Bologna Accord

An overview of the main elements

The Bologna Accord aims to facilitate mobility by providing common tools (such as a the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System – ECTS and the Diploma Supplement) to ensure that periods of study abroad are recognised. These tools are used to promote transparency in the emerging European Higher Education arena by allowing degree programmes and qualifications awarded in one country to be understood in another.

An overarching structure (incorporating these elements) is being implemented through the development of national and European qualifications frameworks, which aim to provide a clearly defined system which is easy for students, institutions and employers to comprehend.

Three Degree Cycle

Two basic degrees, bachelors and sasters, have now been adopted by every participating country; sometimes in parallel to existing degrees during a transition period, sometimes replacing them completely. European universities are currently in the implementation phase, and an increasing number of graduates have now been awarded these new degrees. Typically, a bachelors degree requires 180-240 ECTS credits and a masters programme between 90-120 ECTS credits depending on the discipline. This promotes a flexible approach in defining the length of both bachelors and masters programmes.

Many participating countries have made substantial changes to their systems in response to the Bologna Accord. Introducing the new degrees has required a tremendous effort in reviewing curricula and expectations of students. Already, over half of European universities have reviewed their curricula entirely, using the Bologna reforms to implement a more student-focused approach and new quality procedures. 

The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS)

The ECTS is basically a standard for comparing the study achievement and performance of students in higher education across the EU and other collaborating European countries.

An important tool used for credit transfer and accumulation, ECTS now plays an important part in curriculum design and in validating a range of learning achievements (academic or not). Under this system, credits reflect the total workload required to achieve the objectives of a programme - objectives which are specified in terms of the learning outcomes and competences to be acquired - and not just through lecture hours. It makes study programmes easy to read and compare for all students, local and foreign, and therefore facilitates mobility and academic recognition.

The Diploma Supplement

Compulsory for every graduate (since 2005), the Diploma Supplement is a tool which is attached to a higher education diploma and describes the degree’s qualification in an easily understandable way. It is designed to provide a standardised description of the nature, level, context, content and status of the studies that were successfully completed by the graduate. It is not a résumé or a substitute for the original credential, but rather a way of providing detailed information about any academic or professional qualification.

Joint Degrees

Joint degrees (degree programmes involving and periods of study at multiple institutions) provide innovative examples of inter-university cooperation, and can be seen as pillars of future European higher education development. Interest in joint programmes is increasing in Europe and project work (undertaken by the European Union and other stakeholders) has sought to provide information, build upon successful practice, and to focus attention on the main challenges faced by joint programmes, such as quality assurance. In recent years, many countries have adopted legislation to enable joint degrees to be awarded, and at European level, an amendment to the Lisbon Recognition Convention (see above section on Recognition) was adopted in 2005 to facilitate the recognition of joint degree qualifications.

See the participating countries

Summary: What does the Bologna Accord mean to you?

- Simplified educational mobility from one country to another
- The Accord will attract more non-European candidates to take advantage of the flexibility of the system
- This will increase the span of educational quality, augment knowledge bases, and bring in higher levels of development
- Helps promote standardisation of the degrees you take in any country
- This standardisation will help in making your application process easier for masters programmes
- You will be able to access approximately 12,000 graduate courses througout the participating universities (source: GMAC)
- Schools will be more competitive, thus offering better benefits, services and higher quality to students.

Three Degree Cycle, The European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS), The Diploma Supplement, Quality Assurance, Recognition, Joint Degrees

Action lines to establish a European Higher Education Area by 2010

1. Adoption of a system of easily readable and comparable degrees
2. Adoption of a system essentially based on two cycles
3. Establishment of a system of credits
4. Promotion of mobility


Over 6,500 higher education institutions and 31 million students involved
More than 50% of students already studying in a Bologna Process reform programme.

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