A Portuguese perspective of the Bologna Process: Dialoguing past, present and future

A Portuguese perspective of the Bologna Process: Dialoguing past, present and future
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  Baptista, A. , Bessa, J., & Tavares, J. ( 2008 ). A Portuguese perspective of the BolognaProcess: Dialoguing past, present and future. In: Proceedings of the ICERI 2008 Conference(International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation) . Madrid: Spain. ICERI2008 Proceedings ISBN: 978-84-612-5091-2. ICERI 2008 Abstracts CD ISBN: 978-84-612-5367-8. A PORTUGUESE PERSPECTIVE OF THE BOLOGNA PROCESS:DIALOGUING PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE Ana Vitória Baptista, José Bessa & José Tavares Department of Educational Sciences, University of AveiroAveiro, Portugal ana.vitoria@ua.pt; jabessa@gmail.com; jtav@ua.pt    Abstract Nowadays, we are assisting to several changes in various spheres of our lives and being requested togive continuous and suitable answers to multiple questions, demands and challenges. Globalisationand its consequences are only one face of the coin. This knowledge society can not just beunderstood or reduced to the knowledge economy. The «supercomplexity» [1] that defines this«unknown world» [2] needs to be a stimulus to enhance an «understanding society» or a «wisesociety» [3]. Consequently, this world of change requires from all of us an appropriate contribution andan active involvement in any role that we have to play. Only then we can improve not only ourpersonal but also worldwide future that is being permanently (re)constructed, as well as strength ouruniversal citizenship. Consciously, we know the importance that educational institutions have in thedevelopment and enhancement of global society, economy and worldwide labour market, which arepermanently changing. Therefore, all citizens ought to prepare themselves with proper tools to facethe constant «life-world becoming» [4]. And, in fact, Higher Education (HE) institutions have an«unique role», contributing «to the renewal and further development of the whole» educationalsystem. Moreover, they are facing a complex, competitive, and many times problematic reality and thisneeds innovative readjustments and answers. And, today the demands are increasingly high andurgent. It was within this emergent reality that the Bologna Declaration was signed in 1999 by 29countries. Even though it is understood mainly as a political answer to the newest and worldwidechallenges, it fosters a paradigm shift in many fields of Higher and Lifelong Education: teaching,learning, knowledge, research, curriculum, students, teachers, academia, structures, formativepathways, relationships between stakeholders… So, major changes in HE institutions are beingintroduced and developed, and Bologna reforms are still in progress in many European countries.Portugal is not an exception, and this continues to be a very delicate subject, due to the emergence ofseveral and different points of view among academics and politicians. Actually, in our country, we canfind many diverse discourses about the Bologna Process and its demands. Even today, this is apolemic subject to which is given a great importance. With this paper, we purpose a more theoreticalapproach to the Bologna Process, analysing Portuguese Bologna discourses through some dialoguingperspectives: (i) the political voice of the Ministry of Higher Education and of the group “BolognaExperts”; (ii) the voice of some relevant Portuguese associations and some academics; and morespecifically and important (iii) the voices at the University of Aveiro (UA). To conclude, we will point outthe “evolution” of all these voices through these last years, questioning the future of Bologna ideas,discourses and practices in Portugal. Keywords Higher Education, Bologna Process, Portuguese Context, University of Aveiro 1. INTRODUCTION  «A Europe of Knowledge is now widely recognised as an irreplaceable factor for social and humangrowth and as an indispensable component to consolidate and enrich the European citizenship,capable of giving its citizens the necessary competences to face the challenges of the newmillennium, together with an awareness of shared values and belonging to a common social andcultural space.» [5]We begin with this quotation in order to underline the great importance and role that HE institutionsare expected to play. And, even though we can be very simplistic, we find two opposite perspectives inour country. On the one hand, so that the Europe of Knowledge is achieved, the Bologna Process isviewed from many as a great opportunity that must be followed. From another point of view, certainPortuguese academics regard Bologna almost as a fatality, devoted only to economic goals (“a hiddenagenda”, the economisation of HE), viewed as a chance to transform the diversity in a poorhomogenisation of HE institutions and of the countries.However, if