Revista Electrónica de Investigación Educativa

Vol. 11, Num. 1, 2009

Risks and Challenges in the Construction of the
European Higher Education Area

Juan Carlos González Faraco   (1)

Antonio Luzón Trujillo   (2)

Mónica Torres Sánchez   (2)

1  Facultad de Ciencias de la Educación
Departamento de Educación

Universidad de Huelva

Facultad de Ciencias de la Educación
Campus del Carmen s/n, 21071
Huelva, España

2  Facultad de Ciencias de la Educación
Departamento de Pedagogía

Universidad de Granada

Campus de Cartuja, s/n, 18071
Granada, España

(Received: September 4, 2007; accepted for publishing: July 21, 2008)



This article about the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) intends to facilitate a better understanding of this complex and never-ending process in higher education in Europe, as well as an analytical perspective of it. The research is organized in a series of interlinked stages. First, it defines the origin of this initiative, which involves examining parallels between the emergence of the European Union and the implementation of the EHEA, for they cannot be understood separately. Secondly, it highlights key objectives that support the process, highlighting main patterns and trends. Finally, the research concludes with considerations from the perspective of educational reform.

Key words: Reforms in higher education, higher education, European Higher Education Area, Bologna process.



The European Higher Education Area (EHEA) is an important topic in the agenda of governments of the different European countries1 and in higher education institutions. In the last years, the EHEA has generated interests and a great number of research works that approach the topic from different perspectives. This article was the objective of facilitating the understanding of this complex and never-ending process to the reader, as well as to promote an analysis of the topic. This research study is organized following a series of interlinked phases. In the first place, this research examines parallelisms between the formation of the European Union and initiation of the EHEA, to delimit the origin of this initiative. Secondly, it mentions main objectives that support the process, describing their major guidelines and trends, and finally, the research discusses broader observations about education reforms.


I. Towards Europeanization University: A Delicate Excellence

Interest in higher education in Europe has been building slowly, developing with the European Union (EU). The interest has not only emerged as a result of political and legal provisions that have prompted the construction of a joint European space, but has rather been the realization an old idea: the need to move towards a partnership among nations and thereby enhance economic, cultural and social characteristics. Given the success of this partnership, despite all difficulties and limitations that have been and will, the hope to solve chronic problems and European universities has also extended.

The EU started with the Treaty of Rome in 1957, but it was not until 1963 when the first common educational decisions was taken among Member States, focusing on characteristics of vocational training, higher education or research. However, these decisions did have a liaison nature. Finally, since 1971,2 and gradually, the EU had the opportunity for decisive action cooperation in education.

The Community was mainly economic, but education, began to have a preferential treatment only because of its importance in building human capital. The evident relationship between education and labor, especially the connection of university and vocational training, justified to some extent the interference of the Community in this field. Following this initiative, with the Maastricht Treaty,3 the Union reached in 1992 a commitment for quality education, which has continued on in the European Constitution by the recognition of the essential role of education in training and for the social and political development of population, beyond their economic implications.

Certainly it is about building a common identity through European education, as was suggested a few years ago by Habermas and Derrida (2003) in an article on Europe’s role on the global stage. This idea, however, poses a somewhat vague concept of unity, which when translated to the European educational field cause a number of questions. For some, this field is distinct due to an enormous diversity, and even, by significant differences (Lawn, 2002; Green, Leney, and Wolf, 2001), while for others, the mere unity or convergence is simply a mirage (Sprokkereef, 1995, p. 345).

Despite the alleged importance that the EU has given to education and its significance in forging a European identity and authenticity (Novoa and Lawn, 2002), education policy is still a minor political area; specially, when compared with the economic or legal areas. In fact, except in the case of higher education, there has been no agreement or common understanding to make effective decisions and thus achieve advancements in education. Those that have occurred have been carried out gradually, and due to voluntary acceptance by governments, rather than as a result of compliance with political decisions of the Union.

