Conference Details

The joint contributions of policy makers, experts and researchers are expected to make positive inroads for the policy agenda of EHEA and would constitute a valuable contribution into the 2020 Ministerial Conference in Rome. Experts and policy makers are invited to explore the convergence and interaction of specific issues within research papers presented during the conference.
Upon selection by the Editorial Board based on the abstracts presented, the submitted papers will become part of a two-volume of proceedings, edited by an international publisher. All the papers should fit under one (or more) of the five sub-themes suggested by the organizers. Each of them is allocated to members of the Editorial Board as thematic coordinators and is briefly described in the following paragraphs.

The academic papers that will be presented during the conference will tackle one of the five sub-themes of the event:

1. Furthering the internationalization of higher education: particular challenges in the EHEA

2. Access and success for every learner in higher education

3. Advancing learning and teaching in the EHEA: innovation, links with research, and cooperation with the ERA

4. The future of EHEA – principles, challenges and ways forward

5. Bologna Process in the global higher education arena. Going digital?

1. Furthering the internationalization of higher education: particular challenges in the EHEA

While initially internationalization focused mostly on the mobility of students, it has gradually become an important component of educational policies, both at national and institutional level. Many countries have already put into place national strategies for the internationalization of higher education, with institutions following a similar trend.

Furthermore, internationalization efforts were boosted by the newly launched Erasmus+ Programme. The substantial increase in funding translates in better support for institutions and countries, to contribute to achieving the objectives and benchmarks referenced in the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (“Make lifelong learning and mobility a reality”) and the Europe 2020 Strategy (“To integrate and enhance the EU’s mobility, university and researchers’ programmes […] and link them up with national programmes and resources”).

There is also increasing interest in internationalization at home, targeting the improvement of teaching practices, including by growing the digitization level of academic activities and by promoting student-centred learning practices that are adaptive to a more diverse student population.

The internationalization of higher education is now widely considered to be beneficial in sustaining and growing science and scholarship through dynamic academic exchanges. Internationalization has also aided the building of social and economic capacity in numerous countries, by enabling the participation of universities in consortia that provides access to European and international funding. The recently launched European Universities initiative is a bold first step towards greater cooperation between institutions in different member states.

Giving the rising importance of this topic in the EHEA and beyond, the interested researchers should submit their contributions on good practices, innovative approaches to or new theoretical insights on internationalization of higher education, either for the institutional level or for national level, in the context of the latest European developments.

2. Access and success for every learner in higher education

The Paris Ministerial Communiqué highlights, once again, “that further effort is required to strengthen the social dimension of higher education. In order to meet our commitment that the student body entering and graduating from European higher education institutions should reflect the diversity of Europe’s populations, we will improve access and completion by under-represented and vulnerable groups.”

Additionally, the United Nations, though their Sustainable Development Goals focusing on education, emphasizes the need for “access to inclusive education”, setting targets for equal access and elimination of gender disparities at all levels, including higher education, by 2030.

Although it recognizes the efforts made so far at European Higher Education Area, the European Students’ Union (ESU) 2018 “Bologna with Student Eyes” notes the topic is not high enough on the agenda and more needs to be done, both at national and institutional level. The distribution across EHEA in terms of social dimension prioritization varies greatly, with only some countries having already put in place national strategies or related quantifiable targets. Financial support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds still mainly consists in grants and scholarships in different combinations, although the ESU report highlights differences between countries and levels of funding. The existing mechanisms in place are deemed as still insufficient to provide adequate assistance for access into higher education and completion of studies for this category of students. The 2017 European Commission “Study on the impact of admission systems on higher education outcomes” recommends that higher education institutions “be given incentives to enroll, support and graduate students from such backgrounds”.

The recent developments at international level have brought to light a new category requiring special attention – migrant students. With immigration on the rise, more targeted measure should be put in place to ensure equal access into higher education to those without formal qualifications. First steps in this direction have already been taken with the Council of Europe’s European Qualifications Passport for Refugees initiative, but a more integrated approach should be considered in the future.

The research papers under this section could, therefore, focus on: national strategies, plans and targets in the field of social dimension; access, participation and success of under-represented groups in higher education; widening overall access to higher education and increasing graduation rates; targeted measures and initiatives to address the integration of migrant students in the overall student population.

