Harmonization of the national system of higher education by means of the bologna process
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №3 - 2011
Author: Sarsembayeva Gulnar, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan
The reformation of higher education characterized by different
stages and difficulties is far from its completion as current innovations wreck
the old system and the transition to the new system sometimes results in lack
of understanding and non-acceptance of the process by society.
All initiations and transformations happen under the influence of
certain factors for the purpose of life’s improvement.
The Bologna Process is the process of
harmonization of the European educational systems through the Bologna Declaration
in order to create the European Higher Education Area.
The Bologna Process has two reasons:
1) For the last decade higher education has become a profitable
business but in comparison with the American institutions the European ones
have been at a disadvantage and incur losses;
2) The European Union is now being integrated into a single state.
Common socio-economic and political structures are characterized by a unified
educational system so as to provide the basis for a single labor market and for
further integration of Europe.
First of all, the Bologna Process is based on the principles of
voluntariness and requires nothing from its participants. Its main objective is
transparence, comparability, clarity of modern educational systems and the
possibility of easy transition from one system to another as nowadays different
countries still have different educational systems. For instance, in most
countries Medical education still preserves its traditional one-level structure
though in several countries there are such qualifications as Bachelor of
Medicine, Bachelor of Dentistry, and Bachelor of Surgery. There is also
difference in the apprenticeship. Bachelor’s degree implies 3 or 4 years of
study, Master’s degree – 1 or 3. As it has already been stated, nowadays educational
systems of different European countries are not similar. It is difficult to say
if they become alike. At any rate, the documents of the Bologna Process
emphasize the idea that national peculiarities of educational systems are an
Main objectives of the Bologna Process are the following:
1. Introduction of the system of comparable degrees by means of
adopting diploma transcripts to increase international competitiveness of the
European system of education.
2. Introduction of two-cycle education: undergraduate and graduate.
The former lasts not less than 3 years. The latter leads to obtaining Master’s
degree or Doctor’s degree.
3. Introduction of the European system of credits (on the basis of
ECTS - European Credit Transfer
System). It also provides students with the right to choose courses he/she
wants to study. The given accumulative system will work under the “life-long
4. Development of students’ mobility (on the basis of two previous
points). Development of faculty and staff mobility by transferring the period
they work in the European region. Introduction of the transnational education
5. Assistance to European collaboration in quality assurance for the
purpose of comparable criteria and methodologies elaboration.
6. Introduction of education quality system in institutions of
higher education with the participation of students and employers.
7. Assistance to European ideas of higher education, especially in
developing curricula, inter-institutional cooperation, mobility schemes, joint
educational programs, and in research activity.
The decision to participate in the creation of the European Higher
Education Area (EHEA) was taken in Bologna by the representatives of 29
countries (Bologna Declaration, 1999). Nowadays it is considered to be a unique
agreement as the Process now includes 47 countries-participants out of 49
countries ratified the European Cultural Convention of the Council of Europe
(1954). The official date of the Bologna Process is considered June 19, 1999 –
the date of Bologna Declaration signing. The Bologna Process is open for other
Europe is now on the way to its unity. Higher
education influences the formation of society in a considerable way therefore
the diversity of educational systems impedes the unity of Europe. United Europe implies free transition of labor force, goods and capital thus resulting in the
necessity of qualifications comparability. Finally, higher education is
becoming a profitable business where the USA takes leading positions. Only
united Europe may count on success in the sphere.
Main figures of the Bologna process are the following:
- Ministers of Education of the countries having signed the Bologna
- Representatives of the EUA (European Universities Association),
EURASHE (European Association of Institutions in Higher Education), ESU
(European Students’ Union), ENQA (European Association for Quality Assurance in
Higher Education), and UNESCO-CEPES (the UNESCO European Center for Higher
- The Bologna Process is also maintained by the European Commission
and the Council of Europe.
The advantages of the Bologna Process includes the following:
availability of higher education; further increasing of the European education
quality; developing students’ and teachers’ mobility; successful employment of
graduates as all academic degrees and qualifications are oriented to labor
Due to scientific and technological advance and market demands
skills and knowledge that students get at the higher educational institutions
are to be of high quality and enriched according to various changes in the
world. Therefore, it is necessary to teach students how to enrich their skills
and knowledge when required.
The last decade is characterized by a great number of initiatives in
the transformation of higher education. Delicate steps turned out to a great
number of reformation projects: from state educational standards to academic
The notion of state compulsory educational standard has not to be
explained. The document is basic for Kazakhstani educational system but
academic mobility is an innovation.
Academic mobility is the possibility for the students, teachers, and
managerial personnel to “move” from one university to another to exchange the
experience, to overcome national seclusion and to reach all-European
perspectives. According to the recommendations of the Bologna Declaration it is
advisable that each student spends a semester in another higher educational
institution preferably abroad.
It is evident that a high level of academic mobility implies a
developed infrastructure but it is not real. Even now in some countries
academic mobility is rather limited. It is difficult to say about the number of
students studied at European and other foreign higher educational institutions.
Financial question is of great importance too. The given problem is of great
importance for higher educational institutions and Education Administration
bodies. In the Western Europe students’ mobility is also low (5-10%). Several
countries succeeded more in the given sphere. For instance, in Finland 30% of students take part in the programs of academic mobility (it is planned to
increase up to 50-60%).
