International mindset, future-orientation and cooperation serve as strategic guidelines for planning of education
The institutional strategy is firmly rooted in VAMK’s mission and vision to be a competent and expert partner for students and industry partners and provides an innovative and competence-enhancing environment for both. The interviews provided evidence that there is a clear focus on investing in students’ success and providing a work and study environment which is inspirational, oriented towards the development of an international mindset and creates manifold opportunities for national and international students.
VAMK is strongly linked to the regional working life field through close partnerships and networks, and is thus well equipped to educate qualified workforce for the future. Development needs are taken up regularly, often through rather informal channels. Educational offers at VAMK are planned, designed, and evaluated in cooperation with partners from working life, for example through the advisory committees and alumni feedback. RDI and practical projects with regional partners, staff and students are also sources for input into education. Staff is also encouraged to actively take part in working-life projects and opt for a short-term working-life experience and integrate these projects as well as outcomes stemming from RDI and the newest research into teaching and learning. All of this feedback and insights feed into educational offers.
So far, the institution has made substantial efforts to create an international learning environment for students in the international programmes. The audit team encourages VAMK to continue these efforts and provide an international environment for all students and thus strengthen the international mindset throughout the institution.
Development and planning cycle are participatory processes
The starting point of the curriculum planning processes at VAMK is the annual planning cycle, starting point of the actual development process are the intended qualifications, the competence descriptors of the Finnish National Qualifications Framework, as well as national regulations. Qualification goals are translated into learning outcomes, teaching formats and assessment methods foster attainment thereof. As part of the curriculum drafting, the assessment criteria, assessment formats and didactic methods are aligned with the intended learning outcomes.
Renewal of the curriculum is a process of teamwork; adequate involvement of all is monitored by the management. Teams of experts consisting of teachers take care of the curriculum skeleton and working life representatives are involved in discussions on competence needs and the curriculum.
VAMK’s clear processes cater well for adherence to its guiding quality principles; both the development process and the renewal process integrate input from different stakeholders such as students, alumni, external partners, working life and staff. Feedback stemming from course evaluations, e.g., as to workload is also considered in the planning of educational programmes, and so are internationalisation, societal impact aspects and the latest research outcomes. In the interviews, the strong involvement of teachers, students, and external stakeholders in both the annual planning and the programme development cycle was confirmed. Students explicitly expressed satisfaction with their role in the curriculum development and renewal process.
All programmes and educational offers are finally approved by the Management Team; through its monitoring and checking role, the Management Team ensures that the educational provision is in line with the institution’s strategy. Relevance for working life comes from the input of partners.
However, the auditors learned that students’ learning experience is somehow uneven regarding active learning with working life representatives and the extent to which teachers provide current affairs’ examples and up to date information in class. To foster continuous updating on course level taking account of developments in working life, to increase consistency over courses and programmes and to avoid overlap of content in courses within the same programme, VAMK is recommended to define more concrete content and learning outcomes already when drafting the skeleton of the curriculum – instead of allocating this task to the level of the course design by teachers.
With regard to course descriptions, the auditors recommend evening out the evident differences in learning outcome descriptions and follow the ECTS Users’ Guide more closely and consistently with focus on competences to be achieved as outcome upon completion of a course. Concerning workload, VAMK should redirect attention to the calculation of student workload and use the workload calculator in a comparative way across the UAS departments, so that courses with comparable objectives and content bear comparable ECTS.