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Report 2006:5 R

Evaluation of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in work science at Swedish higher education institutions

This report presents the findings of the evaluation of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in work science conducted by the National Agency for Higher Education in 2005. The National Agency entrusted this evaluation to a panel of external assessors consisting of experts from Sweden, Denmark and Finland. The evaluation comprised the undergraduate programmes in work science offered at Blekinge Institute of Technology, the University College of Borås, the University College of Halmstad, Linköping University and Luleå University of Technology as well as the postgraduate programmes in work science offered at Blekinge Institute of Technology, Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg University, the Royal Institute of Technology, Linköping University and the Faculty of Engineering at Lund University.

The National Agency for Higher Education finds that there are grounds for reviewing the entitlement to award bachelor´s and master´s degrees with conflict resolution as a major subject at Göteborg University. On the basis of the unanimous opinion of the panel of assessors, the National Agency does not consider that this programme with its current contents and organisation maintains an adequate academic standard. The other undergraduate and postgraduate programmes meet the quality requirements for higher education.

The evaluation shows that the most prominent characteristic of the subject - its interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary nature - leads to both positive and problematic consequences.

On the one hand the subject can point to a range of programmes with interesting and creative profiles and subject combinations. The long list of potential objects of study and areas of application in the subject of work science can be considered an indication of its wealth of ideas and innovation.

On the other hand the evaluation shows that problems can arise in combining an interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary subject like work science with locally adopted profiles because of the number of difficulties that may ensue. One of these is that the variety of specialisations together with the fact that many teachers and students have their roots in other disciplines may make it more difficult to develop any shared disciplinary identity. Another is that in certain cases the profiles adopted have been taken to such an extreme that there are grounds for questioning whether the subject is still work science. Too narrow a profile may also impose restrictions on student mobility between the different departments that offer work science in Sweden.

The evaluation also indicates the problems entailed by subject integration as a result of the subject´s interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary character. This finds expression in disparities in the range of courses offered, shortcomings in the teaching of methodology and few joint, interdisciplinary research projects.The panel of assessors urges the representatives of the work science departments in Sweden to cooperate at several levels in order to develop a more cohesive subject identity. The departments should come to joint agreement on the contents and the minimum demands required as a platform for the subject. These could take the shape of introductory courses in work science, compulsory work science courses at postgraduate level, specified methods for work science, joint research projects, more undergraduate courses in work science within the framework of master´s programmes in engineering, more fora to enable meetings and discussion within the discipline, etc. This report provides inspiration and good examples taken from the current work science community.