Russia joined the Bologna Process at the
meeting of Ministers of Education of European countries in Berlin in September,
2003. In 2005 the Minister of Education of Ukraine signed the Bologna Declaration
Kazakhstan joined the Bologna Process in Budapest in 2010. The decision of Kazakhstan to join the Bologna Process was unanimously
supported by the representatives of 46 countries-signers of the Bologna
Declaration. Thus, Kazakhstan became the 47th country-participant of
the Bologna Process. The flag of Kazakhstan was established in the Gallery of
the Flags of the Countries-Participants of the Bologna Process. Before this, 30
out of 145 Kazakhstan’s higher educational institutions had already signed the
Magna Charta Universitatum which is the basis of the Bologna Declaration. The
decision of joining the Bologna Process was taken by the Committee of the
Ministers of Education of the countries-participants of the Bologna Process
thus showing high appraisal to the educational reforms in the sphere of higher
education in the republic of Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan is the first Central-Asian state
admitted as a full member of the European Higher Education Area. Along with the
signing of the Bologna Declaration the country is to fulfill the key terms:
- to introduce a three-stage educational system (Bachelor’s degree –
Master’s degree – Doctoral Degree (PhD)
- to assure the accreditation of educational institutions
- to introduce an educational technology similar to ECTS - European Credit Transfer System
Kazakhstan has met all requirements for joining
the Bologna Process. The Education Act of Kazakhstan stipulates the transition
to a three-stage education, high students’ mobility, and a credit system.
Together with foreign universities and institutions Kazakhstan train students
on Ph.D. program and introduces a new mechanism of quality assurance by means
of creation of the system of institutional and specialized accreditation
according the international model. Several higher educational institutions have
already obtained institutional and specialized accreditation.
In Kazakhstan higher educational institutions
set the task to increase the quality of education and range the following
criteria in accordance with their priorities:
1. Faculty quality
2. Faculty motivation
3. Material and technical resources
4. Curricula quality
5. Knowledge quality
6. Students’ quality
7. Infrastructure quality
8. Innovative activity of the managerial
9. Introduction of innovations
10. Competitiveness and achievements of
Joining the Bologna Process gives real
advantages to Kazakhstan’s higher educational institutions and students. They
are the following: bringing of Kazakhstan’s educational programs and curricula
to conformity with the European standards; recognition of Kazakhstan’s qualifications
and academic degrees; academic mobility assurance both for students and
teachers; recognition of Kazakhstan’s credits in foreign universities;
realization of the programs of two-diploma education; convertibility of
Kazakhstan’s diplomas of higher education in Euro-zone; the right of
graduates to work in any country-participant of the Bologna Process.
Nowadays Kazakhstan is entering the
world educational area. 18 higher educational institutions have signed the
Magna Charta Universitatum. A number of international seminars on the problems
of Kazakhstan’s joining the Bologna Process have been held. This can be
explained by the necessity to reform the educational system of Kazakhstan because of Kazakhstan’s integration in ITO and joining the
Besides the advantages the given process has its own disadvantages.
Joining the Bologna Process has resulted in the confusion of curricula and has
caused certain employment problems for graduates with Bachelor’s degree. A
four-year Bachelor program is considered as not completed higher education.
It is impossible to avoid certain difficulties when transforming the
system of higher education. Society is to accept this new system. Employment
problems are being solved very slowly. The transition to the module system is
complicated as it contradicts the standard of Kazakhstan. All standards are to
be changed consistently including the standards for secondary education.
Nowadays a number of universities in Kazakhstan train students on
Ph.D. program and Doctor’s program (on various specializations). Ph.D. program
is conducted at foreign universities or with the help of guest professors as
scientific supervisors or instructors. Some higher educational institutions
provide two-diploma Master’s and Doctor’s programs (students get a diploma of a
Kazakhstan university and a diploma of a foreign university).
Unfortunately, there are still a lot of unsolved questions. How to
combine Ph.D. programs and Doctor’s programs with the development of
fundamental and applied science in the country? How to motivate doctoral
students and their scientific advisors to generate new knowledge but not just
write their Doctor’s thesis? There are also some problems with scientific
journals of high impact-factor where doctoral students must publish their research
results. The credit system adopted in Kazakhstan is to be replaced by the ECTS. Diploma transcripts are to be similar to European
transcripts (DS). Education quality administration is also to meet the European
requirements. All these changes must be legislated.
In Kazakhstan higher educational institutions
are told how many graduates and on what specialities to train. Other leading
European countries managed to adjust their non-traditional qualifications to
the basic model thus becoming the part of the Bologna Process. For instance, in
Germany there is a degree similar to Russian Doctor of Sciences which implies
a four-stage system of education. French system also has four stages and Scotland system of education – 6. It also should be mentioned that some elitist European
higher educational institutions tactfully refuse to take part in the Bologna
Process. Leading Moscow universities also do not hurry to join it.
The Lisbon Convention gives the signers
the right for reservations and partial entering the Process to help the countries-participants
save their own educational traditions adapting them to the new system.
Nowadays the Bologna Process is one of the most disputable questions
in the sphere of higher education in Kazakhstan. Traditionally higher education
was highly appreciated in the society. Under the current diversity of
political, economic views, and the evaluation of the country’s development
priority the importance of educational system development is not doubtful.
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Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №3 - 2011