Centres of Excellence in University Education in Finland Riitta Pyykkö, Professor, Chair of FINHEEC Helsinki 24 February 2009
Outline of the presentation • Quality Assurance of Higher Education in Finland Finnish evaluation policy FINHEEC, its duties and principles Types of evaluations organised by FINHEEC why enhancement-led evaluations? evaluation & steering and management evaluation & financial incentives • Brief history of the Finnish Centres of Excellence system • Lessons learned Why a new method in 2008?
National context of the Finnish HE system • HE system consists of two complementary sectors: universities (focus on scientific research and education) and polytechnics (professionally oriented HEIs) • all universities government-run and primarily financed by the state budget (->2009) • polytechnics (from 1990s onwards) either municipal or private institutions, authorised by the government; government and local authorities share the costs • HE system has been quite stable, today a major structural development process going on • a national higher education and innovation policy: Development Plan for Education and Research adopted by the Government for a six-year period every four years • a society of mutual trust, steered by information
Background and development of the Finnish HE evaluation policy • roots in mid 1980s • Higher Education Council (Korkeakouluneuvosto) 1966-1995 • Evaluation of research: Academy of Finland 1983- • 1986: Act on the development of the higher education system, a step towards greater accountability and performance-based state funding • establishment of polytechnics in 1990s > need of an autonomous evaluation body • FINHEEC 1996 -> • in 1990s: foundation of international QA networks • QA as a part of the Bologna process and EHEA > a new national evaluation policy was necessary > FINHEEC’s Audit Model in 2005
FINHEEC and its duties an independent expert body appointed by the Ministry of Education (usually for 4 years) 12 members (4+4+2+2) secretariat (11) Duties: • Assist institutions of higher education and the Ministry of Education in issues relating to evaluation • Organise evaluations on the operations of institutions of higher education and higher education policy • Initiate evaluations of higher education and promote its evaluation • Engage in international evaluation cooperation • Promote research on evaluation of higher education • Organise evaluations on higher education in the county of Åland islands
Enhancement-led evaluations as the premise for FINHEEC operations • The purpose of the evaluations organised by FINHEEC is to support the HEIs in their endeavours to improve the education they offer (enhancement-led evaluation). • The objective is to produce information which the HEIs can use in developing their own operations. • Another objective is to exchange and disseminate the good practices identified in evaluations > reports, seminars, some funding for development projects • HEIs themselves by law responsible for their operations > HEIs have the ultimate responsibility to utilise and implement the information and recommendations provided in evaluations.
Main types of evaluations organised by FINHEEC • Institutional evaluations evaluations of universities and polytechnics audits of QA systems of HEIs (2005 -> ) • Accreditation-like evaluations initial evaluations of polytechnics (1996-2003) accreditations of professional courses (1996-2007) • Subject evaluations and follow-up evaluations • Education policy and other thematic evaluations • Selection of centres of excellence in education (both HE sectors)
Steering and management of universities (->2009) • three year performance-agreements between the Ministry of Education and each university; management by results and target-setting • determine quantitative and qualitative targets, resources needed to achieve these targets, monitoring and evaluation of outcome, and further development of operations • in the same way, the university sets target outcomes for the faculties and the rector’s office carries on performance negotiations with faculties • a national public database KOTA (https://kotaplus.csc.fi/)maintained by the MinEdu (1981-> ) • the steering system highlights the role of evaluation • HEIs shall by law take part in external evaluations; findings of the evaluations must be published
Brief history of the Finnish Centres of Excellence system (1) • the only part of the FINHEEC’s operations, where financial incentives are utilised • MinEdu provides performance-based funding to the selected units (at present, for 3-year agreement periods) background: university financing: core funding, funding of national tasks & programmes, project funding, performance-based funding performance-based funding allocated since 1998 on the basis of special criteria, dependent on quality of research as well as quality, efficiency and effectiveness of education
Brief history of the Finnish Centres of Excellence system (2) • goals of the CE system: to emphasise the significance of education in parallel with research; to improve the quality and relevance of education; to provide support for continuous improvement of education • complements the Finnish quality audit system: quality of processes and operations vs. quality of performance and results • method in the previous rounds: based on written applications evaluated by national field-specific peer expert panels (also students participating – and well prepared!) • a public report (as all FINHEEC’s reports) and a final seminar
Finnish Centres of Excellence in university sector (1994 ->) • Centres of Excellence in education and research 1994: CoE in education and research by the Higher Education Council from 1995: CoE in research -> Academy of Finland from 1998: CoE in education -> FINHEEC • Centres of Excellence in university education: from 1998 five selection rounds; in total 88 units designated • Universities of Excellence in adult education: from 2000 three selection rounds (last round 2007-2009); in total 13 units designated
Finnish Centres of Excellence in polytechnic sector (2000 ->) • Centres of Excellence in polytechnic education: four selection rounds; in total 19 units designated • Centres of Excellence in regional development: three selection rounds (last round 2006-2007); in total 12 units designated
Lessons learned from the previous rounds • importance of education and teaching has been highlighted; the evaluation method has given desirable results, and has been considered useful in HEIs, but • from the mid 1990s, the same method with only slight changes > does it still support continuous improvement? does it support innovation? does it measure ”real quality”? or only writing skills? • lack of site visits, no possibility to verify activities described in the application • growing difficulties in collecting field specific expert groups, sometimes risk of partial decisions (< small country); need for international reliability >need for a new evaluation method
Process in 2008: a two-phase international peer evaluation • FINHEEC receives the assignment from the Ministry and appoints a Steering Group • Steering Group sets the criteria for the evaluation • University units send their applications (which are later published on FINHEEC’s website) • FINHEEC appoints international experts to evaluate the applications and to choose max 20 units for site visits • International experts are teamed up with Finnish experts and a secretary to conduct the site visits • All experts together make the summary of the findings and prepare a proposal to FINHEEC • FINHEEC makes the decision (up to 2008: FINHEEC proposed units to the Ministry, which made the final decision) • Report is published with the description of the evaluation process and the applications of the chosen units as well as the evaluation team’s feedback to the units All applicants receive written feedback
Possible themes for discussion during the seminar (1) • continuity vs. change a method ”wears out”, but rapid big changes also not useful • number of applications vs. method organisation of site visits too complicated for a big number of applicants • what is a ”unit” (centre)? faculty, department, programme, graduate school, network, ? how to compare a big faculty/department with a small one? (”family-like departments”) • avoiding the Matthew principle should we limit the possibility to apply or demand more from those already rewarded? financial incentives vs. ”quality label”
Possible themes for discussion during the seminar (2) • what is quality in this connection? excellence, fitness for purpose, quality culture, ? • qualitative criteria vs. indicators indicators support the information received from the self-evaluation report can even be decisive • the process itself should be useful enables to identify own strengths and development needs • how to embed a genuine quality culture? reports public, but do the best practices really spread? And a conclusion after all these critical remarks:
The process itself at its best can be a significant tool in improving the quality of higher education Thank you for your attention!