we systematise the key-words which can define the Bologna Process, we can concludethat they are greater challenges of today’s “supercomplex” and “globalised” world, and of today’slearning and knowledge society: convergence; comparability; cooperation; quality; accreditation;mobility; employability; innovation; autonomy; evaluation; transparency; creativeness; alignment;flexibility; alignment; development; attractiveness; competitiveness; social inclusion and cohesion;Lifelong Learning; excellence; equal opportunities. When facing these challenges, we consider thatBologna is, indeed, an opportunity to change, to modernise and to try to give proper answers to oldproblems and questions (even though others may appear).In this analysis, we do not have the pretension of proceeding to a meta-analysis of all the Portuguesediscourses concerning the Bologna Process in an European context or even in our country. In fact, it isalmost impossible in this paper to review everything that was written and is still being written about theBologna Process, the reforms that are being developed at HE institutions and stimulated by thePortuguese Government. Therefore, our purpose is to make (i) a theoretical approach, (ii) a reflectionabout certain issues concerning the Portuguese perspective of the Bologna Process (and we will facecertain recurrent ideas), and (iii) a balance regarding what is being said about the Bologna Processand Portuguese reforms. Nevertheless, we want to underline that the voices that we will review in thispaper are only from those who consider Bologna as an opportunity, in a positive way to look to somany changes. In fact, due to the broader challenges asked to HE institutions, we consider that it isnot the space and time to continue to question if Bologna is the right path to follow. This Process andreforms are on the move and, consequently, this opportunity must be potentiated. 2. A POLYPHONY OF PERSPECTIVES: A BRIEF REVIEW In order to review the Portuguese time-line, Past-Present-Future, related to the Bologna Process, wewill be examining several voices. We are going to put the tonic in the Present and the Future.However, to remember the Past, we evoke the history of the Bologna Declaration, very shortly. In fact,when speaking about the Bologna Process, we can not forget to mention the Magna ChartaUniversitatum of 1988 and the Sorbonne Declaration of 1998, because their guidelines and principlespredict many aspects that we will find in the Bologna Declaration of 1999 and in the following reportsof the biennual Bologna Reunions.Firstly, in 1988, the meeting in Bologna emphasised the necessity of co-operation between Europeancountries, to answer to the «increasingly international society» [6]. Also, to reinforce this aspect, it isremembered the various missions of the University: cultural, scientific and technical, social,investigative, economical, developmental, and educational. Therefore, we can say that the principlesdescribed in that moment are still extremely up-to-date. And we can systematise them: the autonomyof the University; the inseparability of teaching and research; the co-operation between EuropeanUniversities concerning «exchange of information and documentation», mobility of teachers andstudents, «equivalent status, titles, examinations» and degrees.One year before the signature of the Bologna Declaration, the Sorbonne Declaration (in 1998) seemsto precede its main goals, underlying certain topics that we also found in Magna Charta Universitatum,namely: the need of removing certain barriers between HE institutions that would encourage themobility of teachers, researchers and students, and would create common frameworks of cycles and  degrees, and the use of credits (ECTS – European Credit Transfer System); the need of mobilisinglanguages fluently and of using new information technologies; the need of promoting «education andtraining throughout life» [7], in a logic of lifelong learning. «An open European area for higherlearning» has already being settled. Truly, «most countries, not only within Europe, have become fullyconscious of the need to foster such evolution». As a consequence, in 1999 we would be face to facewith a new design of HE. And our purpose in this paper is to review what some Portuguese voices sayabout this new design and opportunity. 