The development of education provision is strategy-driven and based on the needs of working life
The University of Turku’s (UTU) educational provision is linked and developed in line with its strategic objectives. The University’s strategy emphasises research orientation and the relevance of education to working life. Multidisciplinary research, research-based education, entrepreneurship studies and sustainable development are examples of UTU’s current strategic priorities that permeate all its activities.
The development of degree programmes is systematic and based on common policies. The procedures and criteria for the establishment of new degree programmes and international degree programmes are defined by a decision of the Rector. The University Board has a formal role in starting and closing degree programmes. Furthermore, the UTU-level Teaching and Learning Council (TLC) plays an essential role in coordinating programme development, student admissions development and the overall direction of the University’s educational provision.
The development of educational provision is based on the needs of working life. External stakeholders and alumni are also heard in education development. A recent example of this is the establishment of the Faculty of Technology in 2021. Based on extensive demand from the regional industry, the decision was made in 2019 to establish a new Faculty of Technology based on two already existing departments. Companies and the whole region have responded positively to the faculty. There is more interest and commitment than expected. One indication of this is the 14 donated professorships.
Curriculum development is a systematic and participatory process
UTU’s curriculum process is in-depth, guided and well-supported. The timing of the curriculum process, the division of labour, the features of a good curriculum and priorities for the 2022–2024 curriculum period are described in the general curriculum guidelines by the Vice Rector. The Faculty Councils approve the curricula. All faculties apply similar procedures and the same structures but with their own specific policy emphases and modifications. The Teaching and Learning Council discusses how these practices work and is an essential forum for sharing good practices.
The audit visit provided evidence that curriculum planning is carried out as a community-based process and in close cooperation between the faculty, teaching staff, administrative staff and students. The teaching development teams operating at the faculty level ensure that feedback collected from students, external stakeholders and employers is processed and utilised in the curricula development process. Employers’ feedback is collected in several ways, including surveys, stakeholder meetings and interviews and via advisory boards at the faculty level. Employers’ feedback has affected, for instance, the definition of intended generic and field-specific competences and the launching of new courses relevant to the needs of working life. The faculties continuously strive to develop their stakeholder engagement. For example, the Faculty of Humanities will launch a stakeholder and alumni survey next autumn to ask them about their expectations and suggestions to support curriculum development.
In addition to employer engagement, one of UTU’s strengths is students’ strong involvement and influence on the curricula, teaching and learning development processes. Student representation extends from high levels (the Collegium, the TLC and faculty boards) to the unit-level working groups. According to the interviews, student and Student Union feedback has been well-heard, for instance, in reforming curricula structures and course scheduling.
Based on the audit interviews and documents available on the UTU’s intranet, there is constructive alignment between the teaching methods and learning assessment. Managers at the University are strongly encouraged by top management to guide teachers to utilise the available pedagogical and other support services offered. UTUPEDA Centre for University Pedagogy and Research supports teachers in developing learning outcomes and competence-based teaching and learning.
The curriculum process ensures that the degree programmes and other provisions are planned with clearly defined learning outcomes. Degrees are ensured to correspond with the Finnish National Framework for Qualifications and Other Competence Modules (FiNQF).
The University of Turku has set out common guidelines for the definition of students’ workload according to the principles of the ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System). The workload is continuously monitored as part of student feedback. However, student interviews revealed some variation in experienced workload in relation to the defined workload.
The development of multidisciplinary teaching is one of UTU’s topical priorities
Basic principles of teaching are based on the latest research. Audit interviews with researchers indicated that research is integrated into education in multiple ways but depends highly on the field. Typically, research results are integrated into the study contents. Students may take part in interpreting research results and may be offered the possibility to conduct thesis work in research groups. Specialisation options and research connections are available for students in some fields, such as medicine, as early as the first study year. The connection is not as evident in some other fields, and research is more in the background. Students’ views also reflected field-specific variation in research-based teaching.
UTU’s current priorities are strengthening multidisciplinarity in teaching and providing a more open curriculum for students. Each of UTU’s six strategic foci and profiles has a steering group with members from all faculties, and they are working on bridging the gaps between research and education. The University’s management acknowledged that achieving multidisciplinarity is more difficult in teaching than research. However, UTU is taking determined steps towards multidisciplinarity and is revising its teaching accordingly. As stated by the Rectorate, the aim is to achieve fewer bachelor’s programmes but with more focus, higher multidisciplinarity and better options.
At the time of the audit visit, the University of Turku was preparing multidisciplinary study programmes. The Vice Rector for Education was in the process of holding discussions with faculties and deans about increasing ready-made multidisciplinary packages for students and offering them wider opportunities to choose courses. Simultaneously, UTU has recognised that the faculties, study fields and students are different, so the question is how to balance flexibility in study choices with ready-made packages. The audit team advocates that the University create more open curricula to encourage students to develop broader skills and move towards innovation and creativity. While doing so, UTU should ensure sufficient guidance resources for drafting and monitoring students’ personal study plans and career planning.
Internationalisation and continuous learning needs are ensured in education planning
Internationalisation is a recognised part of UTU’s educational provision. UTU students’ international exchanges and internships are mostly well-enabled by curriculum structures and information and support provided by staff members. The incoming international students participate in short-term exchange programmes or two-year international master’s programmes.
Regarding continuous learning, the current provision clearly serves various needs and learners. The University of Turku has a broad offering of continuous learning possibilities, and the Open University is a well-received institution among students, providing possibilities for upskilling, qualification for new positions and even an entryway to degree studies. Furthermore, UTU graduates can use the offers for free for the first two years after graduation. The interviewed continuous learning students particularly appreciated Open University services, practical support for continuous studies and accessibility services.
The quality management of continuous learning provision follows the same criteria as degree education. At the time of the audit visit, UTU was creating guidelines for online provisions. The audit team recommends that the University ensure systematic formats to evaluate and develop courses at the Open University.