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2005:16 R

Evaluation of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in philo-sophy subjects at higher education institutions in Sweden

This report presents the findings of a quality evaluation of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the area of philosophy at higher education institutions undertaken by the National Agency for Higher Education during 2004. The subjects evaluated are practical philosophy, theoretical philosophy, logic, the science of science, the science of engineering and science and also aesthetics.

The National Agency for Higher Education entrusted this evaluation to four external experts from Sweden, Finland and Norway, together with a postgraduate student and an undergraduate student. This panel of assessors made site visits to nine higher education institutions between May and October 2004. During the site visits Tommy Dahlén and Anette Gröjer from the National Agency acted as secretaries.

The report consists of two sections. The first contains the decisions and reflections of the National Agency for Higher Education, which are based on the opinions of the panel of assessors. The second section, the panel´s report, contains both general impressions and recommendations and descriptions of the subjects together with descriptions of the specific institutions with impressions and recommendations. The panel of assessors is responsible for the contents of this second section.

All of the programmes evaluated fulfil the quality criteria for higher education and therefore the National Agency is not questioning entitlement to award degrees for any of them. The panel points out that the quality criteria are fulfilled both in terms of the content of the programmes and the teaching offered. On the whole the principal aspects of the discipline are soundly represented in the organisation of the courses. Where their content is concerned, all of the subjects have a completely international character and are also on the whole firmly linked to current research findings. Moreover the teachers seem to undertake their teaching with great commitment and also follow developments in the subject and, to varying extents, undertake their own research. In this way the programmes have satisfactory links with research.

Unfortunately the panel also observes considerable problems in programmes in philosophy, of which some are grave enough to threaten the research links in the long term or jeopardise in some other way attainment of the quality criteria demanded in higher education. The most palpable weakness in these programmes relates to the volume of teaching and the heavy workloads that often afflict the teachers. The extremely uneven gender balance among students, postgraduate students and teachers is also striking. With a few exceptions throughput is remarkably low. In addition many of the educational settings are limited for both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. There is a risk that limited settings of this kind may erode the quality of the programmes.