UNIVERSITY OF TAMPERE FINLAND. Impelementation of the Bologna Reforms Leverage Effect of Bologna Tools

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1 UNIVERSITY OF TAMPERE FINLAND Impelementation of the Bologna Reforms Leverage Effect of Bologna Tools In addition to the Development Plan 1 (Quality Culture Project: Implementing Bologna Reforms. Preparing the Development Plan) sent on March 4, 2003 the University of Tampere has prepared this document as a supplementary information. Here several references are made to this Development Plan. National level In Finland the Ministry of Education has a good deal of influence on the development of the Bologna reforms in the universities. The common feature today is that the tone of the national debate is clearly more postitive towards the Bologna process than two years ago, when greater part of the ideas were concidered incompatible with the Finnish higher education system and its immediate goals. The conditions of change in the national debate were created e.g. by the new International Strategy of Higher Education Institutions launched by the Ministry of Education in 2001 according to the principles laid down by the national task force where both the university and the polytechnic sectors were presented. Moreover, at the end of 2001 another national task force evaluating the Master s Programmes implemented in the university sector since 1995 (Many Ways to a Master s Degree. Evaluation of the Finnish Master s programmes) explicitly put on the agenda of national discussion both the sturcture of Finnish degrees (Bachelor and Master) and the dual system of higher education (polytechnic sector and university sector) as well as interaction and moves between these tracks. Furthermore, another task force appointed by the Ministry of Education announced its recommendations at the end of October 2002 (Report of the Committee for the Development of University Degree Structure). This memorandum 2 paid greater attention to the international debate, too, and especially the ideas of the Bologna and Prague statements. Since its publication this memorandum has been the main source and impetus for national debate. The power or influence of the Ministry to steer the course of events is used especially in annual negotiations between Ministry and University according to the priciples of result oriented management. Part of the discussion has focused on the development of a two-tier degree system and additional resources have been offered to universities to plan and implement items, either part of the Bologna reforms or at least reforms convergent with them. E.g. the dimensioning of studies and structural develeopment of curricula as well as a shift from national credit system to ECTS, which so far has been only a conversion of the national credit system and parallel to it. The Bologna process has been on the agenda of several national and international conferences in Finland, too. The last one, Conference on Master s Degrees, was held in Helsinki on March 14-15, Moreover, the Finnish Council of University Rectors has lately been active in creating an atmosphere more conducive to the inevitable changes. Recruiting Students University and polytechnic sectors have different entrance processes for prospective new students. In the universities entrance process is decentralized to faculty and even department level. Places to study are highly competitive and in every field numerus clausus and special entrance examinations are implemented. However, in spite of its great popularity the University of Tampere has to offer both special brochures and abundant information in the internet to appeal to prospective applicants. In recent years Tampere has been by far the most competitive multi-faculty university in Finland with its applications and 1550 places for freshmen. There is, however, a continuing debate in the country as to how to organize entrance examinations to offer a larger share of the youngest applicant cohort the chance to start university studies. From the economic and social point of

