The Eurobachelor: An Update
This brief article updates a feature from the Sep-Oct 2004 CI, p.11, which discussed implementation of the Bologna process.
In 1999, in Bologna, Italy, 29 European ministers of (higher) education signed the historic Bologna Declaration. Their goal was to put into place by 2010 an open “European Higher Education Area” in which university degrees will be transparent and comparable. Since 1999, the ministers have had several further meetings: The model now consists of three cycles, to be called in many countries Bachelor, Master, and doctoral cycles. The first cycle should last three to four years, the second between one and two. The doctoral cycle will involve three to four years of full-time study. Forty-five countries are now involved, including Russia, so that the emerging European Higher Education Area stretches from the west coast of Ireland all the way to Vladivostok, and from Crete to the Arctic Sea!
Because of these changes, 20 out of 25 OECD countries will soon be offering three-year Bachelor degrees; the U.S. four-year degree is starting to look like the “odd man out,” particularly since most of Europe is going for three years, at least in chemistry, joining many British Commonwealth countries like India, Singapore, and Australia.
These new degrees have a credit structure based on the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS), under which graduates will receive a “super-transcript” called the Diploma Supplement. Thus, Bachelor qualifications will carry between 180 and 240 ECTS credits, and Master courses mostly between 90 and 120.
A large-scale university-run project called Tuning Educational Structures in Europe is trying to define the necessary tools for implementation of the “Bologna Process.” Within the scope of this project, the European Chemistry Thematic Network (ECTN) has devised a framework for a 180-credit (three-year) Bachelor program in chemistry, which we call the “Chemistry EUROBACHELOR.” ECTN is closely linked with the European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences [EuCheMS], a group representing over 150 universities and (presently) 12 national chemical societies. In 2004, ECTN took a bold step into accreditation, and, with the support of the SOCRATES program of the European Union, offered interested institutions the possibility of applying for the “Chemistry EUROBACHELOR Label,” to be granted initially for five years.
The initial pilot project, which ran until Summer 2006, was extremely successful. Thirty programs were awarded the Label; they came from 20 institutions in 11 countries. And which university got the most Labels? Bologna!
The next step was to develop an accreditation program for Master level programs that would offer a “Euromaster Label.” Again, ECTN is being supported in this effort by the EU Commission.
The EUROBACHELOR Label has been “licensed” by three powerful partners: in Germany, the accreditation agency ASIIN <www.asiin.de>, in the UK and Ireland, the Royal Society of Chemistry <www.rsc.org>, and in Italy, the Società Chimica Italiana <www.soc.chim.it>. In the future, these partners will be able to award the Euromaster Label.
To clarify its objectives, ECTN Association has given itself a mission statement:
Our mission is to ensure that the Eurobachelor and Euromaster Labels awarded by ECTNA and its partners set the standards for chemistry higher education in Europe and ensure that Bachelor and Master degrees offered by European higher education institutions are comparable and easily readable as far as skills, competences, and learning outcomes are concerned.
Thus, our goal, and that of our partners, is to facilitate mobility and employability by certifying that institutions do indeed offer comparable degree programs, thus making it easier for graduates to move “without let or hindrance” within Europe. But not only within Europe: We hope that the “Chemistry EUROBACHELOR Label” will in time be accepted worldwide as a visible symbol of the high standard of European university chemistry education.
Terry Mitchell <firstname.lastname@example.org> is a professor in the Chemistry Department of the University of Dortmund in Germany. He has been involved with the European Chemistry Thematic Network since 1997. He is currently the German National Representative on the IUPAC Committee on Chemistry Education.