The Bologna Declaration, signed in 1999 by 31 European ministers, calls for the establishment of one higher education area in Europe.

With the Bologna Declaration Europe aims for:

  • increasing international comparability in higher education,
  • increasing mobility of students, teachers and administrative staff,
  • better labour market employability in Europe,
  • more international competition,
  • and greater attractiveness of European higher education worldwide.

What were the consequences of the Bologna Declaration on higher education in Brussels and Flanders?

  • The Bachelor/Master structure was introduced (in analogy with the Anglo-Saxon countries). Since the 2004-2005 academic year a student in Flanders and Brussels no longer studies for undergraduate, candidate or licentiate but for “bachelor” and “master”.
  • The establishment of the Decree concerning the restructuring of higher education (4th April, 1999) (see below).

At the Flemish level, the Bologna Declaration was translated into the decree regarding the restructuring of higher education (hereinafter ‘Education Reform Act 4th April, 2003) (Structuurdecreet van 04_04_2003) (in dutch). Until then Flemish higher education was a three-tier structure: higher education at universities, one-cycle courses at colleges and two-cycle courses at colleges.

This structure was unique compared with other European countries and was at odds with the objectives of the Bologna Declaration. To promote international comparability in higher education the ‘Education Reform Act’ defined a twofold higher education structure with on the one hand professional bachelors (the former one-cycle courses at colleges) and on the other hand academic bachelors and masters (the former two-cycle courses at colleges and university courses). The former two-cycle courses had to be academised which is what led to the creation of associations.