Heads of Institutions;
11 November 2005 European/International
Officers; Academic Registrars; The Bologna Process and UK’s integrated Masters Programme/Course
programmes leaders for integrated
For action inside your 1. This UK Higher Education (HE) Europe Note on the Bologna Process and institution integrated Masters programmes identifies a number of issues for
consideration by UK higher education institutions (HEIs) and stakeholders to Executive Summary ensure continued recognition of such qualifications in the rest of Europe. This This E-note describes Europe Note has been produced in consultation with the Quality Assurance how integrated Masters Agency (QAA) and Universities UK (UUK), following consultation of a range
1programmes can be of professional and regulatory statutory bodies (PRSBs). The note has also
made compatible with been approved by the Europe High Level Policy Forum, comprising heads of the Bologna Process key UK HE stakeholders, namely the three funding council, UUK, QAA and and suggests how they SCOP.
might be promoted in
rest of Europe Background information on the Bologna Process
Enquiries 2. The Bologna Process to create the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) Jessica Olleyby 2010 was launched in 1999 when 29 European ministers for HE signed
2the Bologna Declaration . The overarching objectives of this
Tel intergovernmental Process are to increase the employability of Europe‟s 020 7419 5423 citizens, to facilitate student and staff mobility and to enhance the Email Jessica.Olley attractiveness and competitiveness of European HE in a global market. Ten @UniversitiesUK.ac.uk action lines have now been identified to make the EHEA a reality, including:
? Adoption of a system essentially based on two cycles (Bachelor and Keywords Masters) where the first cycle should be a minimum of three years; Bologna, integrated ? Adoption of a system of easily readable and comparable degrees masters (enabling HEIs, employers and graduates to understand the level and
nature of different countries‟ degrees);
? Establishment of a system of credits, such as the European Credit
Transfer System (ECTS);
? Promotion of mobility;
? Promotion of European co-operation in quality assurance; and
? Promotion of the European dimension in higher education.
3. Since the Bologna Declaration, the Process has expanded to include 45 signatory countries.
Ministers from signatory countries met to review progress and set new priorities for action in
Prague in 2001, in Berlin in 2003 and in Bergen in May 2005. In Berlin in 2003, doctoral level
qualifications were incorporated into the Bologna Process as the „third cycle‟. The UK will host the
next ministerial summit in London in 2007.
4. At the Bergen summit in May 2005, Ministers adopted the proposal for the overarching Framework
3for Qualifications of the European Higher Education Area. This comprises three cycles (Bachelor,
Master and Doctoral levels) and generic qualifications descriptors for each cycle (the so-called
4„Dublin Descriptors‟) which will act as reference points for the HE qualifications of the signatory 5countries. Typical ECTS credit allocations associated with the end of the first and second cycles
are included in the Framework as follows:
? First cycle – typically 180-240 ECTS credits
? Second cycle - typically 90-120 ECTS credits, “with a minimum of 60 credits at the level of the
? No typical credit allocations were included for the third cycle.
5. The UK‟s integrated Masters degrees – particularly four year integrated Masters programmes -
have some characteristics that seem at first glance to make them incompatible with the new
Framework for Qualifications of the EHEA because of their integrated nature and shorter duration.
(In Scotland, integrated masters last five years.) This paper proposes some actions for institutions
to ensure such qualifications do sit firmly within the overarching Framework for Qualifications of
the EHEA. Paragraph seven then sets out arguments to promote these qualifications in the rest of
Recommended action for UK HEIs
6. Following discussions with the QAA, UUK and a range of professional, regulatory and statutory
bodies, the UK HE Europe Unit recommend that UK HEIs, particularly those in England, Wales
and Northern Ireland review their integrated Masters programmes and ensure they have taken the
following actions to maintain the compatibility of these programmes with Bologna Process reforms:
? The credit values typically associated with the end of the second cycle level in the Framework for
Qualifications of the EHEA are 90-120 ECTS credits (generally accredited to 180-240 credits as
defined in UK HE), with the minimum requirement of 60 ECTS credits at second cycle level. Only
UK integrated Masters programmes with adequate ECTS credits allocated at M level (i.e. a
minimum of 60) will meet the second cycle descriptors in the Framework for Qualifications of the
? UK HEIs that do not already do so are strongly urged to consider awarding both a Bachelor and
Masters qualification to students on integrated Masters programmes, following discussions as 6. The Bachelor qualification could perhaps be appropriate, with accrediting professional bodies
awarded at the end of the third year, or at the end of the final qualification, to indicate that students have completed both first and second cycles, albeit within an integrated programme.
? For funding purposes, integrated Masters programmes are referred to as “undergraduate Masters”.
The word “undergraduate” suggests to European counterparts that integrated Masters qualifications are not second cycle qualifications, even though they are placed at masters level within the UK‟s qualification frameworks. UK HEIs and HE sector representatives should rather refer to integrated Masters programmes as integrated programmes in their correspondence with institutions elsewhere in Europe. While stressing that this does not represent a new classification or redefinition of such programmes at postgraduate level for funding purposes, the Department for Education and Skills supports this recommendation.
