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U.S. Graduate Admission: The Impact of the Bologna Process

By Peterson's Staff updated on Wednesday, January 30, 2013

When the Bologna Declaration of 1999 set out to establish European cooperation and common standards in higher education among 45 separate countries, its eventual impact on foreign students with European degrees entering the U.S. for graduate admission wasn't clear. While mobility for European students and teachers was a goal, the implementation of three-year undergraduate degrees may have temporarily diminished the mobility of European students wishing to enter the United States, since many U.S. graduate school requirements include undergraduate degrees based on four years' worth of credit hours. However, eight years after its inception, the Bologna Process seems to finally be making some headway in changing how U.S. graduate schools evaluate their European applicants for graduate school admissions.

Foreign student graduate school admission: Initial decline

The first three-year degrees under the Bologna Declaration came out in 2003, but foreign student graduate school application and enrollment declined in the U.S. in the years following 9/11, so ascertaining what role three-year European degrees played in the decline isn't easy. However, until recently, many U.S. institutions had not altered their graduate school admission requirements or process of evaluating applicants, so it's possible that some European students were turned away in spite of U.S. efforts to encourage foreign student enrollment after 9/11.

Foreign student graduate admission: Current trends

According to surveys conducted by the Council of Graduate Schools, it appears that many U.S. graduate schools have now adapted their application evaluation procedures to accommodate European students with three-year degrees. Many schools have implemented policies or procedures for evaluating European degrees for equivalency or degree of competence, increasing the likelihood of graduate admission. Schools with high levels of foreign student enrollment are more likely to have implemented such procedures than schools with fewer students, although as three-year degrees originating from Europe become more common, other schools are beginning to address this issue as well. The same trend seems to be occurring with three-year degrees from non-European countries such as Australia and India as well.

Foreign student graduate school admission: Change for the future

It appears that U.S. graduate schools are increasingly more open to accepting the three-year degrees which will become the European standard. This is good news both for the U.S., which prides itself on drawing foreign students to its schools, and for European students seeking an American graduate degree as well. You may need to do a little research to determine if the school you hope to attend will accept your degree, but chances are better than ever that it will.

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