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Social Dimension within the Context of Bologna Process

How did the concept of social dimension emerge?

The emergence of the term “social dimension” is related with the demographical and economical changes varying and differing by social and political culture, students, the number of higher education institutions and the system of education. The variety and difference in question among the member countries has brought about the necessity to define the concept of “social dimension” for which the Bologna Process Social Dimension Working Group is held responsible.

What is the concept of social dimension?

In general terms, the concept of “social dimension” is the process needed to attain the objective of reflecting the diversity of societies through student groups that access, participate in and complete higher education. This process is dependent on countries and societies.

The essential elements of the concept of “social dimension” are listed as follows:

-To have the equal chance to access to higher education
-To strengthen the social, cultural and economic developments of the societies
-To raise the quality and attractiveness of European higher education
-To provide students with convenient working and living conditions
-To provide students with guidance and counseling services for the purpose of increasing access to higher education
-To provide the disadvantageous student groups with support of the government
-To build flexible education methods for the access to higher education and within higher education
-To encourage participation of students in the administration of higher education

When was the concept of “social dimension” brought up within Bologna Process?

The “social dimension” has been part of Bologna Process since the first ministerial follow-up meeting in Prague in 2001. “social dimension” was included in the Prague Communiqué upon suggestion of student representatives. In subsequent communiqués, “social dimension” has been of utmost importance for the success of European Higher Education Area. The concept of “Social Dimension” was used by ESIB for the first time.

What decisions have been taken about social dimension in the London Communiqué?

In order to foster social cohesion, reduce inequalities and raise the level of knowledge, skills and competences; the student body entering, participating in and completing higher education at all levels should reflect the diversity of populations, students should be able to complete their studies without any obstacles related to their social and economic background.

Therefore, efforts to
- provide adequate student services,
- create more flexible learning pathways into and within higher education,
- widen participation at all levels on the basis of equal opportunity shall continue.

When was the social dimension Working Group established and what were the objectives? 

Date: 2005 Ministerial meeting held in Bergen, Norway

Objectives: Ministers responsible for higher education charged the Bologna Follow-Up Group to present comparable data about the economic and social situations of the students from participating countries and mobility of students and academic staff to constitute the basis for a situation assessment of Bologna Process and to present for the next ministerial meeting in London in 2007. Bologna Follow-Up Group established the Bologna Social Dimension Working Group in November 2005.

Terms of Reference:

1. Defining the concept of “social dimension” in accordance with the ministerial communiqués within the scope of Bologna Process.
2. Presenting comparable data about increasing the access of member countries’ students to higher education, their educational, social and economic situations and mobility of staff and students.
3. Putting forward proposals concerning the situation assessments in the future.

Social Dimension Working Group 2005 – 2007

After the researches, data collection and analysis activities done at the close of 2005 – 2007 term, Social Dimension Working Group presented the social dimension proposal, as set out bellow, in the last ministerial conference.

-Access to higher education should be increased in all levels on the basis of equal opportunities.
-Each country should develop its own strategy, including an action plan, for the social dimension.
-Obstacles to education should be defined and overcome.
-Students should be provided with guidance and counseling throughout their education period before higher education.
-Direct or indirect financial support systems, social security systems, migration policies and visas together with work permit should be provided.
-As mentioned in Prag Communiqué, students are centerpieces of higher education community, all stakeholders should be included in the process to achieve success in social dimension and mobility. It should include equality and employment for the graduates.

 What is Eurostudent Project? When did Turkey accede to the project?

The Objectives of Eurostudent Project

The Eurostudent Project collates comparable and reliable data on the socio-economic background and living conditions of students throughout Europe, carries out analyses and comparisons and assists the related institutions of the member countries to determine and / or improve their educational policies.
The project is coordinated by the Higher Education Information System (HIS) Hanover, Germany. Basically, higher education students focus on socio-economic living conditions and international mobility and collect data about the topics set below:

-accession to higher education,
-educational financing and resources,
-income and expenses,
-time budgets of students,
-command on language,
-staying abroad for education.

With the third round of the study in which Turkey was also involved, 3 Eurostudent projects have been carried out so far, together with the ones in 2003 and 2005. 23 countries have taken part in the third round. In the year 2008, the fourth round is going to be launched and together with the 5 observer countries of the third round, the number of total participant countries is going to be 28.

Turkey got involved in the third round of this project with the general assembly resolution of Council of Higher Education on 03 February 2006. In acccordance with the decision, a commission was constituted to execute the project in Turkey under the presidency of Professor Nezih Güven, together with Associate Professor Ayşe Gündüz and Assistant Professor Mustafa Şen as members. The commission carried out the national inquiry between December 2006 and March 2007. The acquired data is analysed and sent to the Eurostudent Project Coordinators on 19 December 2007, including the comments and the informative document about the national higher education system. Coordinators published the report including the international data comparisons prepared by each country’s national profile / data in August 2008.

In Turkey; 65.000 undergraduate students, chosen by random selection method, received an envelope in which “user name” and “password” information, aim, content and application method of the inquiry was enclosed. 16.000 of our students accessed to the web site in which the inquiry was broadcast and they filled it out thanks to the user name and password provided.