Annual conference on programme evaluations gathers many online
Uppsala University’s annual internal conference on study programme evaluations is an opportunity to learn about the results of and experiences gained from evaluations conducted during 2019 and 2020. This year’s conference took place online on 17 and 18 March.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Coco Norén welcomed attendees by emphasising the purpose of the conference on study programme evaluations: to inspire and share experiences.
“There is incredible satisfaction to be had in teaching and being a teacher! I would also like to beat the drum for teaching at lower levels in the undergraduate programmes. It is amazing how much students can develop in only a few years.”
Åsa Kettis, head of the Division for Quality Enhancement, presented a graphic showing the design of Uppsala University’s quality management system. She explained that the circular figure, while appearing to be a colourful wheel, is actually a “cone-shaped structure” viewed from above, with a solid base, supporting pillars and a fixed central core.
“While one of the most pressing issues right now is to curb cheating in assessments, the core of the structure – ‘Environments for research and education’ – is crucial to all of our work to enhance quality. But which of the components of the wheel is most important? Well, ‘Skills and careers’. If that doesn’t hold up, then the core itself becomes unstable.”
The field ‘Research and education evaluations’ includes the study programme evaluation model, which is intra-disciplinary and self-regulating. The Swedish Higher Education Authority’s institutional reviews ask questions such as: Is the quality assurance system at Uppsala University of an acceptable standard? Does it create good conditions for quality education?
“Between February and May 2021, the Swedish Higher Education Authority will be conducting site visits to the University and submitting a preliminary report, followed by official conclusions later in the year.”
Maria Wolters, project manager at the Division for Quality Enhancement, presented the report Quality Report: What does the half-time review show?
“Although we face challenges recruiting students to evaluations, the decentralised evaluation model is a strength. It is strongly supported, clearly quality-enhancing and focused. The ambition is that the evaluation should be simple and cost-effective, but this requires resources. The review shows strengths such as a high level of subject and pedagogical competence among teachers, good teaching methods, a broad international background among students and teachers, that teaching has a basis in research and, not least, good student influence, even if the students’ unions would like to see improvements in the feedback students receive regarding results and measures.”
Jacob Färnert, chair of Uppsala Student Union, then discussed the work of the students’ unions on study programme evaluations and pointed out that the University still lacks guidelines on student influence.
“Uppsala University spends much less on student representatives than some other universities in the SLUG network [the collaboration between the universities of Stockholm, Lund, Uppsala and Gothenburg].”
Cilla Häggkvist, deputy head of the Student Affairs and Academic Registry Division, added that the work of introducing guidelines is ongoing and will hopefully be concluded shortly.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Coco Norén weighed in that a decision has been made to remunerate student representatives and that, while this has not yet been implemented throughout the University, it is underway.
A few examples of experience gained in the faculties and departments
Mikael Elinder, Associate Professor at the Department of Economics, discussed the Faculty of Social Sciences’ inquiry into the cost-effectiveness of the evaluation model: What are the expectations within different programmes? What ambitions are there? What needs are there?
“Study programmes have different conditions for conducting self-evaluations, for example, the total number of students, etc. One conclusion of our inquiry was that we are still talking about a reasonable use of resources, with potential for greater efficiency. The major differences in the resources consumed appear to have reasonable explanations, but something that was slightly surprising was that we didn’t find any real ‘evaluation fatigue’ after the self-evaluation.”
While discussing experiences gained from the evaluation of PhD education in Medicine and Pharmacy, Anders Backlund, Adviser to the Vice-Chancellor on Internationalisation, addressed the issue of the added value of having international assessors on panels.
“It was very interesting to receive input from, for example, Iceland and Denmark. Do we have a good way of working here? It’s valuable to include people from other, international, backgrounds rather than just from the University, for example, from regional authorities in Sweden, museums, etc. I recommend trying to find representatives from backgrounds other than higher education.”
Otto Fischer, Professor of Rhetoric at the Department of Literature, discussed the evaluation of the PhD Programme in Rhetoric at Uppsala University, speaking warmly of the benchmarking model used.
“Rhetoric is a small subject both nationally and internationally in Europe. We collaborated with the University of Tübingen, which has the only department of rhetoric in Europe. The benchmarking model adopts a comparative perspective, resulting in a joint exchange of experiences. They familiarised themselves very well with the Swedish education system and then sent us a detailed report. We also had a supplementary internal assessor from Romance Languages at Uppsala University. Our concern was that it would be difficult to compare the systems in the different countries with each other, but it proved to be an extremely rewarding evaluation that has also resulted in exciting collaborations going forward. We recommend the model, especially once travel restrictions have been lifted and one can visit other countries for this kind of collaboration.”