2 view Finnish students are older on starting their university studies than their counterparts in Western Europe and study times are longer. A national task force evaluated university entrance processes and made its recommendation regarding the university entrance process in 2002, stressing very strongly the adoption of measures enabling entry to universities for younger applicants thanat present. 4 The number and ratio of international students in Finnish Universities (3-3.5 % of the student body in 2002) is relatively small and low compared to Western Europe and half of them are exchange students. To increase the number of international degree students, as the strategy suggests, requires attractive degree programmes taught in English. Furthermore, this policy requires extra financing, even in cases where international and Finnish students study together, because programmes taught in English are mostly parallel programmes to those run in the national languages, Finnish or Swedish. Joint degrees (see Development Plan) could be a way to create joint curricula and synergy in studies, on the other hand student and teacher exchange would enable the exploitation of best practices within the consortium. This could be one way to increase the international attractiveness of Finnish degrees. The possibilities offered by virtual teaching should be taken into account, too. The Finnish Virtual University is a project organization that develops and promotes networking activities among universities. The Finnish virtual university (FVU) provides university students, teachers, researchers and other staff with a virtual campus through a common portal and net services, including: information about on-line education; new opportunities to study through the net; training and courses for staff; tutoring, guidance and support; digital learning materials and access to the most modern learning environments; research services; various tools supporting study and research; carefully selected connections with the world s virtual campuse;s business opportunities for companies wishing to take part in constructing the virtual campus; The virtual university is, above all, a new method of networking between universities. It is not a new university in itself. A significant part of the virtual university s activities take place at and through the participating universities. This is why universities will be formulating their information strategies by the end of Other means for achieving the objectives are guidance, training and networking projects, together with the virtual university development unit, whose task is to advance the use of new methods, tools, materials and services. The services through the net will be flexible and individualised. The current services provided by universities will be complemented with components utilising information and communication technologies and by developing completely new net-based services. Eventually new working methods, multi-mode study as well as the sharing of expert knowledge will become an accepted part of university life. 5 Curricula building There are in university studies two elements which currently do not meet the requirements set: 1) planning the structure and content of the curriculum and 2) supporting the students to make their own and optimal choices within the frame of the curriculum. Furthermore, an open question in Finland so far has been the proceeding from Bachelor s degree to Master s degree. When vast majority of students go without interruption to Master s level no national decision has been made as to whether the Bachelor s degree should be taken before courses on Master s level can be attended. If the studies continue without interruption to Master s level the last phase of studies in the Bachelor s degree will be inefficient if concurrent Master s courses are not allowed. On the other hand, students are expected to have at least some working life experience before continuing their studies at Master s level. In the national debate the core analysis of curriculum content has suggested preventing the content from swelling over the set student workload as one means. It is essential to understand the cumulative element of the curriculum to avoid distortions in the dimensioning of studies. When the extent of the curriculum of a single subject or the whole degree has been defined, it will be indispensable to analyse the content of the curriculum: e.g. which elements are necessary, which elements are alternative, which may be less extensive and which, finally, may be omitted. In some fields of study this work was only halfway when the credit system was adopted. It is important that beside dimensioning also the structure of studies and curriculum also be examined in order to define which modules belong to the Bachelor s degree or Master s degree. Although there are differences between universities, degrees are seldom are genuine programmes, but give the students considerable latitude both in the way they would like to proceed in their studies and in the selection of minor subjects forming part of the degree. This is much more the case after the statutory changes implemented since 1994/1995. On the other hand these changes also made it possible to take Bachelor s degree. The major challenges to Finnish higher education (as stated in the Development Plan) may be defined in three main points: 1) shorten the length of studies; 2)

