From an historical complexity
to a new readibility and a global European efficiency


JM 345

Publications Jean MICHEL
Page d'accueil Jean MICHEL


Communication at the XVIIth Annual Congress

of the Chilean Society for Engineering Education

Antofagasta, October 8, 2003



0 - Preliminary remarks

1 - The context of the recent European evolution leading to the Bologna Process

1-1. HE and EE in Europe , some special features

1-2. HE in Europe, the 30 last years

1-3. EE in Europe, the specific trends

1-4. The remaining and the emerging difficulties, problems and feelings

1-5 ‚ The Bologna Process, a political decision

2 ‚ The main features of the Bologna Declaration and Process and the reactions

2-1. The Bologna Declaration

2-2. The general reactions

3 - The consequences for Engineering Education

3-1. The general reactions from the EE side

3-2 ‚ The two-tier system

3-3 ‚ The ECTS generalization

3-4 ‚ The Diploma Supplement

3-5. The SEFI activities and initiatives

3-6. The SEFI and CESAER position

4 - About accreditation and recognition after the Bologna Declaration

4-1 - Accreditation : what does it mean and whatís about EE ?

4-2 - Accreditation and the SEFI position

5 - Besides and beyond the Bologna Process

5-1. Doctoral studies, European Research Area

5-2. The Bruges Process, vocational education, qualifications, CPD

5-3. Lifelong Learning

5-4. Evaluation, assessment

5-5. Quality Assurance , ENQA, TuningÖ

Conclusion Ö from Europe to ChileÖ

Selected references and useful Web links



During the five last years, Higher Education in Europe was strongly pushed to reform its traditional policies, structures and management approaches, thanks to a unanimous decision of European Governments who prepared and approved the so-called Bologna Declaration. During these five years, many efforts were done by educational institutions in the various European countries in order to move towards more harmonized structures and programmes with the aim to facilitate the mobility of people and to make the European educational system more coherent, more readable and more attractive. This original and unique process of renovation of the European Higher Education system is not accepted and followed by the various countries, institutions and branches with the same enthousiasm and the same dynamism. However things are moving rapidly and one can consider that the political decision of 1998 is now considered as a key issue for the future of Higher Education.
Of course one of the main debates is related to the problem of adapting the general reform to some specific domains or branches of Higher Education. This is obviously the case for Engineering Education. In that domain, many discussions were developed at national and European levels. SEFI, the European Society for Engineering Education was very active and made some recommendations.
In the present communication, I will try to explain what changed during the five years in the European Engineering Education system, what are the stakes, what are also the obstacles and the reactions of the various partners. I will also emphasize the consequences of the Bologna Declaration of the restructuring of the educvational schemes and programmes and also about the accreditation policies. And during the discussion, I will emphasize the role of the different titles in Engineering in Europe, trying to point out the different trends that emerge after the Bologna Declaration.



0 - Preliminary remarks

Before starting the presentation of the Bologna Declaration and its consequences on Engineering Education, it seems important to make two general remarks :

a) Yes, Engineering Education has its specificities and needs intrinsic improvments, however it is fully concerned by changes at a more global level. Engineering Education is one of the components of the general Higher Education system. One cannot avoid to take that reality into account when the initiative of the reform comes from the elected representatives of the various national Governments at the European level.

b) Yes, Engineering Education in Europe has its specificities that we will analyse in this communication. But changes in EE must also be viewed and understood at a more world-wide level because we are entering now a new era under the strong pressure of the globalization and the increasing internationalization of Higher Education. This is why it is so important that we can have exchange of views between European and Chilean partners.



1 - The context of the recent European evolution leading to the Bologna Process

One cannot understand the so-called Bologna Process, its consequences and the reactions it generates if one does not take into account some issues concerning Higher Education (HE), Engineering Education (EE) and the European harmonization.

1-1. HE and EE in Europe , some special features

It is well-known that Europe has developed its first Universities some 4 to 5 centuries ago and its first Engineering Schools around the middle of 18th Century. That leads to recognize :

- the existence of a long tradition, with different national models for the management of HE and EE :
- the existence also of a huge diversity of national systems and sub-systems, reflecting the complex history of Europe and the importance of the various national cultures.

In some ways, Europe is the continent of complexity and in the new era of the globalization, that complexity can be at the same time a richness but also a strong brake or obstacle.