Why in the subject of higher education was this pattern fortunately broken? What reasons prompted governments to rush towards a common policy in this area? Although many factors should be considered in order to give a complete answer to these questions, it is necessary to at least emphasize, above all other reasons, the factor of taking into account the needs of the universities to promote reforms that affront the challenges of globalization, knowledge society and, more specifically, employability and the strengthening of the European labor market (Barnett, 2001).


II. The Institutionalization of the EHEA: The Bologna Process, a Challenge to the Quality of Teaching and Research

The institutionalization of the European Higher Education emerged from the academic environment. In the late 20th century, European universities were unable to compete with American universities. They lacked response capacity, assumed with difficulty ensuing changes (particularly the change from an elite university to an university more democratic but overcrowded) and did not respond adequately to the challenges posed by society. They were not content with their operating model, but still lacked sufficient courage and determination to undertake the radical reforms needed. As a consequence of this malaise, a large group of rectors signed in 1988, in Bologna , the Magna Charta of European Universities.

This Charter represented an alert call and an accurate diagnosis of the problems in European universities, as well as a set of proposals and demands: more independence for their institutions, more resources, overcome national borders, more reciprocal exchange of information and documentation, mobility of teachers and students. This represented a policy of equivalence of status, qualifications and examinations, as well as the provision of many more scholarships.

After this, political authorities initiated a reform process in higher education guided by pressing objectives. The Declaration of La Sorbonne (1998), signed by the Education Ministers of France, Germany, Italy and the UK, and Bologna (1999), and to which 26 countries have joined both from the EU as well as from the European Free Trade Agreement, was the immediate achievement. Subsequently, communiqués of Prague (2001), Berlin (2003) and Bergen, which were the result of successive regular meetings of ministers, established guidelines for continuing the process. In 2007, London was the venue for the meeting.

The strategic objective of Bologna, in the opinion expert in higher education Guy Neave (2001, 2005), is to regain the importance of Europe in the world, maintaining a formative influence on the emerging knowledge society, at a moment when geopolitical globalizing is moving, for the first time, from the North Atlantic to the Pacific Rim (Japan and Australia). However, the Bologna Process, enhanced with a wide variety of European states, is still far from being a process of denationalization and Europeanization growing. Currently, it relies on networking (flow spaces and nets of networks) and actors who interact in local, national and European level. This process is implemented through institutional reform regulations subject to administrative court, but conditioned by the national academic cultures, in other words, in the socioeconomic and political contexts, as a result of a long and complicated history.

The adaptation of each country to the Bologna Process went through the action of “national filters” (Dale, 2002), in which their own issues and specific resistance to proposed reforms was palpable. Issues, such as increasing university autonomy, reducing the number of degrees or the democratization of access to certain studies traditionally selective, produces different reactions and disagreements. Nor can the difficulties involved in the process of adaptation to the new credit system, named European Credits Transfer System (ECTS), new titles, new forms of legitimacy of higher education, apparently supranational or global, but subject to local cultures with strong academic tradition can be denied or hidden. As Schriewer correctly stated (1996, p. 39), the global spread of the university is subject to a multitude of logical adaptations and the formation of the EHEA is a good example.

In conclusion, the creation of the EHEA reflects the typical political trend to simplify, in a world that tends unavoidably towards complexity.4 This trend is evident in the double perspective and speed, in which rectors and politicians follow this process.5 This contrary could be accentuated with a new simplistic drift: indiscriminate absorption of universities, within higher education, and the loss of everything that characterizes and identifies it.6

Institutional logics brought by the Bologna Process have been the method different countries used to promote possible irreversible reforms in their education systems and higher education, which, ironically, has not disregarded national practices and traditions. But then, why promote the creation of a common European Higher Education? That is the question Jordi Planas (2004, p. 9) asked and its answer deals precisely with the countries’ reluctance and implicit dedication to limit education and labor mobility in Europe, which could be a significant obstacle for the economic development of the European Union, when faced with the challenge of knowledge society. It will be enough just to recall the recent appeals of the current president of the European Commission, Durao Barroso (2005), for the usage of the three sides of the triangle of this new society, research and innovation.

