Startpage for Swedish National Agency for Higher Education

Please note! The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education was closed down on 31 December 2012. Instead two new agencies have been established: the Swedish Council for Higher Education and the Swedish Higher Education Authority. This website will continue to operate as the new agencies will have links to information it contains.  

2003:10 R

Evaluation of programmes in environmental science, environmental engineering and environmental and health protection in higher education institutions in Sweden

This report presents the findings of the evaluation of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in environmental science, environmental engineering and environmental and health protection at higher education institutions in Sweden undertaken by the National Agency for Higher Education in 2002. This evaluation formed part of the task assigned by the government that required review of all general and vocational degree programmes during the period 2001-2006. The evaluation was carried out by a panel of external assessor consisting of eight subject specialists, two representatives of the labour market, four undergraduate students and two postgraduate students. The evaluation was based on the self-evaluation reports drawn up by the departments concerned and the panels impressions during its site visits.

In its report the panel of assessors presents the premises that it considers characterise a good environmental programme. In addition a national survey is provided of environmental programmes and an overall assessment of their quality. Recommendations are given each of the 31 programmes on the basis of an individual assessment of their respective strengths and weaknesses.

The National Agency for Higher Education is able to determine on the basis of the report of the panel of assessors that the programmes evaluated maintain a satisfactory standard and do not therefore question the right to award degrees in these subjects at any of the institutions evaluated: Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg University, Dalarna University College, Kristianstad University College, Karlstad University, the Royal Institute of Technology, Linköpings University, Lund University, Mid-Sweden University College, Stockholm University, Södertörns högskola University College, the University Colleges of Halmstad, Kalmar, Trollhättan/ Uddevalla, Malmö, Mälardalen, Umeå University and Örebro University.

Environmental science, environmental engineering and environmental and health protection are all young subjects that have evolved from traditional disciplines: environmental science and environmental and health protection from the natural sciences and environmental engineering from the discipline of technology and traditional programmes in engineering. What characterises the programmes in all three subjects is that they comprise broad-based courses of study grounded in many cases in multidisciplinary intentions. In undergraduate programmes these wide-ranging ambitions can sometimes conflict with the in-depth study required. In order to achieve an adequate level of specialisation and for the sake of progressivity the programmes need to adopt their own profiles. Clearer profiles would also provide one method of dealing with declining enrolment numbers. The profiles adopted by different programmes must be made more explicit in the name given to the subject and described more accurately when the programmes are marketed.

Despite multi-disciplinary aims, on the whole there is far too little teaching provided by more than one faculty. The legacy of the traditional disciplines means that there is a predominance of environmental teaching focusing on the natural sciences and technology and little that relates to the social sciences. However there is probably a great need of generalists in this area and this provides openings for greater variation in the courses offered. The multidisciplinary approach should be accompanied by more extensive use of problem-oriented methods in the programmes and a greater proportion of alternative teaching and examination techniques.

As these subjects are young ones they lack to some extent explicit identities. When research in these areas is more firmly established these identities will probably become more distinct. Increased cooperation between the institutions is recommended to develop the identities of the subjects and the programme profiles. Many programmes have only been started relatively recently and are still taking shape. This is shown, for instance, by the existence of syllabuses and curricular that have formal shortcomings.

In order to strengthen research links it is important to increase the number of teachers with research qualifications and are actively involved in research and to ensure that there is adequate scope within their posts for them to enhance the qualifications. Finally the reading lists should contain more non-Swedish material and more scientific articles.

Postgraduate programmes are offered in environmental science and environmental engineering, but is on the other hand lacking in environmental and health protection, and it is important that this is started. Generally speaking in postgraduate programmes in both environmental science and environmental engineering there is a wide variation in the proportion of taught courses (40-80 credit points), which means in its turn that the time allowed for the production of a thesis also varies a great deal. In addition there is a shortage of postgraduate courses, especially those that involve more than one faculty. Increased cooperation between the higher education institutions on these issues is recommended. Finally it is recommended that every postgraduate students should be allocated an assistant supervisor.

This evaluation will be followed up in three years. The higher education institutions will then be asked to account for the measures taken to develop and improve programmes. The problem of greater depth will be monitored in particular. In addition the prevalence of compulsory courses for which no credit points are awarded will be studied as will the existence of formally adopted syllabuses and curricula.