1-2. HE in Europe, the 30 last years

The move towards more coherent and global approaches and more mobility of people in Europe is not recent and one can consider the Bologna Process as a natural consequence of many efforts done during the 20-30 last years for the Europeanisation of Higher Education. One can mention :

- the general trend towards more “European” unity : a true political and collective decision for building Europe and developing the European market, especially the European labour market (and one can also mention the creation of the Euro which is certainly the most visible symptom of this general evolution) ;
- the development of European programmes in HE aiming at increasing the internal mobility of European students, teachers, researchers (programmes JSP, Erasmus, Comett,… ) and also at developing joint projects at European level ;
- and, important point, the velvet revolution (1989) which suddently created the needs for support from the whole Europe to the East European countries ; a new enlarged intra-European cooperation was systematically supported during the 10 last years especially in the field of HE and will certainly be more and more important in the near future with the widening of the European Union to some 25 countries.

1-3. EE in Europe, the specific trends

Consequence of the previously mentionned points, Engineering Education knew also some interesting evolutions towards a more global European harmonization:

- in the field of European cooperation, people mobility and joint European programmes, one observed from 1978 till the end of the 80s a huge development of original programmes and projects : double diploma (students getting diploma from two institutions from two different countries), integrated cursus and curriculae, international programmes (such as Time) ; it became obvious that the various Engineering Schools and technical Universities in Europe should develop students and staff exchange schemes and the European mobility of students was often considered as a component of the education of an engineer ;
- one saw during these period (30 last years) the increasing role of some associations and consortia : SEFI, CESAER, IGIP, etc. … ; talking about SEFI (a true European forum on Engineering education) and its activities, one can mention the numerous seminars SEFI Working-Groups, the SEFI annual Conferences, the SEFI Guide, the European Journal of Engineering Education, the many projects with support from the European Commission (Thematic Networks H3E and E4,… ).

But one cannot avoid to mention also some problems or negative factors that EE is facing :

- a general trend : the difficulty to attract people for EE, for scientific and technical education, especially in some countries which could need such “specialized intelligence” (one can mention the crucial situation of East European countries, but also the case of many ”anglo-saxon oriented” EE systems;
- the increasing trend towards Continuing Education, Continuing Professional Development (CPD) which was and is more and more considered as important in the field of EE : creation of the International Association for Continuing Engineering Education (IACEE), developement of national models for Continuing Education (France, Ireland, Finland,…).

1-4. The remaining and the emerging difficulties, problems and feelings

Though the efforts done during the 30 last years, many responsibles recognized the existence of some serious limitations, problems or difficulties :

- the mobility remains limited due to many problems : administrative, economical, linguistic, cultural barriers, … ;
b) a lack of understanding, visibility and readibility for everybody of the complex and subtile European organization: journalists, politicians, students, industrialists often criticize the academic institutions and claim for a more simple and coherent system ;
- a lack of attractiveness of the European technical Universities and Engineering Schools for Non-European people ; in some ways, the American system remains the reference and there are less obstacles for a Chinese, a Nigerian or a Chilean student to enter an American university than a European Engineering School ;
- the increasing feeling that in a more global and worldwide system (globalization), European traditional HE and EE systems will be more and more marginalized if no serious efforts are made for promoting a new global European concept of Higher Education.

1-5 – The Bologna Process, a political decision

Taking into account these difficulties and problems, but not forgetting the effects of some 30 years of European cooperation in the field of HE, a sudden decision was made by European Education Ministers, thanks to an initiative of the French Minister Claude Allegre who is a well-known scientist and a true specialist of educational affairs (but disputed by the French teachers because of his relativity rigid attitude towards institutions and trade-unions).
The Ministers of Education from different European countries met and decided a general common policy in the field of HE with the aim to have created and developed around 2010 a unique “European Area for Higher Education”. They agreed a “Process” (called a little bit later the Bologna Process) with different steps and actions plans.

Let us briefly see the time schedule :

- the Sorbonne Declaration in 1998 during the celabration of the 800th anniversary of the creation of the French Sorbnne : the Minister Claude Allegre proposed to his colleagues to set up a process for the renovation of the European system of Higher Education ;
- then on June 19, 1999, the Bologna Declaration signed by all Ministers of Education ;
- March 2001, the Salamanca Conference with the participation of many representatives of European universities in order to mobilize the academic community on the Bologna Process ;
- again, on May 2001, a Ministers’ Meeting in Prague which result was to confirm the convergency of the various HE national systems by 2010 into a “European Higher Education Area“ ;
- in 2000-2002, development of an EC-financed project ”Tuning” (Tuning Educational Structures in Europe) which tried to find solutions to the many existing problems that hinder the European convergency:
- and recently in September 2003, the new Ministers’ Conference in Berlin.