The transformation that the EU is living is one that the industrial revolution assumed two centuries ago. Now knowledge is the core of new production mechanisms and, therefore, learning is an essential process of a lifestyle marked by the sudden presence of change and competition.


III. The Articulation of the European Higher Education: Essential Elements

Without detracting importance from new ideas the Bologna Process contributed (Inayatullah and Gidley, 2003), it is important to remember that some of the foundations that supported it already existed, including the new degree recognition structure. Others emerged before this process, because some European universities promoted them, sometimes only bilaterally, due to the crisis that submerged the European system of higher education and, specifically, difficulties in student mobility. Regarding the recognition and harmonization of qualifications through the European Diploma Supplement, it is part of the modernization of principles agreed at Bologna.

It is not easy to summarize and delimit such a complex and changing process. In an effort to achieve this, and provide an overview as complete and accurate as possible, this research work has considered some of the main objectives in the first document, the Bologna Declaration of 1999, although they are rather formal intentions, not exempt free of political rhetoric.

3.1 The Harmonization of the Structure of Qualifications Recognition or Redefining Traditional Models of Universities

The formation of a logical and comparable structure for university degrees recognition is a central objective and one of the newest among those proposed for the development of the EHEA. Thus, it does not only include improving student mobility or concurring on similar degree qualification recognition with varied durations in different European universities, but also ensuring an adequate professional training in a diversified labor market, which is above all, competitive. This was highlighted in the Lisbon Strategy (2000) or in subsequent documents which centered the idea, such as the document Education and Training 2010 (European Commission, 2004), and thereby address troubling unemployment levels that reach 20% of active population ( European Commission, 2005).7 The purpose is to consider an international trend that seeks to promote a professionalizing nature of university education and its connection with the market. The consequences of this trend are several and diverse, since they promote a rethinking of the functions and purposes rooted in universities and, above all, a restatement of their historical models such as the Humboldt model, which suggests that professionalizing goals are secondary.

The European Higher Education Area, following the steps of Bologna, clearly benefits from the formation of a professional nature to or at the expense of general, humanistic and cultural education. Thus, the first level of higher education studies—degree, with duration of 180 and 240 ECTS, intends to focus on the acquisition of knowledge and skills to achieve a professional qualification, offering real opportunities for employment in the labor market. The second cycle—graduate programs, which last between 60 and 120 ECTS—centers on professional specialization, or research.

This reorientation of the “mission of the university” as the philosopher Ortega y Gasset (1930/1992) stated, involves not only a delimitation, which every day is more indistinct, between higher education and non-university college, but also acceptance of a certain plurality of institutions of higher education. However, the impact of these new courses in university policy will be very different depending on the case.

Among countries with a tradition Humboldt model is Germany, whose university model is far from those proposed by the EHEA. Germany is making a gradual adjustment, although peculiar and somewhat contradictory. On one hand, the interest in maintaining the prestigious academic tradition of the German universities, by preserving their traditional diplomas and strengthening the field of non-university higher education is visible, while companies increasingly demand the generalization of the degrees of undergraduate and graduate programs, because they believed it will improve graduates insertion to the labor market. In fact, the German Association for Personnel Management in 2004 approved a document which ostensibly support this process. This document, entitled Bachelor welcome!, proclaimed that the German economy was waiting for new graduates with attractive employment opportunities (Anz, 2005).

France, creator and exponent of the Napoleonic model, has already adapted its system to the new European structure, but also with peculiarities that are worth mentioning. It is important to remember that the French system of higher education has included two subsystems: the grandes écoles and universities. The grandes écoles have been and are renowned institutions, and have more autonomy than the universities, they are highly selective and competitive and are intended to train high-level professionals (engineers, managers, etc.). Meanwhile, universities have been designed to promote teaching and research, but dependent of the Ministry of Education. Besides these two classical subsystems, in France there are centers exclusively for scientific research and institutions (institutes of technology) of non-university nature, created to meet the demands of the labor market through the formation of mid-level specialists. These institutions, unlike similar ones in Europe, select their students and receive even more funding per student than universities.

