Tag: reform

Guest blogger: Higher Education Learning Outcomes – do they matter?


Hanne Kvilhaugsvik (University of Bergen)

Hanne Kvilhaugsvik is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Administration and Organization Theory, University of Bergen. Her research interests are organizational change in universities, governmental steering of higher education, and university governance. Her PhD project explores how learning outcomes and criteria of relevance for the labor market are used to evaluate and steer higher education in Norway and Denmark. This blog post is based on material from her master’s thesis in Administration and Organization Theory from 2015.

By the end of 2012, Norwegian higher education institutions were required to introduce written descriptions of the intended learning outcomes for each and every course unit and study program, in every discipline. Learning outcomes are connected with qualifications frameworks, the Bologna process, and the OECD, and have therefore been introduced throughout Europe during the last couple of years. So, what happens to higher education institutions when learning outcomes are introduced? Do they improve the quality of education and provide transparency, or are they simply formal requirements?

What are learning outcomes?

Learning outcomes can be defined as: “[…] written statement[s] of what the successful student/learner is expected to be able to do at the end of the module/course unit, or qualification.” (Adam, 2004: 5). In pedagogy, learning outcomes have been connected to a paradigm-shift “from teaching to learning” or “from input to output”. The recommendation is to use expected learning outcomes as a starting point for planning course units and study programs (Biggs and Tang, 2011). This is described in contrast to planning based on traditional input factors, such as reading list and content descriptions.

Learning outcomes can be understood as administrative tools or formalities. However, they have increasingly been described and promoted as instruments for reform and change (Lassnigg, 2012; Bjørnåvold and Coles, 2007). There is no shortage of goals for using learning outcomes: To improve the quality of education, provide transparency, ensure relevant qualifications for the labor market, and provide better opportunities to steer education. Learning outcomes can therefore be understood in connection with New Public Management ideas, and especially with ideas of reforming higher education towards more ‘complete organizations’ (Brunsson and Sahlin-Anderson, 2000). While learning outcomes have been studied much within pedagogy, there has been less research on learning outcomes as political instruments or policy tools (Souto-Otero, 2012). It is therefore interesting to study how learning outcomes are introduced and defined as instruments in higher education.

A case study on learning outcomes in higher education 

Call for papers: 11th International Workshop on Higher Education Reform

HER2014The 11th International Workshop on Higher Education Reform will be held between August 25 to 27, 2014, at the Memorial University, St. John’s, in Newfoundland (Canada). This year, the key theme is focused on students. The key theme for the workshop is outlined as following:

Presentations are invited, and discussions will primarily focus, on themes related to reforms and innovations regarding accessibility and affordability of post-secondary studies, conditions and modes of learning, the transition from study to work, and, for adult students, the integration of higher education with other aspects of their professional, personal and civic life. As the relationship between HE and labor markets and employment systems is changing and the borders of HE expanding, there are many new institutional innovations, programs, forms of learning, and transition mechanisms and routes both into HE, from HE to the world of work, as well as from employment and domestic and civic duties back into HE.

Download the Call for Papers here (pdf) with extended information about the conference theme.

Papers and panels that address the above-mentioned and related themes are invited. Proposals for individual papers should not exceed 400 words, those for panels not 800 words in length.

  • Proposals should be submitted to the Organizing Committee before or on May 2nd, 2014.
  • Submissions can be made to HER2014@mi.mun.ca.
  • Details concerning communication, registration, accommodation, and the program can be found at the workshop website.

Wonder how the workshop is like? Read a review about the previous workshop in Ljubljana

New research reports on higher education systems in the Balkans

western balkansHigher education in the Western Balkans was for a long period a relatively under-researcher region in Europe, but has in recent years gained more attention and an number of interesting research projects are underway.

As part of the project “European Integration of Higher Education and Research in the Western Balkans,” (read more about the project here) the project team has produced the series of reports entitled “Overview of Higher Education and Research Systems in the Western Balkanswhich are now available for download on the project website. The reports cover seven higher education systems in the region – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo*, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia and each of the reports represents a comprehensive overview of the higher education and research systems in the region, covering topics such as policy, governance arrangements, funding, institutional landscape, and quality, while focusing on the major reforms and trends in the recent years.