It seems important to emphasize the fact that though the Process was initially proposed and developed by some Politicians and Education Ministers, the different partners were strongly associated and were also positively forced to set up actions programmes or plans for moving towards that political goal.
One can at last add that at the same time, the engineering profession was also active and one can observe the real convergence of the action in the field of Higher Education with actions in the domain of professional accreditation in engineering : signature of the Washington Accord, creation of ESOEPE (a sort of consortium of European and national accrediting organizations), work at the European level for facilitating the European mobility of professionals.

To conclude this first part of the communication, one can cite Torbjorn Hedberg, past-President of SEFI, would characterized the Bologna Process with the following key-words : mobility, transparency, compatibility, comparability … towards a single coherent system.



2 – The main features of the Bologna Declaration and Process and the reactions

The Bologna Declaration (and the following actions plans of the Bologna Process) points out a certain number of precise issues for the evolution of the national systems towards more European harmonization. Let us first have a look at these issues and present also the general reactions about the Bologna declaration and its implementation.


2-1. The Bologna Declaration

The Bologna Declaration proposes a certain number of evolution lines which should be considered as asymptotes which the national systems have to try to reach in around 10 years :

a) moving towards a ”European Area for Higher Education” in 2010 which means adapting curricula in terms of structures, contents, learning attributes, learning tools, assesment methods, etc… with the aims to get more transparency, more, compatibility, more comparability and to eliminate barriers for the mobility of European students, teachers and researchers ;
b) adoption of a common framework of readable and comparable degrees in Higher Education, also with the creation and implementation of a “Diploma Supplement”
c) moving towards more readibility with the creation of a common scheme for HE based on a more clearly defined system of three levels of programmes and degrees : “3-5-8”, “undergraduate-postgraduate-doctorate”,… with a clear articulation between these three levels : thus, the Declaration suggests the adoption of a “two-tier” system of Higher Education based on two sequential cycles “in series” : an undergraduate or first study cycle of 3-4 years and a postgraduate or second study cycle following a successful first cycle ;
d) the generalization of the use of a common definition of educational modules, the so-called ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) which can facilitate the mobility thanks to the recognition of studies done here and there in different European Universities ;
e) the eliminination of obstacles to the free movement of students and teachers ;
f) the move towards a true European consistency in HE with the inclusion of a European dimension into the quality assurance of Higher Education and with the idea to avoid any unuseful barriers for professional mobility and for a more understandable system of academic and professional quality recognition .

It seems important to mention the fact that all these “orientation lines” are only defined in general terms and no any precised measures are included in the Bologna Declaration. These measures (actions plans) should be defined and then implemented by the various partners (Universities, national bodies,…) in the differnt countries according to a general time schedule and a planning with milestones and deliverables to be regularly presented.
One can also notice that the Declaration is only limited to very obvious evolution lines and remains the expression of a global policy for Higher Education at the European level, whatever the differences can be according to countries, fields, etc.
At the end of the decade, things should have change dramatically in Higher Education in Europe.

2-2. The general reactions

Millions of people are and will be concerned by the implementation of the Bologna Declaration. On the one hand, one could think at all young people and future students who, for some decades, will benefit from such an harmonized system of HE ; but on the other hand, the Bologna Declaration constitutes a real revolution which means the end of many specific traditional national policies. It is obvious that the Bologna Process towards a “European Area for Higher Education” cannot be considered as a marginal affair and should generate some deep discussions. What are, in 2003, the most important reactions ?
Surprisingly, one did not observe very huge debates and very important opposition, except from some students trade-unions and from some conservative groups. The vast majority of educators and universities share the general aims of the Declaration and most of the stated objectives are considered as not controversial. The public and the medias follow the evolution of the Process but without any special interest. Things seem to be so obvious…
The adoption of the two-tier systems is the line that certainly poses the geatest challenge because it leads to change deeply the traditional national ways or organizing HE. That proposal reinforces also the traditional divide and conflict between two sub-systems of HEE : on the one hand, the short and applied oriented sub-system (for instance in EE, production engineer, educated and trained within Polytechnics, Fachhochschulen, vocational schools…) and on the other hand the more elitist, long and research oriented sub-system (in EE : education and training provided by classical and reknown continental Technical Universities and Engineering Schools). The two-tier system was finally accepted but some reservations were made by the European Universities at the Salamanca Conference.
The other lines of the Declaration (Diploma Supplement, ECTS generalization, harmonization of accreditation procedures,…) do not pose problem and are generally well considered.
Of course, the main difficulty resides in the concrete implementation of the decision. How the national specificities will be taken into account and how also the specificities of the various sectors or domains will also be considered ? That obviously needs a long phase of gradual modifications, with slow or rapid but progressive adaptations. Thus some countries seem to be more active than others in the implementation of the Bologna Declaration (Italy, Germany, East European countries ,…
At last, one can mention the fact that during the years 2000-2003 many general debates were organized at the European level (conferences, seminars,…) thanks to the efforts made by organizations such as EAU (European Association of Universities) or SEFI (in Engineering Education).



