Transparent but inflexible admission system
The University of Ljubljana (UL) does not hold much influence over the admission of students to its various programmes on the undergraduate level. The process is transparent, based on the grades of prospective students with regulations set by the government. In its self-assessment, the UL indicated, the desire to work towards greater autonomy in student admissions. Enhanced autonomy in admissions and the right to decide on the selection process would enhance several other study-related processes at the university. In the long run, this could result in improved outcomes in terms of dropout rates and intended study durations (see discussion below).
There are university level procedure and criteria on the recognition of the knowledge and skills obtained through informal learning. According to the self-assessment, previously acquired competences are recognised in the context of the application and admission process and can be validated at the respective faculty. Recognition of studies abroad is granted in accordance with legislation. Based on the audit visit, there is room to improve procedures for the recognition of prior learning at the university.
Student-centred learning is promoted
The UL promotes active student engagement within the learning process. This approach advocates for active learning methods, such as group discussions, problem-based learning, flipped learning, and hands-on projects. Additionally, the UL encourages students to set their intended learning outcomes and develop individual study plans that encompass extra-curricular activities. Students can request exam reviews during teachers’ open hours to receive feedback on their learning progress. The audit team recommends that students would also get feedback on assignments and exams digitally, allowing students to track their progress and make necessary improvements. Learning analytics could also be used more.
Teaching staff participating in the workshop talked about challenges with the new generation of students, the need to use various techniques to keep them motivated and to activate them. Students’ great expectations for the teaching are not always coupled with the students’ own input, stressing the need for student-centred approaches and emphasising also the students’ own responsibility for their learning. In terms of teaching and learning, students participating in the audit workshop described only a few methods such as lectures, practical training, and group work. This could imply that either the teaching and learning methods are limited, or the students’ awareness of the methods and their impact on their own learning could be improved. The audit team recommends that teachers enhance the students’ awareness of teaching and learning methods, explain why they have chosen particular methods, and how they are supposed to facilitate student learning.
The connection to the labour market is a core element of the UL’s educational approach. This is realised through internships with industry partners, guest lectures, and industry experts. Flexible study paths and mobility are actively promoted through international networks and activities such as the EUTOPIA network.
Procedures need to be improved for study completion
In several study programmes, the drop-out rate is over 50%. In some programmes, there are no graduates within the expected timeframe. The Slovenian student population is varied with a large proportion of the age group going to university. Based on the audit interviews, there are financial advantages for young people to have a university student status. It was mentioned that many young people seek the status without having the motivation to complete their studies, or that they do not want to graduate because they would need to give up the benefits. Some students take all the exams and courses for a degree, but then do not complete their master’s thesis. Many students are already working at the end of their studies. The covid-19 period and mental health issues further lengthened the graduation times.
It was mentioned during the audit visit that teachers talked with students to get them to understand why completing their studies was important but considered that they did not have the means to make them graduate. Scheduling and requiring a certain level of attendance for passing a course were described in workshops as some efforts made to improve student attendance. There are still numerous internal improvements that could be made at the university. The audit team recommends that university-wide actions are taken to tackle dropouts and study times and ineffectiveness in the system.
Student wellbeing is supported through the tutoring system
The UL has an efficient system for supporting students’ wellbeing, with each student having access to a tutor. Tutors are either advanced students or teachers who can provide academic guidance on matters related to courses and programmes. The tutoring system also serves international students and students with special needs. During the audit visit, the system was praised as highly valuable by students and academic staff members. Tutors report to the faculties’ administration.
Student wellbeing is also considered by other actors. There are a student council and several different student organisations at the university, which receive funding directly from the state. According to the audit visit and self-assessment report, there are lots of programmes for student wellbeing at the university level, such as Tutelage support, the Srčna UL campaign, psychological counselling services, and “How are you feeling?” meetings. Students also have a mentor whose task is to encourage them to graduate. In doctoral studies, supervisors are mainly responsible for the welfare of doctoral students.
The equal treatment of students is a principle at the UL. There are regulations in place against non-discriminatory actions and these allow accommodations on diverse needs. Student ombudsmen are available to address any study-related issues, rights of students and equality, inclusion, and dignity. They also give counselling to students and publish booklets for students. There is a gender equality plan to ensure the implementation of equal opportunities and inclusion principles. A special rector’s fund for extracurricular activities, student conferences and sports are also offered. The UL has also declared itself to be a LGBTQ+ friendly university.
The university could further develop teachers’ pedagogical training
Teaching methods and approaches are annually reviewed as part of the university’s quality management procedures. Based on the audit visit, the university is committed to staying at the forefront of new pedagogical approaches. Several projects such as the INOVUP project have enabled interested academic staff to enhance the teachers’ pedagogical skills, such as student-centred teaching and learning methods. The Centre for Pedagogical Training and the Digital UL Centre have been established to assist educators with digital techniques in teaching (see also Chapter 2.3).
According to the audit visit, a lot of pedagogical courses have been offered at the university level. An overarching programme for academic staff pedagogical training is still missing and there is no established model for the development of teachers’ pedagogical competence. The university could benefit from creating a basic curriculum of pedagogical courses for all teachers and encouraging teachers to participate in pedagogical training in different ways. Several faculties appear to have incentive structures where promotions may depend on completing a set of courses. It is vital to include full professors in such initiatives to prevent older academic staff from being left out of these novel endeavours. Another area where a centralised approach to pedagogical training could be beneficial is in the context of supervising doctoral students. A university-wide review and provision of additional training would enhance supervisors’ skills in effectively guiding and mentoring their students.
According to the audit visit, some of the course materials are outdated and no longer meet current requirements. It was mentioned that some lecturers do not update their knowledge enough. Each faculty also has a Moodle platform, but not all teachers are willing or able to use it. In the scenario where the intention is to become one of Europe’s leading universities, the university should reinforce the teachers’ incentive structure. This would help teachers to understand the importance of participating in continuing training and staying up to date with the newest global developments but also the university’s own ambitions. Academic staff wished for more support and instructions and help from the UL to meet challenges concerning AI.