An initiative launched in 1999 by governments of 29 European Union member countries to create a European Higher Education Area. This involves the development of a common structure of higher education, and agreement on equivalence or credit levels of qualifications in order to enable students to transfer their studies and their qualifications between member countries, and to facilitate the mobility of staff. It also requires the recognition of a common structure of higher education study which involves both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The development of the credit transfer system necessary to facilitate student mobility and progression between member countries is an integral part of the Bologna Process, and is known as the European Credit Transfer System(ECTS). The Process, named after the city where the original meeting of government representatives took place to set the initiative in motion, operates outside the decision‐making framework of the EU. All decisions taken require the consent of all participating countries, of which there are now over 40. As well as working towards a common higher education framework, the Process also has the declared aims of improving the quality of higher education across Europe in order to enhance the economy by raising the qualification level of the workforce, and of enhancing the reputation of European higher education and qualifications throughout the world. These economic aims make the Bologna Process a significant factor in the EU's Lisbon Strategy. The Process also places an emphasis on ‘lifelong learning’ in the sense of developing provision which will enable the necessary updating of the workforce at every level in order to keep abreast of rapid developments in technology. Since the initial meeting in 1999, ministers representing the member governments have met every two years in a major European city. In 2007 the meeting was hosted by the UK government in London.
The Process is promoted in UK higher education institutions (HEIs) by a national team of fourteen Bologna Promoters, funded by the European Commission. The Promoters' role is to advise HEIs on the implementation of the ECTS and on the implementation of student and teacher mobility between member states. They also provide HEIs with current information about the progress of the Bologna Process. Under the terms of the Process, HEIs are encouraged to develop courses whose content reflects a European perspective, and to engage in partnership activities with HEIs from other member states, including, for example, collaboration in creating joint provision of degrees by institutions in two different member states. See also Bruges–Copenhagen Process.