3 - The consequences for Engineering Education

Like some other specialized fields of Higher Education (medicine, architecture, law,…), Engineering Education can be viewed as either a pure component or sub-system of the general HE system and then should implement the Bologna Declaration without any special adaptation, or as a very specific professional domain which needs original approaches for thinking and developing its future. In other words , EE is “between” two lines and the general attitude is to find the necessary compromise between these two lines.

3-1. The general reactions from the EE side

Is EE concerned by the Bologna Process ? The authors of the Bologna Declaration had more in mind the non-professional sector of HE (arts, letters, sciences,…) and were not so much focusing on Medicine, Law and Engineering. Many people considers however that the Bologna Declaration should be implemented also in the professional sectors, but taking into account the specificities of these sectors (for instance EE).
It is amazing to observe that the European convergence in HE seems to be easier in EE than in other fields. This can be explained by the needs from the labour market and also by the tradition of European cooperation in EE with the development of many integrated programmes (Double Diploma,…). That is why people in EE do not feel the Bologna Declaration as a threat but more as a facilitation for solving some problems of mobility.

3-2 – The two-tier system

The concept of a two-tier system is not very new for EE. The existence for long time of a dual system was a traditional dimension of EE : on the one hand the education and training of “Ingénieur de conception et de recherche” (scientific engineers) and on the other hand the education and training of “ingénieurs de production ou d’application” (applied production engineers). However, this existing dual system is far different of what is viewed and proposed by politicians in the Bologna Declaration :

- the long cycle exists from very long time : The French and the German traditions, with a curriculum developed in 5 years or more, with, grosso modo, two well identified levels (2+ 3 years) ;
- the short cycle was developed outside the traditional universities during the 70s : Fachhochschulen, Polytechnics, IUTs,… with an education and training in 3-4 years (or less) in order to meet the new needs of the industry for production engineers ;
- both systems remains in parallel and do not form a unique two-tier system though some ways exist for some interested students .

However the Bologna Declaration emphasizes the need to move towards a sequential or two-tier sytem and that generates a difficulty.
The national decisions concerning the two-tier system and its implementation are not the same and the situation now is a little bit confused :

- Italy has taken the lead with a drastic reform introducing a rigid structure of degrees in series (the sop-called 3+2 structure ) ; the reform was established by law for all HE sectors and the new organization is compulsory since 2001-2002, with :

- Laurea degree after a three year course of study ;
- then a Laurea Specialistica after two further years of study

- Britain is satisfied with its present system and no special reform is proposed ;
- in Germany , one introduced a new scheme in many Universities and fachhochschulen with a structure in Bachelor+Master degrees in serie : these new scheme is set up in parallel with the old system ;
- in France, the Ministry of Education tries toimplement the LMD system : Licence, Mastère, Doctorat ; but in EE no serious moves were observed except a pure “cosmetic” change (new wordings,…) ;
- the same situation can be observed in the Netherlands ;
- in the Czech Republic : a two-tier system with a 4+1,5 structure is now implemented that will start in 2003-2004 ;
- Poland has changed also its system into a two-tier system since 1997.

One can notice that the smaller countries seem to be more active than the bigger ones (except Italy) for the implementation of the Bologna Declaration. For Eastern and Central European countries, de facto, the Bologna Process is a good opportunity to reform the traditional systems of EE which , in some ways were becoming obsolete.
The existence of a dual system for long time proves that one needs to adapt EE to industry needs as well as to the labour market needs. Both need “ingénieurs de conception” (scientific based and long Higher Education, often selective ) and “ingénieurs d’application ou de production” with a more applied and shorter education. This shorter application oriented curricula is developed independently from any idea of further education (not a Bachelor degree followed by a possible Master’s degree . This is the reason why the proposal to set-up a two-tier and sequential system is generating difficulties in EE.