Another project that examines the region is titled “Differentiation, Equity, Productivity: The Social and Economic Consequences of Expanded and Differentiated Higher Education Systems – Internationalisation Aspects“, led by University of Ljubljana, where the research team is led by prof. Pavel Zgaga from Centre of Educational Policy Studies (CEPS). In a recent report they have published the results of a survey at seventeen higher education institutions from eight countries of the Western Balkans. You can download the report here. 

Call for papers: workshop on higher education reforms

WHER10th International Workshop on Higher Education Reform (WHER) will be held between October 2–4, 2013 at the Faculty of Education in University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. The event is themed “Higher Education Reforms: Looking Back – Looking Forward“.

The key theme of the event:  The 2013 Workshop theme gives an opportunity to look at the larger picture of these changes, the drivers of change, and their effects. At the same time, the theme invites contributions about the likely futures of HE over the next generation, suggesting (or speculating on) developments that will further change HE. 

The factors highlighted include marketization and privatization of HE, rankings and excellence focus, changing governance, consumerism and tuition fees, as well as new initiatives such as MOOCs and online learning trends and their impact on traditional academic values and institutional autonomy. Read more about the theme, proposal requirements and application procedure here.

Deadline:  June 1, 2013.

More information on event website.

New working paper published on developments in Swedish higher education

The research group working on higher education at the  Faculty of Education in University of Oslo (HEIK) has recently published a new working paper that is freely available for download.

The paper is by professor Berit Askling from Göteborg University, and it is titled “Integration and/or Diversification: The role of structure in meeting expectations on higher education“.

The paper puts focus on the long term developments of higher education systems, using Sweden as a case. It highlights the evolution of Swedish higher education system from a 50 year perspective and further reflects on the changing nature of higher education in the modern society. A core question in the paper is to what extent markets can be seen as a threat to universities as autonomous institutions, of whether we witnessing a change in the societal pact.

You can read the abstract and download the paper at HEIK website.

Guest blogger: University autonomy in Austria – a review

Philipp Friedrich

This guest entry is written by Hedda master student Philipp Friedrich, who is currently a second year master student at the Hedda Master Programme in Higher Education. Philipp has earlier studied history and political science in University of Vienna in Austria. In the post he examines the recent developments in Austrian higher education regarding institutional autonomy. 

Much has changed in the last ten years since Austrian universities were reformed by the Universities Act 2002. The idea behind this law was to prepare Austrian universities for a global future where a changing environment forces universities to flexibly respond  to new developments and demands, where the international dimension of science becomes more and more important and where funding of education becomes unstable and unpredictable due to public spending cuts. How can the Austrian universities act and succeed under these circumstances? How will they be able to deal with issues like massification, the implementation of the Bologna reform, while simultaneously guaranteeing high quality and performance in research, teaching and learning?  Less political interference, economic benchmarks and university autonomy are seen as a possible solution to these challenges.

The most challenging issue in the recent years has been the massification at Austrian universities, especially through a growing number of foreign students. Austrian universities are attractive for (European) students because they do not increase tuition fees[1] in general and provide free choice and access to higher education. This led partly to very problematic situations and insufficient conditions in research, teaching and learning. Another factor that intensifies this issue is the implementation of the Bologna reform because now the universities have to restructure their study programs – introducing the three-tier-system with bachelor, master and PhD – while simultaneously terminating the old diploma and doctoral programs step by step. So over the years Austrian universities are having multiple burdens because they maintain the new and the old study system.

HEIK academic seminar on rankings and organisation of universities with K. Sahlin

This video features a presentation by dr. Kerstin Sahlin, titled “A rising interest in management and governance of universities: Rankings and organization models on the move”.  In this presentation, Sahlin examines two influential global themes: the expansion of rankings and assessments, and how universities have become organisational actors. The two themes are interrelated and they are also connected to a number of other global developments, and multilevel analysis will be employed to explain why universities have lately become subject to such intense reforms of governance and organization.

Kerstin Sahlin is currently a professor of business administration at Uppsala University, and has extensive first hand knowledge about higher education governance in Nordic countries. She has earlier held the position of prorector at Uppsala University and her main research interests are linked to the organizational change in the public sector and the transnationalisation of management ideas.

