Excellence-Driven Policies and Initiatives in the Context of Bologna Process:

Rationale, Design, Implementation and Outcomes

Isak Froumin and Mikhail Lisyutkin


Bologna Process is rightly seen as one of the most significant policy initiatives in the field of higher education. A comprehensive and transformative nature of this large-scale policy has resulted in a growing attention to universities' external accountability, to the organization of the quality and to the efficiency of the resources use (Sadlak 2011). Excellence-driven policies represent a more riffle approach to enhance higher education. The set of the governments' actions aimed at the improvement of national higher education system global competitiveness, most commonly represented by the transformation of existing universities into the so-called world-class universities (Salmi 2009) or establishing new world-class universities has been generally considered as the excellence-driven policy.

Started in a few countries and became a frequent practice when world universities ranking has joined the range of the top issues in higher education policy agenda, the excellence-driven policies became prior considerations in many countries. Consequently, “more and more countries are joining the race of building up world-class universities by establishing special initiatives” (Sadlak and Liu 2009, p. 16). These initiatives changed the focus of higher education policy discourse from the overall quality maintenance to supporting the limited number of universities aimed to achieve world-class status or global excellence (Altbach and Salmi 2011). At the same time, they affected the whole higher education systems by stimulating the competition between universities, by changing the financing patterns and thus promoting the most desirable model of Research University (Mohrman et al. 2008).

Practically, all modern higher education policies mentioned above somehow interact with Bologna process. They influence each other. The interaction between Bologna Process and excellence-driven policies and initiatives is most interesting, but controversial. Indeed, the excellence orientation is striving for the highest level of quality and performance, but does not serve as a common denominator in normative hierarchies of academic quality within the Bologna Process.

The objective of the research[1] represented in the paper is to look at the design and implementation of the excellence-driven policies in different countries in the context of the whole system development, and particularly in the context of the Bologna Process. Such policies could be considered as a sign of the more active role of the state in higher education development by designing and implementing new types of institutions and higher education programs. It can be argued that this is a new stage of the introduction of New Public Management (NPM) in higher education (Bleiklie 1988).

The analysis starts with the rationale of these initiatives in the context of national higher education policies within the theoretical framework that puts the state in the centre of higher education policy. The next section is devoted to the design of such initiatives. Various excellence-driven initiatives, their common and unique features are analyzed to develop general design of excellence-driven policy. The implementation mechanisms and impact of the implementation of these policies is the focus of the next section. In the concluding section, the question of the relationships between Bologna Process and excellence initiatives in the context of the national higher education policies is discussed.

  • [1] J. Salmi's description of different excellence initiatives commissioned by the Russian Ministry of Education and Science used in the analysis. Part of this analysis was published in Russian (Salmi and Froumin 2013). Various national reports and regulatory documents related to the excellence initiatives are also used as a basis for the study. Another important source of the data and ideas was the set of interviews conducted in 2012–2014 with policy makers and senior universities administrators from seven countries
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >