1st Edition

The Challenge of Bologna What United States Higher Education Has to Learn from Europe, and Why It Matters That We Learn It

By Paul L. Gaston Copyright 2010

    In 1999, a declaration formalizing “the European process” was signed at and informally named for Europe’s oldest university: Bologna. “The Bologna Process” has transformed higher education in Europe.This book is essential reading for anyone concerned about the ability of America’s higher education system to position the country for competitiveness in a global economy, about its failure to broaden access and participation, or to respond to calls for accountability, and specifically about whether it is ready to address the redoubtable challenge that Bologna Process represents on all these issues. In this book Paul Gaston assesses the Process’ accomplishments, weighing its strengths and weaknesses, and evaluates which features pose a threat, which we can learn from, and which may be inappropriate for our system of higher education.Bologna’s achievements in making higher education more accessible, in rationalizing and making consistent the evaluation of credits, and the definition and measurement of learning outcomes for all disciplines, all constitute a major “wake-up call” for American higher education. If we consider Europeans’ increased participation in higher education, their increased graduation rates, and the fact that Europe is retaining more of its students and attracting more international students, American higher education may be losing its competitive advantage. For all these reasons, it is vital that educators and policy makers understand Bologna and its implications for American higher education. It represents a formidable challenge on a matter of national priority. This book provides that understanding by offering a realistic and balanced account of Bologna’s achievements, and suggesting how US higher education can constructively and effectively respond.

    Acknowledgments Foreword—Carol Geary Schneider Preface An Expeditious Overview 1. Why Pay Attention to Bologna? 2. The Road to Bologna 3. A Point of Departure 4. Words to Actions. Bologna, Prague, Berlin 5. Urgency and Understanding. Bergen and London 6. Beginning a New Decade. Leuven/Louvain-la-Neuve 7. The Challenge For Bologna. Potholes—and Possibilities 8. The Challenge Of Bologna. Access and Mobility 9. The Challenge Of Bologna. Structure and Sequence 10. The Challenge Of Bologna. Effectiveness and Accountability 11. Meeting the Challenge. Improving on Europe’s Example Appendix. A Guide to Acronyms References Index


    Paul L. Gaston, Trustees Professor Emeritus at Kent State University (Ohio), has served four universities as a faculty member, dean, and provost. Having offered 14 years of university service as a provost (Northern Kentucky and Kent State), he has focused more recently on teaching, writing, and consulting.His recent books include General Education Transformed: How We Can, Why We Must (AAC&U, 2015), Higher Education Accreditation: How It’s Changing, Why It Must (Stylus Publishing, 2014), General Education and Liberal Learning (AAC&U, 2010), The Challenge of Bologna: What U.S. Higher Education Has to Learn from Europe and Why It Matters That We Learn It (Stylus Publishing, 2010), and Revising General Education, with Jerry Gaff (AAC&U, 2009). His most recent book prior to this one, Ohio’s Craft Beers (Kent State University Press, 2017), explores alternate approaches to “higher” education.His more than 50 published articles on literature and higher education include studies of the British hymn tradition, Anthony Powell, George Herbert, the role of the provost in fund-raising, the Bologna Process, minor league baseball, accreditation reform, Il Gattopardo, interart analogies, and the cultures of futures markets. He is one of the four original authors of the influential Degree Qualifications Profile (Lumina Foundation: 2011, 2015.)He received his degrees from Southeastern Louisiana College (BA) and from the University of Virginia (MA, Ph.D.), where he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. He is now Distinguished Fellow at the Association of American Colleges and Universities and a consultant to Lumina Foundation. He lives in Northeast Ohio with his wife, Eileen, and two cats, Scout and Binx. For recreation, he enjoys hiking, cycling, reading, and supporting Chelsea (soccer) and the St. Louis Cardinals. His Twitter name is CardsFaninOhio. Carol Geary Schneider has been president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities since 1998.

    "With a masterly approach, Gaston presents an understanding of the Bologna Process and its challenges for U.S. higher education. He offers two perspectives: one chronological and one thematic. Gaston's study focuses on the three Bologna priorities that are most critical to American higher education: access and mobility, structure, and effectiveness. The book's 11 chapters reflect Gaston's deep knowledge of the Bologna Process and express his worries about higher education in the United States. Ultimately, he proposes a process of reform tailored to U.S. higher education needs...Gaston's book effectively illuminates important issues in higher education in regards to needed changes and reforms as seen through his historical and critical overview of the Bologna Process. His message will be of critical interest to international practitioners in higher education, leadership, and policy, and to scholars of international and comparative higher education."