3-3 – The ECTS generalization

Another important feature of the Bologna Declaration consists in generalizing the use of the ECTS system. ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) provides a way of measuring and comparing learning achievements, and transferring them from one institution to another. The system was initially established under the Erasmus programme (1989-1996) and has been tested over a period of 6 years in a pilot scheme involving 145 Higher Education institutions in all EU Member States and EEA countries. Since the introduction of the Institutional Contract in the SOCRATES/ERASMUS programme in 1997/98 all European universities can take part in ECTS. As an effective instrument for creating curricular transparency and facilitating academic recognition the ECTS system supports European-wide mobility. Transparency is created by providing detailed information on the curricula and their relevance towards a degree. The main tools used to make ECTS work and facilitate academic recognition are the information package, the learning agreement and the transcript of records.
Each programme of studies should be divided into a number of units or modules and credits attributed to each of them. A crude measure of the credit value is the number of hours of lectures but a better measure adopted by ECTS is the student learning and overall workload (with a factor of 1 to 3 : 1 hour lecture needs 3 hours individual study.
In Engineering Education, the ECTS implementation leads to the following feature : a full year’s study corresponds to 60 credits but workload differs much from country to country : in average, 30 hours per credit, ie 1800 hours yearly workload but it can be 40 hours (in The Netherlands) even though in UK a year workload is about 1200 hours.
ECTS as well as the Diploma Supplement are being introduced in many Technical Universities and Engineering Schools either as a legal obligation or on a voluntary basis. New suggestions are now proposed for improving the ECTS system and the question about consistency of ECTS credits remains for each of the two tiers of the new system).

3-4 – The Diploma Supplement

The European Commission, the Council of Europe and UNESCO developed the Diploma Supplement in order to improve international transparency and to facilite academic and professional recognition of qualifications (diplomas, degrees, certificates, etc.). The document - attached to a Higher Education diploma - describes in the respective national language and in English the nature, level, context, content and status of the studies that were pursued and successfully completed. The Diploma Supplement provides additional information on the national Higher Education system, in order to fit the qualification into the relevant educational context.
This issue of the Bologna Process does not make any serious difficulty and most of the Universities and Engineering Schools have adopted this idea of a Diploma Supplement. There are now works, negociations, in order to definea standardized content of such a Supplement.

3-5. The SEFI activities and initiatives

During the last 3-4 years, SEFI was more and more involved in the debates about the implementation of the Bologna Process in Engineering education.
One can mention for instance the importance role played by SEFI and its experts in different European Projects and Networks :

- H3E, E4, EUCEET,…
- integration of EE in the Tuning Project

Among the many facets developed within these projects, one could mention for instance the work done for trying to standardize the presentation of the Diploma Supplement and also to set-up a common glossary for EE management with clear definitions of concepts (recognition, accreditation, assessment,…).
SEFI, as a European Forum about EE, was able to mobilize its members for getting the most recent information about the implementation of the Bologna Declaration in the various countries. Prof. Torbjorn Hedberg, past President of SEFI and Chairman of a SEFI Task Force on all Bologna Affairs,conducted an important survey on that issue, which results were presented in different conferences and published within EJEE.
SEFI, also organized national events in different countries in order to strengthen the debates about the Bologna Declaration and its implementation in EE.
At last, one can mention, the publication within EJEE since 2000 of a serie of papers from authors from different countries about the impact of the Bologna Declaration in EE and about the various national accreditation systems (on this topic EJEE published papers not only from European authors but also from non-European partners).

3-6. The SEFI and CESAER position

Recently, after a joint Seminar held in Helsinki in February 2003, SEFI and CESAER (a sister society grouping Universities much involved in HE and Research in Engineering) published a communication on the Bologna Declaration. Both partners strongly support the idea of the creation of a European Higher Education Area and both :

a) share the opinion that one needs a system of easy readable and comparable degrees (through a Diploma Supplement or otherwise) ;
b) support a wider use of ECTS system ;
c) are convinced of the importance of increased mobility for students, teachers , researchers, administrative staff ;
d) develop the European dimension in HE ;
e) share the view of the European Ministers concerning the importance of European cooperation in quality assurance and accreditation ;
f) agree the initiative leading to a common reflection aiming at a deeper cooperation between accreditating agencies.

