Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Tempus ALIGN - Recommendations To Governments Discussion Doc - Yerevan 19th to 26th February

I've just returned from the latest Tempus ALIGN planning meeting and ALIGN events as part of ANQA Q-Week in Yerevan. The events were held in YSULS Brusov University and in AUM American University of Armenia. On behalf of the ALIGN EU expert group, I presented discussion documents on 'ALIGN recommendations to HEIs' and on 'ALIGN recommendations to Governments'.

Below are some of the ALIGN recommendations for governments, in the spirit of discussion and development and mindful of the fact that the Tempus ALIGN project has not yet concluded... Much of the work on these tentative, possible recommendations was started by Liza Sizinova in July August 2016, in Ukraine - thank you Liza.


The need for continued development of each territory’s NFQ. All territories have started this process, but the NFQs need ongoing work and refinement - a lot of beefing up and clarification. Where possible, that the territorial NFQs work towards international recognition.

The need for a 'correct' and clear, internationally understandable description of awards - Batchelors, Masters and PhD.
Any territory with 'professional' (lesser) awards will have to wrestle with fitting those into international structures like Bologna?

Each territory must decide on whether it is going for, or moving towards self-accreditation, Ministry accreditation, or agency accreditation, licensing, a mixture of these systems, or parallel systems? How is accreditation/validation going to be rolled out and blended?

Each territory must decide on the relationship between internal and external QA?
Academic autonomy – each HEI has the right to design and implement their own academic programmes and has responsibility to provide quality of education for these programmes. That means that qualification resulting from a programme should be clearly and understandable to all stakeholders, but especially to the student stakeholders. All qualifications should clearly relate to the correct level of the NQF and, consequently to the Framework for Qualification of the EHEA.

The need to establish regular (every 5 years?) peer review processes - separately for academic programmes and for HEI's?
These peer review panels will involve EU or international experts? It must be decided how many EU or international experts on each panel? Two is quite normal? In some territories (eg Lietuva and Croatia), the agencies prefer EU panel members to Chair the peer review panels.

How will the powers, responsibilities and terms of reference of the peer review panels be legally constituted in each territory?
Early peer reviews MIGHT (for the first two cycles (10 years)) be more developmental than regulatory (more like what we've just done with ALIGN)? Everyone involved (HEIs, students, stakeholders, agency, Ministry etc) will need some time to work into the culture of peer review?

If professional standards are to be developed and implemented, they must be created with Professional bodies and according to the local market and with the assistance of the best foreign practices. The best option - professional standards must be prepared in two languages: local and English? Any territory-specific Professional standards need to be transparent for students, HEIs, agencies, stakeholders (industries/employers) and international partners.

National Student Survey for final-year students – these tools can help to know about:
  • The quality of the teaching and learning experience that universities provide;
  • whether academic programme goals are achieved or not achieved during the study programme;
  • what HEIs need to change or improve in their academic programmes;


At the HEI level, involvement of students needs a LOT of work. All the HEIs are gathering student info and are encouraging 'student self-government', but with no clear notion as to HOW student voice should be heard, or even what should be done with the information gathered from student surveys. Are the HEIs listening to students and acting on their feedback and concerns where this is appropriate? Can students clearly see the impact of their inputs and expressions of concern?

At HEI and national level, the Student Unions need autonomy and need to develop the student voice and student representation for themselves.

Ranking universities that will increase competition among them and increase the level of quality. Will this increase competition and quality?

Develop and implement a registry that will track the number of employed graduates - which will help to forecast labour market needs. Q: Who should develop this? HEIs? Some National Agency?

All HEIs and programmes should be encouraged to move towards FORMAL links with stakeholders, industry and employers - including MoUs, short contracts, QA supervision, insurance, health and safety etc etc..., clear for employers, lecturers, HEIs and most of all clear for the students.
The role of employers 'as the leads on examination boards' needs to be reviewed (and possibly removed?).

From the evidence of the Tempus ALIGN peer-reviews, HEIs clearly need help with the following points (this is not a prioritised list)
  • The link between student learning activities and assessment, especially summative assessments, linked to modules, ILOs, workloads & credits.
  • Blended and constructively aligned assessment.
  • EU higher education ‘terminology’.
  • Student-centred learning.
  • The development of Student Handbooks.
  • The development of Programme Aims and Module Aims.
  • The development of module (or course) descriptors.
  • How to foster effective student representation.
  • The developmental principles and process of regular peer review.
  • The development of Programme Self Evaluation Documentation.


HEIs in each territory would benefit from seeing clear examples of local best practice – starting with examples from our ALIGN peer reviews (we’re thinking module descriptors from one university, a clear exposition of IT student feedback in another university, clear expositions of a third university’s relationships with employers and 'workplace' teaching arrangements etc…)

Such a 'best practice toolkit' or database or website, should be established in each territory, clearly curated and updated in a thoughtful, considered and measured manner. Maybe a clear curatorial role for each national QA agency here?

The development of student-centred learning is a cultural change which is just beginning in the HEIs involved with Tempus ALIGN. Once again the only way forward is to provide more training and information, more international links and mobility, to work in the HEIs and with students and to keep developing a student-centred culture in higher education.

This will take hard work and time.

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