Consequently, higher education in France has traditionally had a wide variety of institutions and degrees, which complicates its adaptation to the new structure, fundamentally, because of the competition between these various institutions. For example, the grandes écoles or institutes of technology distrust the Bologna Process, and seek to maintain or gain recognition or a unique value that places them above other universities.

In all countries, despite the diversity of situations, the EHEA at least gives the opportunity for a change. There is still not enough perspective to appreciate the consequences of the changes, but it can be assumed, on the basis that the new EHEA will cover a plurality in universities devoted to teaching and research or both, and that this plurality will remain, in terms of unequal recognition, valuation and financing.

3.2 Student Mobility and Knowledge Economy

Student and teacher mobility is a key aspect of the process this research work analyzes. In fact, student mobility was the first educational measure that took shape in the inter-state cooperation in higher education, and has allowed, without doubt, the internationalization of European higher education. Although the Education Action Programme (1976)8 clearly saw the need for such cooperation, student mobility did not happened until 1987, when effective measures were put in action, such as a series of exchange programs for students, including the first edition of the Erasmus Programme.

In 1996, the exchange programs started, such as Socrates (Diario Oficial n° L 087 of 04/20/1995; Diario Oficial nº 28, from March 2, 2000) and Leonardo,9 and Erasmus was part of the first programs with two goals: “promoting the European dimension of universities” and “the moment of the mobility of university students” (pp. 3-4). Regarding the program Leonardo, although its primary purposes are rather in the field of non-university vocational education, the liaison that many of these kinds of centers have with academic institutions has enabled many actions, which have cooperated with higher education (García Garrido, 2001).

The respond to these programs was incredibly positive. Until 1998, in other words, before the Bologna Declaration, the number of students who had participated in the program rose from 3.244 in the 1987-88 academic year to 85.999 during 1997-98, reaching 144.037 students six years later.10 In recent decades, the success of student mobility has been considered a central objective in the reform of European higher education. In fact, it is mentioned in the Sorbonne Declaration (1998), as in the Bologna Declaration (1999) and the Prague Communiqué (2001). The latter two explicitly mention the need to eliminate any obstacles in mobility, for example, financial11 or academic problems related to the recognition of studies conducted outside the country of origin. All Member States have shared the desire to encourage the international movement of students, but to very different degrees. Above all, in many cases the numbers of students a country receives and sends are not compensated (Green, Wolf and, Leney 2001).

The Bologna Declaration and the Berlin Statement laid the groundwork not only for academic mobility promoting, but also professional, through the consolidation and generalization of the program of the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) and the creation of the European Diploma Supplement, which guaranteed transparency of the process. In short, the aim is that all degree recognitions in any Member State contain all adequate and transparent information for other universities, States and employers across Europe.

Most countries (including Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden) have implemented ECTS and use it for credit recognition and transfering. Other countries, like Spain, are currently in the implementation stage. The United Kingdom uses the ECTS only for student mobility in Europe and normally uses a different national credit system to accumulate, with substantial variations within the country.12 Even some of the institutions that have their own system of credits show that they do not want to remodel their system to suit the European system (Cowen, 2008).

As for the European Diploma Supplement and Diploma Supplement, many countries have already approved it and are using it (e.g. Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) while others (like Austria, Spain, France, Ireland, United Kingdom, and Netherlands) are still in a preliminary stage, but with very favorable policies for its final implementation.

Student mobility is a convergent trend, spurred by the advantages it presents in improving economic, professional and academic competitiveness (Raggatt, Edwards and Small, 1996; Cowen, 2005). It is present in the European labor market development, in the context of an economic integration promoted by the Union, and has the approval of the private sector, which continues to highlight the academic benefit of these student exchanges, for they increase social skills and intercultural communication of graduates.

As Planas noted (2004), free student and graduate mobility promotes competition between regions in order to attract investment, especially through its human resources. Unfortunately, data on mobility of graduates of the European Union, offered by the Association of European Universities (EUA)13, show that, for now, only 4% to 5% of highly skilled workers come from other countries and that among the graduates who have participated in mobility, more than half choose to work in other European Union countries, to after a few years return to their home countries (Reichert and Tauch, 2003).

