Thus, it is a matter of legal HEI oversight. The Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) is responsible for regulatory oversight of universities and colleges. Within this framework, UKÄ also reviews legal issues covered in the European Standards and Guidelines (ESG).

UKÄ’s report on its review of Uppsala University recently came in, and a number of deficiencies were found. 

Course evaluations – one area

One area that was reviewed and received criticism is course evaluations. The HEI is required to not only organise and compile course evaluations, but also provide information about the results and any decisions about measures implemented based on the course evaluations. The results must also be available to the students. 

In its review, UKÄ states that insufficient information is provided to the students regarding course evaluation results. At the same time, it has been established that course evaluations are performed to a high degree, and that they lead to quality enhancement of the programmes.

However, UKÄ states in its report that teachers often forget to, right at the start of the course, present the results of the previous course evaluation and how these were addressed. Even the students who took part in a course evaluation do not receive sufficient feedback, and the results are not always easily accessible on the web or in any other way. The University is therefore encouraged to take measures to better provide feedback and give access to results and decisions on measures being implemented. 

“The problem is not unknown. It is also confirmed by the University’s own student barometer (2018),” stated Åsa Kettis Head of the Division for Quality Enhancement at the University. 

“Of those who responded, only one in five students indicate that they receive feedback based on course evaluations ‘to a high or very high degree’, and two in five indicate that they receive very little feedback or none at all. Our programme evaluations have also shown that the management of course reports and feedback on course evaluation results to the students is a recurring problem. The Uppsala Student Union has also identified deficiencies in this work.”

A lot of work is being done

But Åsa Kettis is positive and believes that there is an awareness of the problems, and that a lot of work is being done to improve the situation. The deficiencies that emerge via the programme evaluations lead to measures by the relevant programme heads. Entire areas and faculties are taking measures to improve the course evaluation work, and the student unions are working to move things in a positive direction. 

At the University-wide level, course evaluation seminars are regularly offered to teachers, students, directors of study and course administrators; the topic is covered in pedagogy courses for teachers; there are recommendations available; and there is a common question bank. 

“Although a lot is being done at all levels, we need to do more,” says Åsa Kettis. “In addition to the work already mentioned, there is reason to review the University-wide guidelines and recommendations for course evaluations. Ten years have passed since they were last updated, so a working group made up of teachers and students will, on behalf of the Vice-Chancellor, draw up a revision proposal.”

She notes that all HEIs are struggling with declining response rates and deficiencies in the handling of the results. But there are also many examples of contexts where the course evaluation work functions well. 

“These are the ones we need to learn from, along with existing research in the field. There may be room for innovation,” concludes the Head of Quality Enhancement.

Additional areas

An additional number of areas were reviewed by UKÄ.  These are credit transfer, student influence, course and programme syllabuses, employment of staff, complaints and appeals, outside activities, and research misconduct – areas for which there is reason to return to in the employee portal.

A very short summary of the results is found below. In the summary of the report, it is apparent that UKÄ largely focuses on matters related to quality assurance as well as standards and guidelines according to the ESG.  The application of law is mainly commented on through reference to individual cases. It appears, among other things, that UKÄ finds that a number of governance documents – which are not required under national legislation – should be drawn up. 

Read UKÄ’s full report of its review “Tillsyn av regeltillämpningen på Uppsala universitet” [Regulatory review of regulation application at Uppsala University]. swedish only

  • Credit transfer 

How does the University ensure that credit transfer matters are handled in a legally compliant and equal manner? 

UKÄ states that the University lacks a common document with procedures for this, and that it would be appropriate to draw up a governance document of this type. In the random sampling conducted, UKÄ found several cases where there were no documented decisions or applications from the students.

  • Student influence 

Students have the right to be represented when decisions are made or preparation takes place that is significant to the programme or the students’ situation. However, the student unions have indicated that they have experienced deficiencies in compliance at the local level. UKÄ finds that the University, together with the student unions, should ensure student influence at all levels of the HEI, and they recommend that a written agreement be reached regarding which bodies students should be represented in.

At the same time, the University is in the midst of developing guidelines for student influence which will address these and other issues. 

  • Course and programme syllabuses

Course and programme syllabuses are among the main governance documents drawn up at the HEIs, but here there is a lack of clarity, according to UKÄ, when it comes to requirements for special qualifications and examination forms. 

There are no rules for when course and programme syllabuses must be decided, but the rule of thumb is that the syllabuses must be decided and available in good time before the programme starts, no later than the day the freestanding course or the programme opens for registration.  

UKÄ considers it appropriate for the University to introduce such rules, e.g. as regards when the syllabuses should be approved and go into force, and when they begin to apply – as a general rule no later than eight weeks before the start of the course.

  • Employment of staff 

The ESG (see above) states that there must be fair and transparent processes when recruiting staff. UKÄ has reviewed whether open positions have been advertised and whether decisions have been announced. In addition, UKÄ reviewed whether women and men are equally represented among those who prepared the cases and among the experts. 

The University’s Appointment Regulations are available on the HEI's website, but, with the exception of the appointment of professor through invitation, there is no information indicating that the HEI must provide information about appointments. 

The random sampling conducted indicates that the University did not provide information about appointment decision in one case, while in other cases there is no information on posting date or information on how to appeal. 

However, the University’s Appointment Regulations are currently under revision, and a draft is circulating within the University for commenting. 

  • Complaints and appeals 

The ESG's guidelines state that there shall be appropriate procedures for handling complaints from students. 

However, the University has no overarching procedures for handling complaints or appeals from students. UKÄ finds that it would be appropriate for the University to draw up such procedures. 

  • Outside activities 

Uppsala University has rules regarding unauthorised outside activities, and how employees should be informed of this. The HEI also has a system for ensuring that employees have read the rules. Overall, UKÄ finds that the University has the conditions in place for ensuring that employees are informed about unauthorised outside activities. 

  • Research misconduct 

The University has rules that determine how serious deviations from good research practice, as well as other deviations from good research practice, should be handled. UKÄ finds that the rules are in line with the Act on Responsibility for Good Research Practice and the Examination of Research Misconduct as well as the Higher Education Ordinance.