Both, SEFI and CESAER, ask that a voice should be given in the global debate on representatives of Engineering Education, due to the specificities of EE and the importance of the supply of highly qualified engineers. The special role and features of engineering must be taken into account in the Bologna Process.
Both partners emphasize the need of highly educated engineers and consider that engeering graduates need to be educated to a level corresponding to the second cycle Master’s level degree. Any new procedures and regulations do not compromise the number and quality of such graduates. They promote the idea of an integrated route to the Master’s level. The first cycle (Bachelor) degree should be regarded mainly as a “pivot-point” rather than a normal finishing point.
For SEFI and CESAER, the existing European System for EE has much merit and is quite compatible with the vision of a European Higher Education Area.
They also emphasize the fact that the cultural diversity of Europe is also a source of richness that must not be destroyed.
They consider necessary to create stronger links between the European Higher Education Area and the European Research Area . Engineers need high-level competences in areas such as design, problem-solving and innovation, related to the advancement of technology.. This means a strong scientific basis to their studies and work.
High education in engineering needs to strive for quality and for excellence. Their governance structures and decision-making processes must support these goals. This requires institutional autonomy, with no external interferences with operational aspects and no artificially imposed uniformity of mission and structures.
For SEFI and CESAER, Higher Education institutions have the primary responsability for the quality assurance of their own programmes. Networking of Universities and liaison between national quality agencies could create added value and any kind of centralized European control has to be avoided.



4 - About accreditation and recognition after the Bologna Declaration

There is an increasing demand for transparency and for international mobility of students and engineers A definition of minimum criteria on the European level would be most valuable. That’s why the accreditation topic is becoming a very key issue. However any standardisation should not be understood as an attempt towards a total harmonization of EE throughout Europe, but rather as a tool for more transparency and comparability.

4-1 - Accreditation : what does it mean and what’s about EE ?

According the Bologna Declaration, accreditation has to be considered as a central instrument to support the necessary processes of changes in European Higher Education systems. Accreditation serves to assure quality when implementing new ( ex ante steering) degree programmes and also to monitor existing ones ( ex post steering). Accreditation, i. e. certification of a degree programme, will take place after review of the minimum standards for content and specialisation, the vocational relevance of the degree to be awarded and the coherence and consistency of the general conception of the degree programme. It will be awarded for a limited period of time within the frame of a transparent, formal and external peer review. Thus, the degree programme has to be reviewed after a certain time. The process of a peer review is steered by agencies which are also reviewed through regular external evaluation.
The instrument of accreditation of certificate degree programmes is relatively new in Europe but is increasingly gaining acceptance in the countries involved in the Bologna Process.
However, in the field of Engineering Education, accreditation has a long history in Europe especially in France and in UK. More recently, the German Akkreditierungsverbund was set up. Accreditation has furthermore been recently introduced in countries like Portugal, Poland,…
A European Standing Observatory for the Engineering Profession and Education (ESEOPE) was created in 2000. SEFI took part in its creation in collaboration with other partners (FEANI, national engineering councils or organizations). The basic idea for the creation of ESEOPE consists in establishing a permanent dialogue between European organizations, national accreditation bodies, representatives of the academic institutions in order to find the way to move towards either a system of mutual recognition of the various accreditation procedures or perhaps towards a unified European system of accreditation of engineering programmes (but not necessarly a unique centralized body).

4-2 - Accreditation and the SEFI position

The Bologna Declaration emphasized this accreditation dimension. Considering that key issue, SEFI decided to create a task force for accreditation (under the chairmanship of Prof Alfredo Soeiro, President of SEFI). Many papers were collected and then published within EJEE on the various national accreditation systems (thanks to Prof. Giuliano Augusti, past-President of SEFI) and contributions were made under that topic within the E4 European project.
For this SEFI Task Force :

- accreditation of engineering programmes will become more and more important in Europe and in the world ;
- those European countries not yet having an accreditation system will sooner or later create one ;
- American based ABET will continue to be influential also in Europe ;
- some form of a European system for accreditation of EE Programmes will be created ;
- a complete accreditation system should differentiate the various engineering branches and the two cycles of the new European Higher education system.

And recently, SEFI clarified and published its own position about accreditation of engineering programmes :

- the creation of a European Accreditation Board similar to ABET is neither feasible nor desirable ;
- a European Accreditation should respect the cultural rich diversity among European higher engineering universities ;
- a European system for accreditation should work on the basis of cooperation and mutual recognition between existing national accreditation authorities (cf . Washington and Paris Accords) ;
- countries or groupes of countries today not having accreditation authorities should be encouraged to create such bodies ;
- the discussion on accreditation must involve as well long cycle and short cycle EE ;
- SEFI should be involved in this process towards an accreditation system at European and at worldwide levels.



