Robert Harmsen, Visiting Professor University of Luxembourg
The Bologna Process and the Reshaping of European Higher Education Policy
The Bologna Process has been widely seen as a successful example of a ‘soft law’ regime, establishing broadly comparable university degree structures and a shared language of higher education policy across its now 48 country pan-European membership. Yet, though undoubtedly a success in creating a uniquely deep regional regime of higher education cooperation, the operation of the Bologna Process needs to be carefully contextualised. Implementation, as measured through regular stocktaking exercises, remains markedly uneven. The process has also been subject to variable political uses by pivotally placed actors. ‘Bologna norms’ have been used strategically by national governments to pursue reform agendas extending well beyond the stated objectives of the process. The European Commission has strategically piggybacked on Bologna in the pursuit of a radically neo-liberal modernisation agenda for higher education. This lecture will explore these dynamics, looking at the Bologna Process as both an important milestone in the development of international higher education policy and as a case study of a form of experimentalist governance having potentially wider significance for other multi-level systems.