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The Bologna Process: Informal Governance in the Wider Europe

Paul Furlong

The Bologna process is a programme for the reform of Higher Education in Europe that began in 1999 and is nowco-ordinated across 46 participating states. In many respects it conforms to the definition of 'informal governance'developed by Christiansen and Piattoni. This paper outlines the major characteristics of the Bologna processfrom this perspective, and considers in detail some of the implications of Bologna for our understanding of theopportunities and difficulties associated with informal governance. In particular, one of the key questions raisedby the experience of Bologna is how and to what extent the voluntary transnational commitments entered into bythe participants come to be translated into 'hard law' in individual member states. As such, its success anddurability raise a range of questions about issues of legitimacy, accountability and transparency, since Bolognaincorporates peak interest groups directly into the policy process, has no direct reference to national legislatures,and operates largely beyond public attention. The paper argues that notwithstanding that the Bologna process isexternal to the EU, it should be seen as an example of the EU policy mode referred to by Wallace as 'intensivetrans-governmentalism'.

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