The lecture was recorded in April 2012 as a part of the academic seminar series of the research group HEIK (Higher Education: Institutional Dynamics and Knowledge Cultures) at the university of Oslo.

Higher education in Japan – current challenges

Higher Education in JapanJapan has been frequently featuring media during the last two months, since the tragic earthquake on March 11, 2011 that has taken countless lives and created destruction beyond imaginable. While great attention has been paid to the courageous attempts to keep the nuclear plants under control and avoid even greater catastrophe, the aftermath of this crisis has also had a major impact on higher education, as on all other spheres of society.

Japan has been through quite significant changes in recent decades. Being a huge success story during the 80s through production of high-tech, consumer electronics and car industry, Japan faced an economic downturn during the 90s. From societal perspective, one of the more striking features is the significantly aging population, and a recent OECD report on tertiary education in Japan indicated that by 2050, the population will have decreased by 25%, this rapid shift is already taking place and is having major consequences for the whole society.

Japanese higher education system is characterized by a large private sector and a high participation rate, where expansion has been achieved through diversification of institutional missions (OECD 2009). From governance perspective, Japanese higher education system has been described as a hybrid system, characterised by policy borrowing/learning from both the US and Germany, as argued by Tom Christensen in a recent article in Higher Education Policy.  Christensen provides a thorough examination of the various reforms that have taken place in Japan this far, and argues that the reform trends can be characterised both by New Public Management (NPM), but also post-NPM trends. These trends are characterised by focus on efficiency and effectiveness, institutional leadership, competition and management.

New research on massification of higher education in China

Photo: Stock:xchng

China is often stated as the new upcoming power in higher education, shown both in the rapid expansion of enrollments and  increasing production of research and academic publications. While there has been some disagreement about whether it is primarily a quantitative or qualitative expansion, there is no doubt that China is prioritizing focus on knowledge and that there is also increasing amount of research published in international journals on Chinese higher education.

However, this rapid growth has had consequences as well and it is not guaranteed that the outcomes would necessarily be the ones anticipated, as in any policy process. In a recent publication in Higher Education, Xiaoyan Wang and Jian Liu examine this transition. The article highlights that the growth has indeed been on a huge scale, during just over ten years, there has been a growth from just under 10% participation rates to 24,2% in 2009.

The authors emphasize that this expansion was not spontaneous, but a planned measure to combat the consequences of the  Asian Financial Crisis in 1997 – the expansion was expected to give a boost to the economy, through increased need for infrastructure and consumption of educational resources. The underlying principle for this policy initiative was grounded in Keynesian thinking and human capital theory – meaning that investing in education and infrastructure has also positive short-term effects on consumption and thus the economy.

While the article indicates that there was indeed increased consumption and need for infrastructure, the initiative also had unintended consequences, most notably on the equity aspect of the students enrolled due to increasing tuition fees and an insufficient financial aid programme. In addition, this huge investment has also burdened the banks, and the researchers argue that this might have had a negative effect on potential growth in other sectors. The most worrying tendency brought out by the authors is the astonishing increase in the amount of unemployed graduates, and Xiaoyan Wang and Jian Liu thus argue that “China’s current social, economic and political structures are not ready to absorb them“.

International Higher Education Podcast – Episode 24

Topic: Reform and Governance of Higher Education

Episode 24 of our podcast series features an interview with Teboho Moja as she analyzes the various models of governance that can be adopted in Higher Education and shares her perspective on reform from her extensive involvement in leadership positions within the South African government.

Listen to the podcast:

Listen without the Flashplayer

Teboho Moja

Dr. Teboho Moja is Clinical Professor of Higher Education at NYU in the United States and focuses her research on areas of Higher Education reform in terms of governance, policy and the impact of globalization.

She has worked as a policy analyst at the Center for Education Policy Development, where she focused on the South African higher education system, and as an adviser to two South African ministers for Education after the first democratic elections in 1994. She served as executive director and commissioner to the National Commission on Higher Education appointed by President Mandela. Her research focuses on the implications of globalization in higher education. She teaches courses on this subject, as well as on leadership in higher education and educational reform. She has published extensively on higher education in South Africa and has served as a board member of the International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP). She now serves on the UNESCO Scientific Committee for Africa and is a member of the advisory committee of the Global Center on Private Financing of Higher Education, an initiative of the Institute for Higher Education Policy.