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23 March 2007

Recent developments have demonstrated the continual need for vigilance and advocacy at the European level too. To take three examples:

Teacher unity in Europe

After many years of debate, there is now a unified representative trade union structure for teachers across Europe, which combines into a single entity, the Education International Pan-European Structure and the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), which had responsibility for relations with the European Union institutions and the EFTA countries. It has been recognised for at least seven years that these divisions were obsolete, but it has taken a long time and considerable effort to resolve the issues which presented obstacles to full integration.
The proposed by-laws for the new ETUCE were adopted at the Extra-Ordinary Conference/General Assembly on 22 November 2010. The ETUCE is now the European Regional Structure of Education International, in which the Pan-European structure and the former ETUCE are integrated into one organisation. The head of the new structure's secretariat will be the European Director, Martin Rømer, formerly General Secretary of the ETUCE, and the structure itself will keep the name European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE). The region includes 139 teachers' unions in 45 European countries.
UCU's senior national official and European vice president, Paul Bennett, said 'This is timely in the face of the huge challenge presented by the continuing financial crisis and the often ideologically driven government responses to it. Post-school education has been particularly affected by the continued division in the European trade union structures, for example in shaping the trade union response to the Bologna Process. We will now be looking for a more effective trade union voice for post-school education at the European level.'

European Higher Education Area (EHEA) : This link opens in a new window The European Higher Education Area (EHEA)

The European Higher Education Area (EHEA) was launched in March 2010, during the Budapest-Vienna Ministerial Conference which celebrated the first decade of the Bologna Process. The EHEA website, www.ehea.info, provides a link to key activities within the EHEA.


The European trade union movement has fought a fierce and only partially successful campaign to resist the proposed European Union Directive on Trade in Services (including education) - the so-called Bolkestein Directive, which was adopted by the European Parliament and Council in an amended form in December 2006. The aim of the Directive is to open up services across Europe to competition, largely by stripping out the existing regulatory frameworks. Protections have been offered to education services except where they are offered on a commercial basis. The future battleground - in which the teachers' unions' voice needs to be heard - will be in court as corporations seek to demonstrate that a high proportion of public sector education is in fact commercial in character, so they can access the rich pickings they believe are to be had in the sector. Similar battles are expected over the health service.

European Institute of Technology

The little-known saga of the European Institute of Technology (EIT) is an example of the need for vigilance by the post-school education and research unions, in the face half-baked ideas which emerge from the European political system, and which then take on a life of their own. The European Commission is seeking to create an 'EIT' which would enhance Europe's research capacity and draw business influence and resources into a closer relation to academic technological research and innovation. The higher education and research unions have raised serious concerns regarding academic freedom, intellectual property rights and the further erosion of academic governance. They have also pointed out the apparent reluctance of the European business community to put funding into the proposal which will therefore lead to the European commission to creaming off funding from existing and proven projects to fill the gap. In cooperation with the other unions in Europe, UCU will go on challenging this flawed project.   

Bologna Process logo : This link opens in a new window 'Bologna'

The Bologna Process is a major initiative involving 46 European countries, seeking to achieve a coordinated European higher education system, which has made significant progress towards this goal since its inception in 1999. It is an inter-governmental process involving the higher education ministers of the countries concerned but the European Rectors' and Students organisations, the EUA and ESIB, have been consultative members from the outset.

After intense lobbying for a number of years, the Pan-European Structure of EI was admitted as a consultative member in 2005. UCU's Paul Bennett was one of the two EI representatives on the Bologna Follow up Group (BFUG) charged with moving the Process forward between ministerial meetings. Among other things EI has worked closely with ESIB (now the European Students' Union, ESU) to promote the key issue of staff and student mobility within the 'Bologna' area. Together, EI, ESIB and UCU co-hosted a major seminar-conference on Making Bologna a reality, on the mobility issue, in London in February 2007.

  UCU report on the inter-minsterial conference, May 2007 [31kb]

At a conference held in March 2010, on the 10th anniversary of the Bologna Process, the higher education ministers published a statement (pdf) on carrying forward the Bologna Process.

Bologna and mobility: It has to be recognised that while in some areas like Quality Assurance, the process has made significant progress, in other areas like social inclusion and the mobility of academic staff and students, there is still a long way to go.

UCU works on a number of policy strands which address the question of staff and student mobility within the global academic community. Among these are academic freedom, tenure, human rights and the threat of brain drain both globally and within Europe. 'Mobility' is a key espoused objective of the Bologna Process and the unions work to make sure it becomes a reality in ways which reinforce collegiality and the quality of academic staff's working lives.

Bologna Process Website

See also the UCU submission to the education and skills select committee inquiry into the Bologna process, Dec 06 [152kb]

Last updated: 25 March 2020