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The European Higher Education Area in 2020

Bologna Process Implementation Report
Publications Office of the European Union
The history of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), which this report aims to capture - at least in part - is one of extraordinary change. Following the signature of the Bologna Declaration in 1999, a first decade of preparation for the EHEA saw dramatic changes in higher education degree systems, quality assurance and internationalisation. These changes set higher education systems on a path in the same direction, but were contested and even resisted in many parts of Europe. This decade was followed by a period that focused on implementation processes that continues to the present. Despite the complexity of a process involving 48 countries, there have been many positive outcomes as the EHEA has transformed into a real rather than an imagined phenomenon. Its evolution in the future depends on the work that is undertaken now. Some basic facts are worth noting. Countries have continued to join the EHEA throughout the two decades, and student numbers have grown significantly in the vast majority of countries. Today, total student numbers have reached more than 38 million. Of these, the majority of students (56.4 %) are enrolled in first-cycle, bachelor-type study programmes that were viewed sceptically by many at the start of the Bologna Process. Although there are considerable variations between countries, overall public spending on tertiary education relative to GDP has a median value of 0.95 %. In most countries, this figure has either been stable or has decreased during the two decades. Thus, the increase in student demand has not been matched by expenditure on higher education.
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