2.1 The voice of the Ministry of Higher Education and the group “BolognaExperts” It is a fact that the Bologna Process is having different impacts, and of several kinds, in the countriesthat joined this European educational movement. Consequently, we observe that the phase ofimplementing the reforms is still being conducted and consolidated in the different countries. Portugalis not an exception. Law-Decrees have already been emanated by the Portuguese government,covering several legislative aspects which needed to be regulated, so that the Bologna reforms areimplemented. However, some specifications and clarifications should be made in the criteria of theevaluation system of HE teachers and researchers. But nowadays, we consider that one of the mostimportant aspects is the changes that have to happen, everyday, in the academic live of teachers andstudents: the pedagogical change acquires a huge importance for us!According to the voice of the Ministry of Higher Education, as we could expect, we can observe anattitude of optimism concerning the Bologna Process, the changes it impelles for, and the positionasked of HE institutions - even though, sometimes, inside of HE institutions, there are not consensualperspectives.Regarding the position of the Minister of HE, Mariano Gago - in a Seminar that we will referafterwards, “The Bologna Process in Portugal”, on the 27 th of June - underlined the following aspectsto be developed in the future:  Widening the social base of HE: the employability of graduates; social, time and spacemobility open to all;  Increasing the number and diversity of courses: time mobility; intersection of diverse coursesand formative paths;  Improving excellence in HE institutions: facing competitiveness at a global scale;  Creating and enhancing fruitful relationships between European HE institutions;  Intensifying the relation and cooperation between the labour market, external stakeholder, civilsociety and HE institutions;  Creating and developing a culture of curricular development, and quality assurance andevaluation.Even though there are many things that must be done, a first step is taken towards the Europeanconvergence: an important topic mentioned by some academics.Concerning the national group of “Bologna Experts” ( Grupo Nacional de Peritos de Bolonha  ) [8], theMinistry of HE ensures technical, logistical and administrative support so that they can achieve theirmain purposes. This group is composed by 7 academics appointed by the Minister of HE, and werealso approved by the European Commission. These Bologna Experts have the following mainobjectives:  To contribute and improve quality, and efficiency of HE institutions in convergence withEuropean objectives, where the Bologna Process and reforms are at the centre of thediscussion;   To know the state of the development of the Bologna Process and the implementation of itsreforms in HE institutions and communicate the progress to those institutions;  To identify the best European practices concerning the curricula and degree design (whichshould be very well aligned: objectives – activities – learning outcomes – competences –evaluation [9], as well as the recognition and convergence of degrees and courses.Even though this is a short description, we observe that there is a great concern about the Portuguesecontext and its convergence with European policies and progresses in other HE institutions. Actually,Feyo [10-11], the national delegate of the Bologna Follow-up Group (BFUG) and the coordinator of thegroup Bologna Experts during 2008, sees Bologna as an opportunity that can not be lost: it is essentialthe reform of the Portuguese HE system, so that larger demands of Europe (and also of the world),and the European convergence are achieved and enhanced. This accomplishment will help toreinforce and to establish the Europe of Knowledge, where Europe demonstrates an importantcapacity of assuring a compatible, coherent, cohesive, competitive and attractive position, ofenhancing an educational space of cooperation, mobility and employability, and of being an area ofreference within the educational systems all around the world. In fact, the Bologna Process, and itseducational dimension, is a part of a more global European development plan, where political,economic, social, cultural, scientific and technological dimensions are also decisive.Therefore, among other challenges of the future, and also following some ideas of that author, we canmention:  Lifelong learning: to create and improve formative opportunities to “old” and “new” publics, aswell as suitable mechanisms to articulate HE institutions, the labour market, and thecommunity;  Mobility: to enhance the mobility of students, researchers and teachers; to create diversepartnerships;  Accreditation system: to stimulate lifelong learning strategies and also mobility; to promoteflexible learning paths and the value of prior learning and acquired competences in differentplaces and times;  Employability: to improve employability, discussions with external stakeholders and morearticulation between companies and HE institutions; to create more labour opportunities;  Competitiveness: to respond actively and creatively to European and, in particular, to globalcompetitiveness; to evolve the management of HE institutions as well as the ways offinancing; to strengthen research activities;  Academic paradigm: to stimulate and reinforce the changes in the academic paradigm, wherethe definition of learning outcomes are essential, the proper use of ECTS must be