Cineca signs the Bologna Open Recognition Declaration

An analysis with Cineca chairman, prof. Emilio Ferrari, and the acceptance of the University of Milano Bicocca.
November 25, 2016

Constant training of professionals is something that is common to and often considered as a standard in various environments, but it does not represent the whole picture. Over the last few years people have not only been talking about lifelong learning, but also lifewide learning, i.e. across all contexts, including non-formal and informal ones. 

Italian law is very clear on the subject: Decree Law no. 13/13 lays down that

“The Republic encourages permanent learning as the right of a person and ensures for everyone equal opportunities of recognition and enhancement of competencies however they may be acquired in accordance with the aptitudes and choices of the individual and from a personal, civic, social and occupational point of view.”

So the real challenge then is to turn this scenario into reality for all citizens, lifelong & lifewide learners, and for the businesses that need the competencies.

In this connection, on 28 October last, in Bologna, on the closure of ePic, the international congress on technologies for education and training, the “Bologna Open Recognition Declaration” ( ): this is a declaration to open up the process of recognition of competencies, to which Cineca, in the person of its Chairman Prof. Emilio Ferrari, has joined in to give its support.

Towards open recognition of competencies

The “Bologna Open Recognition Declaration”, claims to be heir to an ideal pathway, connecting the Bologna Process to the Cape Town declaration for free access to learning materials and to the Creative Commons movement, and suggesting the next step of setting up a competencies recognition process that will be as open as possible, where open is meant as in open source

In the world the signatories of BORD want to build, the person does not just learn in every context, but he or she can apply to have these competencies recognised, in a rapid and demonstrable manner, and these certified competencies may be used in looking for work, as well as in the search for workers and employees. 

To achieve all of this it is essential these days to have at our disposal technological instruments that will activate the mechanisms and that are by nature as open as the process they are trying to trigger: 

an open architecture is needed, which every user can share, according to their role, and which is capable of producing safe, reliable certification of competencies.

The first building blocks identified by the community for creating this open architecture for recognition of competencies are the Open Badges: an open tool that is generated in a distributed, flexible and verifiable manner.

BORD - Bologna Open Recognition Declaration

The University of Milano Bicocca supports BORD

The scenario of “open recognition” of competencies is completely new to Universities, Italian or abroad, and paves the way to new possibilities, opportunities and activities, but also to questions. The University of Milano Bicocca is the first to take up the challenge, by signing BORD:

«Certified recognition of competencies through the instrument of Open Badges is a necessity that can no longer be postponed if we want to stimulate starting in employment, mobility and integration of youth in Europe and more besides.»

– These are the words of Paolo Cherubini, Pro-rector for Didactics at the University of Bicocca, who went on to say –

«The Declaration of Bologna, which we are the first in Italy to sign and which we are ardent supporters of, is an ambitious project which will be an important feature of future training. The Open Badges make it possible to consolidate the route to enhanced value of curriculums and to certify soft skills, thus accelerating the spread of innovation in every social and productive sector.»

Signatories from abroad include Selor, the governmental body in Belgium which manages processes of employability, as well as representatives of American, European and Australian universities, unofficial training bodies and companies and thinkers and researchers active in the issues of technologies for education. On the website the full text of the declaration is followed by the signatures, which can be viewed in real time.

Together with Prof. Emilio Ferrari, Chairman of Cineca, we have taken a closer look at the role of the main Italian University Consortium within BORD.

How is Cineca placed within the academic system and why has Cineca signed BORD

Since it was founded, at the end of the ‘60s, Cineca has always supported the national academic system. The subject of education is therefore central to our mission and, so, apart from producing the systems that support digitalisation of University processes, we are involved in the international context of educational technology to find out the latest trends and identify opportunities that may be useful to the Italian system.

The growing importance given by the world of employment and by legislation to non-formal and informal learning obliges us to ask ourselves about the role formal education can play and what contribution it can make in a changing context.

For Cineca signing BORD means continuing to invest in the search for new technological frontiers to support didactic processes. The aim is to support Italian Universities in this context and activate technologically the roles those Universities will consider appropriate to adopt, in order to set up a new, extended process of recognition of competencies, for the benefit of all the citizens and the educational and productive fabric of the Country.


BORD Badge

In concrete terms, what will the Cineca role be in this context?

Opening up the process of recognition of competencies does not mean having to give up on the need for a mechanism of supervision and weight of recognition from different sources.

To set up a system that is open, but at the same time trustworthy, an open, well designed technological architecture is indispensable.  Cineca supports BORD in its role as a provider of technological instruments for the Italian university system. We are at the disposal of universities who will want to get involved, and we are ready to set up an architecture that gives substance to the roles the Universities will choose to play.

Cineca is already active with the technology of Open Badges through the Bestr project, which has in fact already put itself into the context of open recognition of competencies. Setting up new methods for recognising, communicating, sharing and assessing competencies cannot be anything if not inspiration for the platform, but especially a resource for the world of employment and education.

Cineca is a university consortium: what role can the Universities play in a scenario of open, distributed recognition of competencies?

At the moment, the universities create and validate competencies synergistically within the formal study courses of which they are the advocates. Joining in an opening up of the process of recognition of competencies may be translated into various actions, which each university may choose to undertake, according to what comes closest to its own structure and identity. For example, making more explicit and enhancing the competencies constructed within its own study courses, making it easier for companies to identify them, or giving greater value to competencies developed within the University but outside of the study courses (extra-curricular activities) or as a “spin off” of certain study courses. But there are also other contexts where the Universities can be an active part of the process: either by translating their degrees into Open Badges, to enable the oldest and most authoritative certificates to be part of the new architecture, or acting as assessment providers for competencies acquired outside of the University courses, or, lastly, offering their services as trainers and assessment providers of more specialised and “micro” competencies, compared to those traditionally considered as study courses.

Obviously, and precisely because of the open nature of the system that is about to be set up, there is no determined, limited set of roles that the Universities can play. As Cineca, we are trying to imagine some and we want, as is our habit, to start a cooperative pathway with the Universities, so we can act as a system and help to give shape to the new methods of interaction between all the players for lifelong and lifewide learning for all citizens