The Bologna Process will create a much more efficient and competitive European university market, similar to the American. The objective is that students could choose any university in Europe according to their preferences and personal merits. In turn, universities will compete to attract the best students and will have to fully exploit their resources to become the reference in their areas of excellence.
The creation of this university market requires the fulfilling of at least two requirements, which to date have not been developed nor contemplated in discussions by the Bologna stakeholders: 1) The creation of a transparent “information market”, where students have access to all relevant knowledge about existing offerings;. And, 2) the development of financial means that guarantee the efficient distribution of resources, e.g., grants and loan schemes.
I will now focus on the first of those requirements: the information market that will make more transparent the range of educational offerings across Europe. Economists say that for a market to be efficient, consumer information needs to be readily available, including their differential features and prices. Certainly, perfect information does not exist, but the more transparent markets are, the more efficient they will be. Nowadays, comparative information regarding university offerings on a European scale is incomplete and very fragmented. In the Bologna future, candidates will need to know, for example, which are the best schools in any given area of speciality, the average salaries of graduates from different schools, the quality of the support services, tuition and average costs of living in a particular city etc.
To generate this information flow, two means exist that can bring added-value to the consumer if produced rigorously: accreditation systems and school rankings. The international accreditation agencies give a guarantee of quality and in the context of business schools the most important are AACSB, AMBA and EQUIS (see the left side-bar of this blog). As regards rankings, this topic in itself warrants its own debate.