Student mobility also represents a way for universities to get funding. In countries dominated by neo-liberal policies of reducing public spending, universities are forced to enter tough market dynamics. Foreign students with research grants are, in this case, a source of income to be considered, as stated in the UK in the Education Reform Act 1988, which implemented a policy for reduce financing through taxes in the university budgets. It could be said that since then, the United Kingdom has become an importer of students.

In German the situation is apparently different, the competition between universities was less obvious, but, in 1999, the Confederation of Ministers of Education issued a resolution which extended the degree recognition system in order to improve cooperation inside and outside the country, and promote the attractiveness of German institutions of higher education to international students.

3.3 Improvement of Quality and Accreditation Systems or New Management Modes in Higher Education

The concern for improving the quality of European higher education systems and the subsequent creation of institutions to evaluate the activities and operation of systems are present in Europe since the 80s. The origin of this concern is linked to both, financing and control of higher education.

Since the early 19th century to the late 20th century, public higher education has been financed entirely by the state. During this period, the predominant model in most European countries involved a relatively centralized control of budgets. This model has worn out, some time ago, due to, among other factors, the exponential growth in the number of students (Meyer and Schofer, 2006). Hence, in recent decades there has been a general tendency to relax the control and give more autonomy to colleges and universities (Green, Wolf, and Leney 2001; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD], 2005). This is also a reason the creation of educational policies can be seen. These new educational policies, that intend to finance higher education, do not fall exclusively or primarily on state budgets, but rather on social groups that benefit from it (mainly students14 and their families15). A model based on plural funding costs, is imposed.

Simultaneously with this transfer of financial responsibility, there is the emergence of public policies aimed at increasing the participation of diverse social institutions (companies, associations, etc.) in the control, government and management of higher education institutions, and promote, ultimately, privatization.

However, it is necessary to state several clarifications on these processes. As noted by Neave (1998), the state’s role is very ambivalent. Under the guise of abdication of power, the state retains a strategic role of a guide for all system components, outlining as an organizer and guarantor of social control, than as a sole manager (Neave, 1988). The creation of rating agencies in some European countries, whose primary objective is to pilot institutional development by establishing standards and goals, is proof enough (Crespo, 2001). For example, France created in 1984 Comité National d’Évaluation16 to evaluate various factors in teaching, research and management of institutions of higher education. This national committee reports directly to the President of the Republic and, in turn, it is responsible for evaluating each institution in a five-year cycle.

The United Kingdom, where this evaluation trend was considered a tradition, established in 1997 the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA). This agency is the result of the remodeling of two previous rating agencies: the Higher Education Quality Council and the Higher Education Funding Council. This new agency restructured assessment on three pillars: standards for program performance, quality of training, and institutional management of standards.17

Germany, a country with little evaluation tradition, established the Federal Agency for Accreditation (Akkreditierungsrat).18 The purpose of this agency is to certify other private accreditation recently created agencies, to ensure common minimum standards for the new qualifications degree recognition that follows the Bologna Process, and that are relevant to professional practice.

There is growing tendency to reduce the control and management exercised by the State, or to focus its role primarily on ensuring quality, taking into account results provided by rating agencies. This suggests that the concept of quality has not been rethought, because it continues to rely on the action of certain evaluation mechanisms working with indicators whose reference is still the efficiency and effectiveness of national systems, from a perspective that could be classified as economist.

