Follow-up of the National Agency's evaluations of subjects and programmes in 2004
This is a summary in English. The report is available only in Swedish.
Three-year follow-up This follow-up comprises the disciplinary domains evaluated by the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education mainly in 2004. Each disciplinary domain involved between one and twenty-four departments or programmes and these have been sent follow-up questions to answer. The questions were distributed in the spring of 2009 and the responses refer to circumstances during the same semester. All but one of the departments concerned have responded to the questions.
The subsequent period — new qualifications ordinance Since the evaluations took place changes have been made in programmes to adapt to the Bologna Declaration and to a new Qualifications Ordinance that came into effect in 2007. At the time of the evaluations programmes were organised at either undergraduate or postgraduate level and it was to these that the recommendations of the panels of assessors were addressed. When the follow-up took place first, second or third-cycle programmes were being offered. The responses submitted by the higher education institutions to the follow-up questions indicate that teachers have taken account of and benefited from the evaluation recommendations in their work on revising the programme and course syllabuses.
Departments are positive to the effects of the evaluations Several departments expressed very positive appreciation of the effects of the evaluations. One frequent observation was that the evaluations had helped to heighten awareness of quality and that the evaluations had been used to support development and quality procedures. Several mention that self-evaluations began the development processes even before the external evaluation took place. A large number also pointed to the value of external appraisal of what they did well and what could be improved. Some state that programmes have been subject to a form of assessment that they would not otherwise have received.
Conditional approval and programmes that have been phased out In the evaluations several programmes were considered to maintain high standards. The power to award bachelors' degrees in physics was extended only conditionally for two higher education institutions and in French at two others. The programme in study and career guidance was given only conditional approval at one higher education institution.
Conditional extension of its power to award a master's degree in physics was given to one higher education institution, in French to one institution and in Spanish to one institution. Programmes in special educational needs at two institutions were given only conditional extensions of their entitlement to award qualifications.
The quality of postgraduate programmes in English and physics was considered inadequate at one higher education institution and in Spanish at one institution.
The higher education institutions submitted written responses on the measures taken for the programmes that had received conditional approval. The institutions reported that the undergraduate programmes in French and Italian and the postgraduate programmes in English and physics had been discontinued but measures had been taken with regard to all the other programmes that meant that the National Agency no longer considered there were grounds for revoking their degree-awarding powers.
In the follow-up it was reported that additional undergraduate courses had been discontinued. Altogether, two programmes in physics, two in English, two in Spanish, five in French and four in German have been phased out, so that these subjects can no longer form the main field of study in a qualification awarded at the institutions concerned.
What kinds of recommendations have, or have not, been complied with?On the whole many changes have been made to the programmes as a result of the evaluations. The recommendations made by the panels about the organisation of courses, progression, teaching methods, examination forms and the structure of term papers in undergraduate programmes have, according to the follow-up responses, been complied with in most cases. Recommendations that indicated the need of more scholarly texts in the programmes have also largely been taken into account. On the other hand no measures have been taken about recommendations that language programmes should involve morehours of instruction.
In third-cycle programmes recommendations about improved admission routines for doctoral students, for instance national notification of doctoral studentships and places in doctoral programmes, have been followed in many cases. Recommendations that doctoral students should be enabled to acquire teaching experience within their programmes have in many cases led to positive changes. But the establishment of national cooperation to increase the range of doctoral courses on offer seems to be taking longer and the creation of sufficiently comprehensive critical and creative settings for programmes at doctoral level continues to be a challenge for many departments.
Funding for language courses The evaluation reports on programmes in modern languages drew attention to their impoverished economic situation. The follow-up shows that even subjects as large as English find it difficult to offer more hours of instruction or reduce group size as recommended by the assessors. For the other modern languages which normally require school-leaving qualifications for entry (French, Italian, Spanish and German) the evaluations show that the lack of funding has meant that posts cannot be advertised and the hours of instruction have been cut. The follow-up responses from the higher education institutions state that for economic reasons it has been impossible to comply with the recommendations of the panels on increasing teaching hours, establishing language laboratories or the admission of doctoral students even though in most cases the higher education institutions have augmented teaching resources when the assessors have pointed out that this has been absolutely necessary.
For some of the language programmes,"the small languages", the situation continues to be very austere. The National Agency maintains that if there is to be diversity in the programmes offered and the universities are expected to carry out research that requires source material in other languages than Swedish and English, more funding is needed for language programmes as well as extra resources for small language programmes that cannot bear their own costs. The National Agency has already submitted a proposal as to how the situation for the small language programmes could be improved. (To be or not to be? The future of small languages in higher education in Sweden — a government commission, 2003-01-04.)