The U.S. perspective on the three-year Bologna-compliant bachelor’s degree

On September 18, 2017, AACRAO hosted the 2nd symposium focused on the U.S. perspective on the three-year Bologna-compliant bachelor’s degree. This gathering brought together more than 30 leaders from across U.S. higher education, including representatives from institutions, professional credential evaluators, and other key stakeholders, to explore the current perspectives of U.S. Higher education on this as-of-yet unresolved issue.


In June 1999, 29 European Ministers signed the Bologna Declaration with the goal of establishing the European Area of Higher Education by 2010 and promoting the European system of higher education worldwide. In 2006, to assess the impact of the Bologna Declaration in the U.S., AACRAO hosted a symposium, “The Impact of Bologna and Three-Year Degrees on U.S. Admissions.” Participants included representatives from Germany, the UK, and Australia, as well as several sectors of the U.S. higher education community.

The context in 2006 included:

  • The U.S. was just beginning to see more graduates applying to U.S. graduate schools with three-year Bologna-compliant degrees.

  • U.S. institutions were grappling with nuts and bolts issues like the numbers of years a degree represents and differences in degree structures from country to country within Europe.

  • Some in the U.S. higher education community thought discussions of three-year degrees should not just focus on Europe, but should also include countries such as India and Australia.

The overall conclusion of the 2006 symposium was that there was not one policy on three-year degrees across the United States because higher education is so decentralized and each institution is so autonomous, which reflects the diversity of U.S. higher education.

The 2017 Symposium

The purposes of this symposium were to:

  • Assess what has changed over the past 11 years, since the first AACRAO symposium.

  • Determine if there is a U.S. perspective on three-year Bologna-compliant bachelor’s degrees.

  • Identify outstanding questions that still need to be answered.

This symposium consisted of three panel discussions that examined the degrees from multiple perspectives:  The Professional Credential Evaluation Perspective, The Institutional Perspective: Evaluation for Admission, and The Employment Perspective.  After these panels, attendees participated in working groups followed by a group discussion of the key issues throughout the symposium.  Three panels were assembled, addressing the issue from three main perspectives: The credential evaluator perspective, the university admissions perspective, and employment and immigration perspective.

Symposium participants identified a number of next steps, including but not limited to continued discussion of standards, education of end users, clarification of the function of an evaluation as an advisory opinion, and collaborations with the regulated professions.

AACRAO seeks to chart a path forward to communicate the complexity of the issues to U.S. institutions and their distributed graduate departments, our credential evaluation colleagues overseas, and, most importantly, to European students who would like to pursue graduate education in the U.S. In this world of increasing mobility, these conversations will become more and more important.

Download the full report from the AACRAO International Bologna-Compliant Bachelor Degree website.