improved,the “new” roles of students and teachers can be stimulated; to adapt new teaching andlearning methodologies to answer new expectations, new technologies, new and more diversepublics, new dynamics and challenges of today’s world;  Quality assurance: to design a system that must be coherent, reliable, transparent, articulatedand legible, so that it can be trustworthy in the eyes of our country, of Europe and of the world;  Excellence: to promote excellence, in teaching, learning and research.In order to be able to answer to these challenges, the previous author underlines an importantcharacteristic that we all must have in this process: Confidence – Confidence in the Bologna Processand all the changes and reforms it asks, where European converge, reinforcement and strength are atthe heart of them. Feyo refers that the Bologna Process is the perception of the Present and thepreparation for the Future, but it does not consider it as a denial of the Past or a magic solution tosome mistakes of the “ancient times”: it is an opportunity to develop our country and Europe,constructing a convergent and cohesive path.  And, in order to achieve the above mentioned objectives, and to be able to answer to the challengesof the Future, the group of Bologna Experts organised several Seminars during 2008 directed to HEmembers (teachers, researchers, staff, students). Even the locations where these Seminars tookplace are important to be remembered. In fact, not only these events covered HE institutions from thenorth to the south of Portugal, but also different kinds of HE institutions (Universities andPolytechnics). Actually, this was an opportunity not only to discuss diverse themes, but above all toexchange experiences and points of view, with the help of important invited Portuguese and Europeanacademics who stimulated the debate. Also, we believe that this set of events contributed to divulge tothe Portuguese society important conclusions about the Bologna Process, where the voice ofPortuguese and European Experts were critically heard. Additionally, this added an importantreflection about certain subjects that are still at the core of many discussions and even disagreements.Therefore, we will review many subjects that were developed. The first Seminar happened on the 4 th of April in the Polytechnic of Leiria, and was devoted to the newsystem of cycles and academic degrees. Among other aspects, the topics for discussion included:  The national qualifications framework and its alignment with Europe;  The transparency and quality of academic profiles;  The competences designed to the 1 st and 2 nd cycles;  The curricula design: the proper definition of learning outcomes, aligned with competences,contents, objectives and an appropriate degree structure;  The diversity of short cycles;  The relationship between HE institutions and the labour market: the reflection about practices,and tendencies towards change; the competences needed and asked by the labour market;the definition of reliable indicators to develop future policies;  Mobility.A special attention was given to the role of generic competences: an important factor asked by thelabour market to the new graduates. Nevertheless, specific knowledge and competences are notforgotten: they are fundamental to the integral and holistic development of individuals and companies.Also, it was remembered the importance of a lifewide and lifelong learning, that occur in many placesand times, even though we are more or less conscious about it. Therefore, 1 st , 2 nd and 3 rd cycles haveto respond to the needs of the labour market, and vice-versa: a dialogue between HE institutions andexternal stakeholders is indispensable.The second Seminar took place in the Lusíada University in Oporto, on the 5 th of May, and the centreof discussion was quality assurance. The aspects that stimulated the discussion were:  The integrated system of quality assurance: expectations and objectives;  The internal quality evaluation: criteria and national systems of quality control; procedures tovalidate the self-evaluation process; articulation and evaluation of objectives and results;  The external quality evaluation: principles and global criteria of evaluation; procedures ofevaluation agencies; the role of external partners, stakeholders and employers;  Information and dissemination of good practices of quality assurance systems.Nowadays, quality assurance and evaluation are extremely debated. New demands are being asked,and we believe that there is an awareness about the importance of developing a reliable and coherentsystem of quality assurance and evaluation. Actually, we can not forget that “European co-operation inquality assurance with a view to developing comparable criteria and methodologies” [12] is also at theheart of the implementation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). Also Nazaré, in her
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