    The Review of Higher Education

    "The Challenge of Bologna is more than another summary of what the key elements are or what was accomplished at each of the biennial meetings, although those elements occupy a major portion of the book's content. As Gaston lays out the historical trends taht led to Bologna, he entreats us to consider each step and element as it relates to the unique history and contemporary status of higher education in the United States... Educators would be well served to read and review Gaston's book and use it as the basis for discussions on their campuses

    International Educator

    "Gaston brings order to a reform movement burdened by information overload. The Challenge of Bologna unfolds through descriptions of the reports from the reform process in Europe, analyses of its major aspirations and accomplishments, and consideration of their application to the U.S.

    The long subtitle of this book is key to Gaston's argument. Unlike other influential interpreters of European higher education reform, in particular Cliffiord Adelman, Gaston finds lessons for the U.S. in the process, not the specifics, of Bologna reforms.

    For anyone (including this reader) who has ventured into this labyrinth of documentation, Gaston's 'expeditious overview' provides a welcome FAQ-style introduction to the field."


    "In a nutshell, the goal of the Bologna Process is to revitalize higher education throughout Europe by standardizing it, creating one European system, easily accessible across borders, operating under a shared protocol, promoting cooperation between institutions, with one intention: to facilitate high quality education for students in Europe, preparing them to be a driving force in a global economy.

    Paul Gaston’s new book The Challenge of Bologna, details the process, from its inception through where it is today. The story, as Dr. Gaston tells it, is impressively broad and deep. But I think the accomplishment of this book is its description of the convening of the process, the collisions among participants, describing the nuances of their positions in ways that make sense. And, finally, it’s rather thrilling to realize the participants in the process have united behind a shared mission, making progress despite differences on something they believe in the importance of. Their differences are worth resolving.

    In the U.S., we have significant problems in our own system, and they’re affecting our ability to compete globally. Dr. Gaston argues that the U.S. ignores the lessons of Bologna at its peril."

    Susan de la Vergne, Liberal Arts Advantage—for Business newsletter

    "The Challenge of Bologna is an informed, comprehensive and rich analysis of the efforts of Europe to lead a major transformation of higher education during the last decade. Even more important, Dr. Gaston offers a robust, intriguing, and insightful comparison of Bologna and U.S. efforts in higher education during the same time period. He is astute in his grasp of both the similarities of higher education tradition that bind the United States and Europe and the differences in government and culture that result in our approaching major challenges in quite different ways.”

    Judith S. Eaton, President

    Council for Higher Education Accreditation

    “American higher education is one of the great successes of the twentieth century. But like many others, I am concerned about losing our position of leadership. Paul Gaston is eminently qualified to respond to such concerns. He skillfully relates the Bologna priorities established in Europe a decade ago to current issues in American higher education – critically examining entrenched practices and calling for renewed emphasis on what is learned, rather than what is taught.

    Dr. Gaston notes that higher education is virtually the only profession that does not routinely define what it seeks to accomplish. To begin educational reform, he proposes an inclusive Higher Education Congress with clearly defined objectives for addressing access and mobility, structure and effectiveness.

    Paul Gaston’s analysis and proposal for a process of reform are clearly and compellingly presented. His work is worthwhile reading for anyone engaged in higher education.”

    James E. Bundschuh, President

    Marymount University, Arlington, Virginia

    “Whatever their initial reaction to the Bologna developments, all U.S. educators will certainly need a fuller understanding of what is happening on other shores and of the motives that are propelling this high profile international effort. Paul Gaston’s fine study meets that need."

    Carol Schneider, President

    Association of American Colleges and Universities

    "Experienced as well as aspiring leaders in higher education will benefit greatly from Paul Gaston's thoughtful analysis of Bologna. His well-crafted historical perspective should promote lively discussion of the value of a compelling vision for reform and the practical challenges of implementation. Professor Gaston is especially successful in presenting his own vision for ways in which the Bologna Process should--and should not--guide our higher education reform agenda on this side of the Atlantic."

    Carol A. Cartwright, President

    Bowling Green University