Thread: Knowledge Updates

Introduction to the structure and terminology of the European Higher Education Area

Timothy Barton – Barcelona, Spain

The Bologna Process aims to harmonise higher education not only in the European Union but in 46 different European states. In many countries, this has led to the most important reforms in higher education for decades. As those of us who translate or edit texts in the field plough through the plethora of documents that are being written about the process, we are seeing how the very language we use to talk about higher education is evolving.

I will begin my presentation by outlining what the process is and what its objectives and consequences are. What is the difference between the Bologna Process and the European Higher Education Area? What is the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS)? How do ECTS credits compare with already existing credits in different countries? What are the Dublin Descriptors?

I will then look at examples of some of the more problematic terminology issues we are faced with as a result of the Bologna Process. What is the difference between the licenciatura and the grado in Spain? If we have always translated licenciatura as degree, how do we translate the name of the new grado? Does that affect the way we translate diplomatura or ingeniería? What is the difference between the maîtrise, mastaire and master in France? How do we translate them into English? The examples shown will be carefully chosen to emphasize problems that may affect a variety of languages and will also be relevant to those editing texts written in English.

A glossary will be provided containing some of the vocabulary most frequently encountered when translating or editing texts on higher education.


Timothy Barton is a freelance translator (www.timtranslates.com) who specializes in education and sport. After initially graduating in French studies, he then took a degree in translation and a Master in Translation and New Technologies. He began translating in 2004, and spent two years translating in house for the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB). He now lectures in translation at the UAB alongside his freelance work.

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