The European Higher Education Area (EHEA) is a group of 48 countries that cooperate to achieve comparable and compatible higher education systems throughout Europe. (See the full list below.) Member countries of the EHEA follow the directives of the so-called Bologna Process to achieve these goals.
As part of the Bologna Process, countries within the EHEA have implemented systems with three cycles of higher education qualifications: Bachelor's degrees, Master's degrees, and Doctoral degrees.
Another important cornerstone for comparability within the EHEA was the introduction of ECTS credit points (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System): By this standard, one year of full-time academic study corresponds to 60 ECTS points. These are commonly split down per lecture, facilitating student mobility between EHEA countries.
In 1999, while in Bologna, Italy, the Ministers of Education of 29 European countries agreed and committed to a vision of a European Higher Education Area where university-level education would follow shared principles to ensure high quality and comparability.
This declaration, passed 19 June 1999, is called the Bologna Declaration, and the process it kickstarted is therefore known as the Bologna Process.
The initial countries to adopt the Bologna Declaration were all then-members and member candidates of the European Union, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland. Other countries joined from 2001 onwards, so that as of 2017, there were 48 countries engaged in the EHEA.
The following table shows all 48 countries in the European Higher Education Area with the year they joined:
|Country||Year joined Bologna Process / EHEA||EU member?||EEA member?|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||2003||no||no|
|Vatican / Holy See||2003||no||no|
* Switzerland is not strictly a member of the EEA. But due to its affiliation with EFTA (the European Free Trade Association), many universities treat Swiss citizens the same way as citizens from EEA countries with regards to tuition fees and admissions criteria.
** The UK was an EU member when the EHEA was created but left the EU in 2020.