Institutional and political rhetoric, however, as expressed in Article 149.1 of the Treaty establishing the European Union, seem to considers quality as:

The Community shall contribute to the development of quality education by encouraging cooperation between Member States and, if necessary, by supporting and supplementing their action, while fully respecting the responsibility of the Member States for the content of teaching and the organisation of education systems and their cultural and linguistic diversity. (Diario Oficial de la Unión Europea, C 321 E/3 de 29.12.2006, p.112)

Quality, as defined in these words, becomes a key element and, consequently, due to the notion that it would legitimize the EU intervention in national education policies. As expected, it is common to find evidence of disagreement and tension between national quality control, based on subsidiary European policies and the necessary cooperation between States, such as quality assurance. In this sense, they face a new supranational mode, known as the Open Method of Coordination, from which evaluation and accreditation agencies have developed at a national and regional level, on principles of cooperation among them, and their coordination at a supranational level by a mother agency, the European Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA). 19

The ENQA was formed in 1998, shortly before the Bologna Declaration, to promote “European co-functioning” in the area of evaluation and accreditation. It is composed of organizations or institutions both private and public. One of its objectives is to encourage and develop cooperation and exchange of information and experiences. Since the Prague Statement (2001), the ENQA role has grown significantly. In fact, the purporse of the ENQA is to become a vital entity to achieve genuine mutual recognition systems and ensure the quality of European higher education, by the use of transnational evaluations of qualifications and exchange periods by students in various schools in the Union.

This agency, which calls itself professional, has already achieved very considerable control, which some authors (Planas, 2004) advise about its double trend: on the one hand, centralization of control and, on the other hand, decentralization of responsibility implementation, which remains in the hands of universities.


IV. Conclusions

To conclude the argument, it is important to emphasize in the idea that Europe, regarding higher education, in a great transformation process that is being increasingly accepted and institutionalized. This process is relatively recent, of extraordinary dynamism, whose appearance and configuration have converged the need to improve expressed by the universities and the desire of governments to undertake reforms in the education sector, which are vital to the progress of the Union. However, the diversity of university situations and cultures involved is making the commitment to this process and its implementation very different in each country and, in general, highly problematic.

Second, it is important to remember that one of the most controversial aspects of this process is that, at least to a certain degree, it is being developed at the expense of the historic identity of universities. The contemporary university has been characterized by certain elitism, primarily intellectual in nature, and the concern for training and pursuit of truth. This, many believe, justifies a certain disregard for the immediate needs of society. The new European Higher Education Area intends, however, to make degrees recognition accessible to a high percentage of youth population, who have distinctly professional and employment-oriented nature, which will in consequence mean the advancement of higher non-university training over universities.

Thirdly, this research states the importance that mobility of teachers and students regains with the EHEA, despite the low volume and the variability of situations in different countries. Many Europeans are convinced that mobility and exchange will be fundamental to enhance competitiveness and European integration and, therefore, build a powerful European labor market.

Finally, it highlights the significant modification of the role European governments traditionally had in this area, regarding their presence and ability to control and intervene. As noted, universities were fully aware of the importance it could be for their future to have European inter-university partnership. The government, overwhelmed by challenges presented by globalization, knowledge society and youth unemployment, took into account the plight of universities and began to act upon it.

In this context, firstly, they have seen the possibility of introducing reforms in institutions traditionally protective of their autonomy and unlikely to change and, secondly, the urgent need to reformulate strategies to address these challenges. Moreover, governments are convinced that in this framework, they will be able to reduce its financial commitment and gain a greater ability to control and propose objectives. However, institutional changes, especially those referring to education, are often very complex and not viable, if their principal actors do not participated. Without them, the objectives of reforms remain at a purely nominal and superficial level.

Governments have taken an essential step, but it is still insufficient, for example, promoting legislative changes that will enable mobility and operation of quality evaluating agencies; but this is only the beginning. Without human and material resources, and without a change in society, higher education institutions will hardly change and affront, with a guarantee of success, the ambitious challenges knowledge society poses. European governments and companies have to engage seriously with their universities, if they truly want to contribute effectively to solving problems, as those that exist now and await in the immediate future.



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Translator: Eleonora Lozano Bachioqui

1Countries that have signed the commitments in the Bologna Declaration have been gradually increasing. The Bologna Declaration (1999) was signed by 29 European Ministers and the Bergen (European Higher Education Area, 2005) for 45 countries. Therefore, the number of countries comprising the European Higher Education Area exceeds the number of countries in the European Union.

2In 1971, the first meeting of Education Ministers declaring the need to develop a Community policy on education cooperation, was held.