3 decrease the drop-out rate; 3) improve students financial aid and 4) creating curricular structures enabling an effective study period abroad (see Development Plan). In addition, quite a lot could be achieved through improving the tutoring of students in all phases of the studies, but especially in the beginning and during thesis writing. The newest claims, like further development of ECTS and tools for student exchange, are connected to the international context which today clearly plays a more important role than a few years ago. Follow-up There is lot of follow-up data regarding higher education available in Finland. A national data base (KOTA) 6 covering students, resources and degrees achieved was created in 1985 and is currently maintained by the Ministry of Education. Retrievals from the data base may be taken on a university or study field basis. Time series are available starting Career services provide information on employment of the graduates twice a year. This information is collected using questionnaires sent to graduates six months after graduation. Additional information on employment is available through Statistics Finland. Furthermore, in every field of study there are annual meetings of deans and faculty administrators. In these meetings all major issues e.g. changes regarding curricula and degrees are debated. Fairly close research and training cooperation exists between some fields of study and business life incl. public administration enabling interaction and exchange of views. Negotiations between the universities and the Ministry of Education on results and resources as a part of the result-oriented management (used currently in public administration in Finland). As stated before, in various surveys for this project the use of the follow-up data is the Achilles heel of the Finnish higher education planning process. There is lot of information available, but it seems to be extremely difficult to draw the necessary and adequate conclusions from the data. Adminstrative support The university senate (board) is the highest decisionmaking body in a university. The senate is aware of the ongoing European and national processes although the content of the processes may be diffuse. Thee need of university level steering is obvious and in many universities preparedness for Bologna has been evaluated and information on Bologna reforms is available on the internet pages of the respective university. A special body, the Council of Teaching and Learning is an additional special organ in preparing for senate issues regarding teaching and learning or changes in degrees. This body together with certain sections of the Administrative Office may give remarkable added value to the discussion within the University. The University of Tampere is member of some international organizations concentrating on higher education like EUA and IMHE. Moreover, individual researchers are members of some other organizations, e.g. EAIR and EAIE. Student participation is guaranteed on all adminstrative levels and ad hoc working groups. So far the ad hoc Bologna group has not appointed at the University of Tampere. Quality assurance The Ministry of Education has the supreme power when new programmes are established or existing distribution of study fields between universities are changed. The Ministry allocates the annual university budget, too, although the universities have great autonomy to decide how to use the money. Thus the supervision of the Ministry still exists to a certain extent in spite of the current deregulation process and the adoption of the subsidiarity principle. The Finnish Higher Education Evaluation Council financed by the Ministry of Education is an independent and competent body in HE evaluations. It will not, however, carry out evaluations, but decides on new evaluations, appoints task forces or peer groups for evaluations and facilitates the evaluations processes in universities e.g. by organising training. 7 Regarding the ongoing EUA project, systematic quality control of teaching and learning achievements is currently not operational at the University of Tampere. In the quality work decentralised to department level the main issue is rather improving the performance of the department than collecting information for control purposes. On department level there are good openings and best practices are both created and adopted, but differences between departments in implementing quality criteria are great. In the annual result negotiations between the rectorate and departments a 5 tier criterion is used to define whether the perfomance of the department is better or worse than a year ago. Key information on resources, students and degrees taken as well as research activities

4 is retrieved from the university data bases and departments have the opportunity to account for the possible negative numeric data. A department may also claim that, due to its good performance it should be raised to the next level. On the other hand the performance level may also be lowered, by the decision of the result negotiations. The University will make budgetary allocations to a department according to the results of these negotiations (achieved level of performance) by the decision of the University Rector. Regarding overall level of teaching and learning the Council of Teaching and Learning and Research Council endeavour to assist departments and faculties to achieve better results by organising seminars and training. Furthermore a special and rather large module in university pedagogics is available for newly appointed teaching staff. So far this module is not mandatory. Regarding quality of teaching and learning there is no specific model followed by all departments; there are rather several activities to adopt thus enabling various ways to enhance quality or to remain outside of the whole quality issue, which in the long run will turn out to be detrimental to the department as a work community both scientifically and economically. 7 Further information on Finnish quality assurance at university level in the Development Plan. 1 See bolognan_prosessi/draft_d_ment_1.pdf and the internet address: opetuksen_tuki/bolognan_prosessi/index_en.html 2 See the Development Plan (e.g. Two-tier Degree System). URL address is the same as above. 3 See: bolognan_prosessi/master_revised.pdf) 4 Further information available in the Development Plan. 5 For further information see: liyliopisto.fi/old/index.php?profile=kansalainen- &language=eng&load=000103& 6 KOTA is a statistical database maintained by the Finnish Ministry of Education. It contains data describing university performance by institutions and by fields of study from 1981 onwards. More detailed national data are available at Statistics Finland and more detailed institution-specific data in the information system of each university. The name KOTA is an acronym of the name of a committee on whose findings the database was based. The KOTA database has been designed as a tool for the Ministry of Education and the universities. It gives them access to the basic data needed for annual planning, monitoring and evaluation.

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