Towards standards that help, not hinder higher education
Organised by Aarhus University and the Centre for Higher Education Futures (CHEF) on 23 September, The Guild’s second virtual seminar focused on new types of quality standards needed to address new educational challenges: standards that work for students, academics and policy-makers.
Building on the findings of The Guild’s latest Insight Paper “Reimagining Research-led Education in a Digital Age”, Susan Wright, Professor of Educational Anthropology at the Danish School of Education and Co-Director of CHEF, set the scene by highlighting the broadening mandate of universities – from the narrow focus on employability to equipping students to address challenges of the future.
She emphasized the challenge for universities to work flexibly within this broad mandate yet abide by nationally accredited, delivered and regulated educational models and sustain international standards of quality and comparability.
Another challenge concerns mobility - how to develop educational programmes which combine virtual mobility, internationalisation at home and physical mobility? And how to handle the tensions between national and international missions of universities which sometimes point into different directions (e.g. local language, resources etc.)?
Thirdly, if European Universities aim towards teaching and learning that goes beyond national and institutional boundaries, we should build tools for collaboration (not just comparability) between institutions across Europe.
Participants reflected on the need to use the same language when talking about standards, and the need for minimum standards, whilst ensuring enough flexibility. They also raised questions about the lack of tools to measure quality in education and creating quality assurance systems that enable and empower.
Berit Eika, Prorektor for Education at Aarhus University, talked about the balancing act between standards and mobility: “Standards such as ECTS and EQF provide structural alignment, but the question is whether we are also aligned in practice.” Also, she pointed out that international mobility is much more than academic merit. In the context of ECTS, it might be time to look at educational achievement by moving from hours spent and workload to competences achieved.
Participants discussed the pros and cons of standards, and the move beyond binaries of home/abroad and online/offline to a portfolio of experiences for the students. They highlighted the role of European University alliances in trust-building and creating space to test new study designs. Participants also challenged some of the assumptions of study abroad programmes such as increased cultural awareness.
In the group discussion that followed, participants were asked to explore the components of a good study abroad experience, and tangible indicators to evaluate international mobility in new ways. Small group discussions offered an opportunity for community building: students, academics, university leaders and policy-makers to identify community indicators together.
You can watch the full seminar below. The Guild’s Insight Paper “Reimagining Research-led Education in a Digital Age” can be downloaded here.