3Section 126 of the Treaty of Union (now Article 149), signed in Maastricht, states:
The Community shall contribute to the development of quality education by encouraging cooperation between Member States and, if necessary, by supporting and supplementing their action, while fully respecting the responsibility of the Member States for the content of teaching and the organisation of education systems and their cultural and linguistic diversity. (Etxeberría, 2000, p. 39).

4According to the renowned psychologist Torsten Husén, who played a major role in social policy relating to comprehensive education, "policy began as an effort to simplify in a world that was moving, however, to complexity " (as cited by Rothblatt y Wittrock, 1996, p. 15).

5See, for example, the report by the Association of European Universities in 2005 and the Bergen Communiqué 2005 (European Higher Education Area, 2005) of the Ministers of Education. While universities reports highlight difficulties society has in order to understand objectives of the process, social aspects and problems of content, the statement of the ministers is much more optimistic (“Achieving goals is the subtitle”) and focuses on the structure in cycles, quality assurance (through agencies), and recognition of diplomas and periods of study, these priority areas, which have made “substantial progress”.

6Given its long history and its adaptation to the circumstances of each place and period, is not easy to define universitoes. In that sense, it is convenient to use the broader category that is higher education. However, concepts of university and higher education do not match. The present university was founded by the Cultural Revolution that cuased the Modern Age and is characterized by Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835). From his perspective, the university is seen as a place of higher learning, science and research, an intellectual freedom. Special characteristics of this new model have been added, such as university commitment to privilege theory over practice, to promote autonomy, including withdrawal from immediate reality, its concern for the quality assumed to be aristocratic or elitist from the social point of view, but especially intellectual identification to search for truth (Husen, 1991). In contrast, the concept of higher education is much broader, because it is used to refer generically to the process or establishments and educational institutions who are after high school or middle, understanding, therefore, not only university but all post-secondary.

7Concerns about the growing problem of unemployment in Europe had already manifested in 1993, White Paper on Growth, Competitiveness and Employment (European Commission, 1993), which stated the need to operate lifelong learning policies regarding higher education.

8See points 5, 6 and 7 of the Resolution of the Council and the Ministers of Education, February 9, 1976, on an Agenda for Action in Education, published in the Official Journal C38, 19.2.1976.

9Leonardo Program is also a community program created in 1994 to support strategies for vocational training, by subsidizing transnational partnership projects to improve the quality, innovation development, and promoting the European dimension in all types of training. Available at the Official Journal No. L340/94. Council Decision 94/819/EC of December 6, 1994.

10In the academic year 2003-2004, the number of Erasmus students who had mobility from the beginning of the program to 18 years of the program, has surpassed one million, 1’226, 146. The increasing number of students who have participated in Erasmus Program since its initiation has been steady and constant. For more information see:

11According to the Association of European Universities (European University Association [EUA], 1999), public budgets for mobility have increased in countries such as Austria, French-speaking Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal , Spain, Sweden and the UK.

12For example, Scotland has had credit transfer system since beginning of the 1990s. Also, many institutions had an internal system of credit, own or shared with other institutions

13See reports of the European Association of Universities through successive conferences: Trends in Learning Structures in Higher Education (USA, 1999), Towards the European Higher Education Area. Survey of main Reforms from Bologna to Prague (Haug and Tauch, 2001) Progress towards the European Higher Education Area (Reichert and Tauch, 2003a) and European Universities Implementing Bologna (Reichert and Tauch, 2003b).

14See article published in the newspaper El Pais, by Giddens (2006) which proposes a model of university funding by students.

15See research by Béduwé and Planas (2003), showing data on the evolution of funding in five European Union countries: Germany, UK, Spain, France and Italy, and the role played by both the State and families.

16For more information, visit:

17For more information, visit:

18For more information, visit:

19For more information, visit:

Please cite the source as:

González Faraco, J. C., Luzón, A., & Torres, M. (2009). Risks and Challenges in the Construction of the European Higher Education Area. Revista Electrónica de Investigación Educativa, 11(1) Retrieved month day, year, from: