Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Bologna Process: Unintended Consequences

By Richard Vedder and Thomas Krause:

Enthusiasts for the Bologna Process like Cliff Adelman allege it will bring about great uniformity and efficiency to European higher education. For example, the three year bachelor's degree will reduce the time needed to demonstrate competency in a field.

A look at real life experiences however makes one wonder. In Germany(the home to one of the authors of this blog, Thomas Krause), previously most students received a first degree (the equivalent of the U.S. bachelor's degree) in about four years. Few went on for a master's degree. Now, well over 80 percent of new bachelor degree holders want to pursue a master's degree. Instead of reducing the length of college attendance, the Bologna Process may have lengthened it. Instead of reducing costs of higher education, it may have increased it.

To be sure, it can be argued that students are learning more now --two degrees instead of one. But is that really true? Has the first degree lost its prestige and acceptance, becoming something like the Associate Degree in the U.S. --a credential that is far less accepted by employers as demonstrating learning?

One of us, Richard Vedder, is in London meeting tomorrow with members of the European Parliament. He intends to get their take on the Bologna Process. But as we see it now, its value as a reform move may be less than is claimed by its proponents.