5 - Besides and beyond the Bologna Process

The debates about Higher Education in Europe are not limited to the traditional initial studies at Universities (Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees). Besides and beyond the Bologna Declaration and Process, there are many subjects that are discussed. They concern the Doctorate studies and the research as well as the vocational studies, the life-long learning and the assessment of qualifications.

5-1. Doctoral studies, European Research Area

The Bologna Process focused so far on academic studies, in particular on the implementation of a system based on two main cycles. Now doctoral and post-doctoral studies are also to be included into the European debates on the structural reform in the Higher Education systems. Already in 1992, the Ministers of Education of the EU member states Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France and the Netherlands agreed on improving the transparency and adjusting the existing systems of doctoral studies. Since 1994 doctoral students are promoted within the framework of the EU-HCM/TMR research programme. In 1991, the confederation of European Union Rectors‘ Conferences proposed the implementation of a “European doctorate“ as an additive certificate and suggested that doctoral students have to spend at least one year abroad. This would not only improve the education of young scientists but also support the networking of European universities and research institutes.
In January 2000 the European Commission published a communication “Towards a European Research Area“ initiated by the Commissioner for Research. It aims at the creation of better overall framework conditions for research to make Europe the leading knowledge-based economy worldwide. The document suggests a frontier-free research policy in Europe based on better cooperation among researchers and scientists in the member states which will improve the coordination of research activities within the EU and its member states without additional bureaucracy and higher costs. The European Research Area (ERA) shall promote a common use of scientific resources, create jobs on a long-term basis and stimulate competition in Europe.
For Engineering Education, this issue is important too. The Technical Universities and Engineering Schools advocates for a strengthening of the research component within the education of engineers (of course, that does not concern directly the applied or production engineers). An harmonization at the European level for the doctoral studies is well considered. SEFI , in that feld, set up recently some task force and working group for that issue.

5-2. The Bruges Process, vocational education, qualifications, CPD

The term “Bruges Process” refers to the increased co-operation in European vocational education and training, similar to the Bologna Process in Higher Education. At the conference in Bruges in October 2001, the Directors-General of for vocational training (European Commission) initiated a co-operation process in the field of vocational education and training. The European Council affirmed this idea in Barcelona (15 and 16 March 2002).
The transparency of qualifications and skills is to be improved through a new, universal instrument, integrating existing tools such as the EUROPASS Training, the European curriculum and the certificate supplement. In addition, strong support was given to a credit transfer system in vocational education and training at the European level, complementing ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) in Higher Education. These measures are to be implemented within a voluntary co-operation process. A European framework for vocational education is to be developed by 2010 in order to enable the citizens to move freely between jobs, business sectors and countries. The transfer of qualifications and skills is the precondition of lifelong learning and increased mobility .

5-3. Lifelong Learning

The final communiqué of the Bologna follow-up meeting in Prague in 2001 stressed the importance of “Lifelong Learning” (LLL) as an essential element of the European Higher Education Area. Lifelong Learning comprises all phases of learning, from pre-school to post-retirement, and covers the whole spectrum of formal, non-formal and informal learning. The implementation of this idea will be facilitated by bringing together education and vocational education in central aspects of different policies such as education, youth, employment and research. A lifelong learning framework is to be developed to enable each individual to choose among learning environments, jobs, regions and countries in order to improve his knowledge, skills and competences and to use them optimally. An important condition for the implementation of LLL is the development of a coherent system of credits that allows the evaluation and recognition of diplomas and certificates acquired at school, at university and in the framework of work-based learning. In this way, the transfer of qualifications between schools, universities and the world of work could be ensured. Continuing education and further training are essential responses to growing competition and the use of new technologies and they therefore are among the key approaches to achieving the strategic goal for Europe.
In the field of Engineering, some initiatives are interesting to mention such as the one developed by the Institution of Engineers of Ireland (IEI). The Institution set-up recently a system of accreditation of employers in Irelande which promote the Continuing Professional Development of their employees.
One can also mention, on that topic, the recent French Law which consists in promoting the recognition of qualifications and professional competences and experiences for the entry into some Educational institutions (Universities,…) and getting Diplomas without following the traditional or normal route for that.
One can also mention the role played for some years by IACEE, the International Association for Continuing Education, which was much supported at its beginning (and still now) by SEFI.