7? The Diploma Supplement now being issued by many HEIs increases the transparency of
qualifications gained by graduates by providing additional information about the specific orientation, content and profile of a given qualification. Introduction of the Diploma Supplement in UK HEIs has the potential to facilitate recognition of integrated Masters qualifications by employers and for progression to further studies – in both UK and rest of Europe - by
demonstrating the integrity and outcomes of such programmes. UK HEIs who are not already issuing the Diploma Supplement should do so as soon as possible to support the acceptance of integrated Masters programmes.
? HEIs are urged to consider teaching during the summer vacation, extending the timescale for
submission of the dissertation and incorporating industrial placements with assessed learning outcomes into such programmes. While these measures would clearly have implications for HEI resources and administration, the credit rating of such activity would bring the duration of such qualifications closer in line with continental equivalents and so facilitate their acceptance in the EHEA.
Promoting integrated Masters programmes
7. Following alignment with the above recommendations, UK HEIs will be able to continue to
promote integrated Masters programmes in higher education sectors elsewhere in Europe by highlighting the following characteristics of integrated Masters programmes and other related factors:
? Integrated Masters programmes are demanding qualifications meeting exacting output standards.
They are integrated degrees allowing rapid progression to Masters level. They are not Bachelors programmes with a „bolt on‟ Masters programme.
? The learning outcomes for such programmes have been agreed by the professions and the
academic community in the UK and are defined in the Masters qualifications descriptor in the
Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ)
and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). The learning outcomes of
integrated Masters programmes are consistent with the generic qualification descriptor for second
cycle (Masters level) in the Bologna Process Framework for Qualifications of the EHEA.
8, pharmacy and business ? The UK‟s current QAA subject benchmark statements for engineering
and management set out guidance to UK HEIs on generic expectations about standards for all
integrated degrees in these subjects at honours or a higher level. The subject benchmark
statements clarify: those attributes that are associated with the award of integrated Masters
degrees; how such awards accord with the frameworks for HE qualifications in the UK; how
integrated Masters degrees may address international expectations of second cycle degrees; and
the roles of these degrees in professional formation.
? The UK HE sector considers that learning outcomes are the most important measure of a study
programme rather than a crude measure of duration. It is important that the Bologna Process
reflects the importance of what a student is able to do and achieve in a lifelong learning
environment, rather than relying on input indicators.
? Increasingly, four-year integrated Masters programmes last for longer than four academic years as
9vacation industrial placements and a longer final year often extend the duration of the programme.
? Graduates from integrated Masters programmes are much in demand by employers as they
provide a range and depth of specialist knowledge and equip graduates with vital technical and
personal skills. Such programmes provide concentrated delivery of the educational foundation for
a career as a leading professional (for example, the MEng for chartered engineers or the MPharm
for pharmacists). In the UK, major companies are also involved in the design and delivery of
integrated Masters programmes.
? Integrated Masters programmes are not available at all UK HEIs and entry to such programmes is
highly selective in comparison with many continental HE systems. In addition, assessment often
10takes place at the end of the second year of such programmes before progression to the
Masters level study to ensure the student has the skills and capabilities to progress.
? The Bachelor/Master mix of integrated Masters degrees meets the specific needs of professional
bodies as demonstrated by the European Union‟s recently revised Directive on the recognition of
professional qualifications. The Directive explicitly recognised that the highest level of professional
11recognition can be accorded to those graduates with “four or more years” of higher education.
8. This Europe note provides information across the broad range of integrated masters in existence
in the UK. The Europe Unit will begin discussions with particular PSRBs with a view to producing
further advice on specific disciplines.
1 The Europe Unit has consulted: Engineering Council UK, the Engineering Professors Council, the Royal Society of Chemistry,
the General Chiropractic Council, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Institute of Physics.
2 For more information on the Bologna Process please visit: www.dfes.gov.uk/bologna. The Europe Unit‟s website also includes
an overview of the Bologna Process: www.europeunit.ac.uk/bologna_process/index.cfm.
3 The full text of the Framework for Qualifications of the EHEA can be found at:
4 The Dublin Descriptors are similar to the qualifications descriptors in use in the UK. For further information, please see page
66 of the above report.
5 UK experts played an active role in the drafting of the Framework of Qualifications for the EHEA and of the Dublin Descriptors. 6 The General Chiropractic Council has however stressed that only one qualification would be recognised for statutory
7 The Bologna Process Berlin Communiqué called for all institutions to issue the Diploma Supplement “automatically and free of
charge“ to graduates in 2005. For more information on the Diploma Supplement please visit: www.europeunit.ac.uk/qualifications/diploma_supplement.cfm.
8 The QAA subject benchmark statement for engineering is currently under revision to create a single unified standard in the UK. 9 The recent UK HE Europe Unit survey of UK HEIs and European developments found that 53% of respondents offering full-
time integrated Masters programmes answered that industrial placements or teaching take place during summer vacations
during such programmes. The survey also included questions on the use of credit in UK HEIs.
10 Or at other points, in Scotland. 11 Recognition of some professional qualifications, for example, pharmacy, is covered and therefore supported by the Directive.