive. In the main:

  • the countries of origin of non-European students studying in the EU largely come from former colonies of the European member states
  • mobility is within the EU rather than from beyond the EU, with the exception of the UK. The UK is also a stand-out case because of the small number of its citizens who study in other EU countries.

Finally, concerning the quality of higher education, the Bologna Reforms are nowhere to be seen. Instead the EC report uses the Shanghai Jiao Tong Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWI) and the World Universities Ranking (WUR) by the Times Higher Education Supplement to discuss the issue of quality. The Shanghai Jiao Tong uses Nobel Awards, and citations indexes (e.g. SCI; SSCI) – however, not only is a Nobel Award a limited (some say false) proxy for quality, but the citation indexes systematically discriminate in favor of US based institutions and journals. Only scientific output is included in each of these rankings; excluded are other kinds of outputs from universities which might have an impact, such as patents, or policy advice.

While each ranking system is intended to be a measure of quality – it is difficult to know what we might learn when one (Times Higher) will rank an institution (for example, the London School of Economics) in 11th position while the other (Shanghai) ranks the same institution in 200th position. Such vast differences could only be confusing for potential students if they were using them to make their choices about a high quality institution. However, perhaps this is not the main purpose, and that it serves a more important one – of ratcheting up both competition and discipline through comparison.

League tables are now also being developed in more nuanced ways. In 2007 the Shanghai ranking introduced one by ‘broad subject field’ (see below). What is particularly interesting here is that the EU-27 does relatively well in Engineering/Technology and Computer Sciences (ENG), Clinical Medicine and Pharmacy (MED) and Natural Sciences and Mathematics (SCI) in relation to the USA, compared with the Social Sciences (where the USA outflanks it by a considerable degree). Are Social Sciences in Europe this poor in terms of quality, and hence in serious trouble? GlobalHigherEd suggests that these differences are likely a reflection of the more internationalized/Anglocized publishing practices of the science, technology and medical fields, in comparison to the social sciences, who are committed in many cases to publishing in national languages.


The somewhat dubious nature of these rankings as indicators of quality does not stop the EC using them to show that of the top 100 universities, 54 are located in the USA and only 29 in Europe. And again, the overall project of the EC is to set the agenda at the European scale for Member States by putting into place at the European level a set of instruments–including the recently launched European Research Council–intended to help retain MST graduates as well as recruit the brightest talent from around the globe (particularly China and India) and keep them in Europe.

However, the MST capacity of the EU outruns its industry’s ability to absorb and retain the graduates. It is clear the markets for students and brains are developing in different ways in different countries but with clear ‘types’ of markets and consumers emerging. The question is: what would an EU ranking system achieve as a technology of competitive market making?

Susan Robertson and Peter Jones