Dean Forbes


Organised by the Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST)

University House, The Australian National University

Canberra, 7 September 2006

Professor Dean Forbes

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International)

Flinders University

Session D was on International Dimensions of Bologna.  It was one of four panel discussions.   The others were on degree structures and credit transfer; the diploma supplement; and implications for professions.

As Chair of Session D on International Dimensions it is my duty to sum up the views expressed by the panelists and the audience in the session.  This is not my private Bologna.

The three panelists who spoke were:

Professor Tony Adams.  Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) at Macquarie University.

Ms Susan Bennett.  Manager, International Cooperation Branch, DEST.

Ms Lynne Hunter.  Advisor, Delegation of the European Commission (in Canberra)

I start with Tony Adam’s comment: ‘we welcome Europe’s alignment with us’.

My report will be under three headings: challenges, opportunities and comparabilities.


Bologna poses challenges to Australian universities.  We are, after all, competitors for the best undergraduate and postgraduate students from around the world.

At the present time, Europe’s educational export market is a little like Australia’s in the 1980s.  But we cannot be complacent.  It will pose real challenges in future years.

Europe is moving fast, because it is learning from the experience of others, and from Australia in terms of the international marketing of education.

Moreover, regions such as Latin America may follow the Bologna path.

The Bologna process will enhance the competitiveness of European universities by making processes more uniform, more transparent, and easier to market internationally.


Glyn Davis commented that Bologna is a metaphor for globalization.

There are opportunities for Australia in the Bologna process, as there are in globalization.

We may be able to increase the number of students coming from Europe, for example through the flexibility offered by Australian Masters degrees.  It was noted, however, there is some concern in European universities about Bologna because in the past universities were able to retain students for their full five year programs, and now may lose them after three years, and will respond to this problem.

Bologna will make a contribution to increasing the mobility of Australian students, though we still must deal with the other barriers affecting our students.

Australia can learn from European universities experience of managing the Bologna reforms, and build this into the actions intended to follow the Brisbane Communique. Indeed, it may help us to define a leadership role for Australia in bringing closer together the higher education systems in the Asia-Pacific.

And it provides a framework for working more closely with Europe on a parallel agenda.  Like a number of my DVC and international office colleagues in the room, I am in transit to Basel for the annual meeting of the European Association for International Education.  It would be to Australia’s benefit to have moved further along the path of implementing Bologna reforms within Australia and in the Asia-Pacific.


Comparabilties, not compatibilities; the latter term has become increasingly unfashionable in the course of the day.

Australia is a signatory to the UNESCO agreement to introduce a Diploma Supplement.  We need to move more quickly on implementing this initiative.

The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) has been an important factor in the success of the Erasmus mobility programs.  We need to make use of the ECTS, through its Australian variant, the University Credit Transfer System (UCTS), in our programs.

Australia’s four year honours degree already makes it difficult to compete with UK universities.  It will become harder in the future.

We need to make sure that in the Bologna environment Australian research higher degrees continue to be highly regarded, as the competition for the best new research students grows in intensity.

Finally, we must recognize the importance of student and staff participation in the achievements of the Bologna process.

Speaking from the viewpoint of those engaged in international education, we would welcome an acceleration of our adoption of  those aspects of the Bologna process that would facilitate our overall international education activities.