5-4. Evaluation, assessment

Apart from accreditation, evaluation is the central activity to assure quality in Higher Education. To evaluate means to assess teaching and academic studies in a subject or department and the related degree programmes. Strengths and weaknesses of education and training should be demonstrated by stocktaking and analysis and proposals should be formulated to promote its quality as well. Evaluation is carried out through internal or external procedures. The process of internal evaluation is comprised of the system as well as moderated conversations with lecturers and students. As part of the process of external evaluation a review team visits the department in order to review the quality of the academic studies and teaching. External peers are lecturers or persons from vocational practice who discuss with students and young scientists and present a final report. The evaluation of academic studies and teaching has to be followed by an account of how effective the measures of quality assurance are.
There are many ways for such an evaluation. SEFI and the Thematic Network E4 worked much on that issue. They tried to clarify the vocabulary, to precise the multiple dimensions of such an evaluation, distinguishing between evaluation or assesment of a course, evaluation of a programme, evaluation of an institution, evaluation of a student, evaluation of competences. It seems that many advances are made in that field, even if it remains very complex.
At last, it seems useful to mention the fact that EJEE will publish soon (Vol. 29-2 – 2004) an issue with some 15 papers entirely devoted to assessment methods in Engineering Education.

5-5. Quality Assurance , ENQA, Tuning…

A central goal of the “Bologna Process” is to define and observe Europe-wide quality standards in Higher Education. A precondition is the elaboration of comparable methods and criteria to assess the quality of research and teaching. In 1998, the European Council recommended stronger co-operation in this field. As a response to this Council initiative and the objectives of the Bologna Declaration, the European Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education ( ENQA ) was established. Since 1999, ENQA has supplied information about proven practical experiences as well as the newest approaches and discussions in the field of quality assessment and quality assurance. In the course of the so-called Bologna Seminars, initial results of the debate on European quality standards for the implementation of Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programmes were presented in Amsterdam ( „The European Dimension of Quality Assurance“ ). The pilot project “ Tuning Educational Structures in Europe ”, born of a university initiative in which 70 European universities participate, has submitted reference criteria for the comparison of final structures and teaching approaches for seven subjects (Business Studies, Education Science, Geology, History, Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics). Enginereing was then added and SEFI and the Thematic Network E4 contributed to that Tuning project.



Conclusion … from Europe to Chile…

Europe is becoming more and more conscious of the need to harmonize its rules and the national practices in the field of Higher Education. A huge mobilization of many forces is actively developed and the process towards a European Area for Higher Education runs pretty well.
Engineering Education will certainly benefit from such a global effort for transparency, comparability, compatibility. This will be a unique occasion to rexamine and reform some procedures (accreditation, evaluation, recognition,…) as well as to set up simpler rules facilitating the people mobility within Europe (ECTS, two-tier system, Diploma Supplement,…).
However, one cannot forget another important aim of this European Reform that consists in trying to make European academic institutions more attractive for Non-Europeans partners and people. This is the reason why, I am happy to have been invited by the Chilean Society for Engineering Education to present such a global European perspective hoping that it will be followed by other cooperation. SEFI, the European Society for Engineering Education fully agrees and supports the idea of such a cooperation.
Within the recent issue 28-3 (2003) of the European Journal of Engineering Education, one will discover that two papers presented at the XVIth Chilean Congress of Engineering Education (October 2002) have been reproduced thanks to the help of our friend Mario Letelier (who is also active member of the editorial Board of the Journal). We certainly will continue to strengthen our links, publish other papers, make at last easier the transfer of ideas, informations and knowledges between Chilean and European colleagues. From both sides, we need that cooperation.
Let us finish this presentation, by pointing-out the existence of the European Grants Programme Alban which can be used for helping students, professors, researchers from South-America to come for some time in European academic institutions. Why Chilean colleagues could not use this financial support for visiting us and take part in the building of the new European Area for Higher Education and take part also in some reform programmes in the field of Engineering Education?


Last news ...

The Education Ministers, in Berlin (September 19, 2003), agreed to move more rapidly towards some concrete results. Thus, in 2005, for their next Summit in Norway, they will present true testimonies of the implementation of the Bologna Declaration, especially in three domains : the two-tier system, the accreditation system and the tools for the mobility.


Selected references and useful Web links

Jean MICHEL' complete site :




European Journal of Engineering Education (EJEE) :


Thematic network H3E:

Thematic network E4:

European Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA):

International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE):

Bologna Process (Berlin Summit):

Bologna Declaration:

Bruges Process:

European Research Area:

Berlin' Summit of the Ministers of Education:

Programme ALBAN :