3. Advancing learning and teaching in the EHEA: innovation, links with research, and cooperation with the ERA

The importance of teaching and learning is highlighted all throughout the Paris Ministerial Communiqué, the ministers noting that “Now it is time to add cooperation in innovative learning and teaching practices as another hallmark of the EHEA. We therefore commit to developing new and inclusive approaches for continuous enhancement of learning and teaching across the EHEA, and can succeed only if we do so in close collaboration with the European higher education community, in full respect of academic freedom and institutional autonomy.”

Much has happened in terms of teaching and learning at both national and especially institutional level. According to the EUA “Trends 2018: Learning and teaching in the European Higher Education Area”, European HEIs have been paying increasing attention to either developing standalone institutional strategies for teaching and learning or including this topic within their strategies and operational plans. The aim is to implement tools and measures leading to innovative teaching, pedagogical training / continuous professional development of higher education teachers, to benefit students, staff and the overall institutions.

Furthermore, the need for research activities at all three cycles, to improve innovation and critical thinking of students, is emphasized in the 2018 Communiqué. Strengthening connections between EHEA and European Research Area (ERA) is a goal long embedded in the Bologna Process. While important steps have been taken at doctoral level, with EURAXESS or Horizon 2020 MSCA/IF initiatives, plenty remains to be done for the first two cycles.

In this sections, authors are encouraged to write papers sharing their view upon: innovative learning and teaching practices; strategies for learning and teaching; better synergies between education, research and innovation; academic career progression; initiatives for pedagogical training, continuous professional development of higher education teachers; ways for better recognition of high quality and innovative teaching in their career; universities reputation mechanisms.

4. The future of EHEA – principles, challenges and ways forward

Nowadays, humankind is subjected unprecedented disruptions in all areas and society must be prepared to adequately respond to these new challenges. With education playing a key role in shaping society and its citizens, a particular attention should be paid to transformations in the role and values conveyed by higher education institutions/ The Paris Communiqué raises awareness of this topic, noting that “Academic freedom and integrity, institutional autonomy, participation of students and staff in higher education governance, and public responsibility for and of higher education form the backbone of the EHEA. Having seen these fundamental values challenged in recent years in some of our countries, we strongly commit to promoting and protecting them in the entire EHEA through intensified political dialogue and cooperation”.

Certain European initiatives monitoring autonomy of higher education already exist, such as EUA’s “University Autonomy in Europe” reports or University Autonomy tool, focusing on organizational, financial, staffing or academic issues in European HEIs. The 2017 report notes the changes in organizational autonomy, influenced by more restrictive legislative frameworks, but also increased participation of external stakeholders. Since education is considered a public good, one must also take into account public responsibility for delivering quality education and well prepared graduates, equipped with critical thinking and strong values.

As such, the authors in this section are encouraged to submit papers focusing on academic freedom and institutional autonomy, fundamental values, accountability and transparency, public responsibility, models of governance and the impact of changing public discourse on the future of higher education.


5. Bologna Process in the global higher education arena. Going digital?

With the advancement of EHEA, a series of tools have been either developed or improved in order to provide higher quality for learners. Traditional teaching and learning methods are no longer considered sufficient to prepare students for an ever evolving society. Digital advancements directly impact the labor market, which in turn requires a proactive approach from the educational environment, using innovative tools in terms of content delivery, mobility, flexible pathways, recognition of studies or quality assurance.

This idea is embedded in the Paris Ministerial Communiqué, which clearly states that “Digitalization plays a role in all areas of society and we recognize its potential to transform how higher education is delivered and how people learn at different stages of their lives. We call on our higher education institutions to prepare their students and support their teachers to act creatively in a digitalized environment.”

The recently published ““Bologna Digital 2020 – White Paper on Digitalization in the European Higher Education Area” builds on the 2018 Communiqué, aiming to underline how digitalization could be taken further at EHEA level, while additionally highlighting some examples of good practices already in place. In terms of blending education with digital initiatives, some EHEA countries have already started to use technologies like blockchain for recognition of qualifications and, with arising challenges such as migration or lifelong learning, these will become increasingly important.

Furthermore, with the expansion of the Bologna Process model across the world, EHEA should take responsibility for setting the stage, striving to be a driver of educational innovation, while also learning and replicating good practice examples worldwide.

The authors in this section are invited to submit papers on comparative research and good practice examples with an emphasis on: digitalization, digital and blended education; fostering digital skills and competences; big data; digital tools to enhance recognition (including blockchain); similar initiatives in other parts of the world (ASEAN, etc.).