How Did Things Turn Out? A mid-term report on the National Agency for Higher Education's quality evaluations 2001-2003
On the whole the quality of higher education in Sweden is good. This is shown in this report, which analyses three years of the National Agency for Higher Education´s evaluations of programmes and subjects. The programmes evaluated stand up to international comparisons according to the international assessors.
A number of problems that are repeatedly referred to in the evaluations relate to the lack of financial resources and to extremely restricted academic environments. The general recommendations involve a greater degree of profiling, cooperation and concentration to improve quality even further. Of the 700 undergraduate and postgraduate programmes evaluated, entitlement to award degrees has only been called into question in 69 cases. These programmes have failed to reach a minimum level of academic acceptability. Querying the right to award a degree is a powerful sanction to promote the development of quality. The improvements made by the higher education institutions have meant that in no case has the National Agency yet been compelled to withdraw this entitlement.
Quality assurance issues are assuming increasing importance in an international context. An international survey shows that the Swedish evaluation system bears comparison very well. It is an extremely ambitious programme with overall evaluation of all subjects and vocational programmes. No other country carries out evaluations in which one and the same panel of assessors evaluates all the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in one subject at every higher education institution. During the three years, the evaluations have had an impact on a very large number of those involved in higher education. In addition to the teachers, students, and departmental, faculty and institutional administrators who have been involved, 330 assessors have also participated. About 60 per cent of the subject experts have come from outside Sweden.
This report also accounts specifically for the evaluations undertaken in 2003. During the year, about 200 evaluations took place of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in specialist translation, cultural studies, social anthropology, ethnology, sociology and related subjects, computer and systems science/informatics, psychology and the certification of psychologists, earth sciences, agrarian programmes and oriental languages. On the whole the evaluations have been positive.
Review has also taken place during the year of the evaluation of the work of the higher education institutions on gender equality, student influence and ethnic diversity. This reveals that conditions at the higher education institutions have improved considerably, especially with regard to social and ethnic diversity.