Transparent student admissions procedures and flexible learning pathways are in place
Study applicants can find ample information on the web – both on the national study information website as well as on VAMK’s website. Various entry ways to VAMK’s programmes are possible depending on the type of previous education as well as on the programme to enter. In all its admission requirements, VAMK complies with those recommended by the Rectors’ Conference of Finnish UASes, and also refers to good practices stemming from joint application with other UASes. Special agreements with other HEIs, clear regulations as to RPL as well as credit transfer possibilities ensure flexible learning and study completion paths for applicants and students. In the interviews, students confirmed that these processes work well and that they do make use of the opportunities given.
All relevant information is easily accessible and transparent. Prior to publication on the website, admission criteria are discussed and agreed upon with the educational units of the institution. The audit team confirms that admission criteria are openly shared and found that they were written in clear and comprehensible language. Clear process descriptions as well as written guidelines provide a sound basis for transparency and equality in the admission procedures. Furthermore, personal guidance provided by VAMK’s admission service is also available for applicants.
Student-centred teaching approach supports students’ competence development
Teaching and learning at VAMK are impregnated by the institution’s ambition to develop skilful graduates for working-life needs, thus enabling competence development through project-based and practice-oriented teaching. The research-practice nexus is monitored through diligent guidance in the thesis process. Interactive teaching intends to foster student’s self-competence, while frequent feedback in class, on assignments, homework and exams shall stimulate students’ learning ambition and monitor the students’ progress.
In the student interviews and workshops, it became clear that students highly appreciate interactive teaching and learning methods. Examples mentioned by students include group work as a teaching method, a wide range of courses and campus.online offerings, input from visitors from working life, team-teaching experiences and services of the Tritonia science library. As the interactive teaching forms particularly support students in attaining the set learning outcomes, the auditors recommend that teachers apply interactive methods regularly in their courses when appropriate.
For every teacher, self-development hours are available to engage in continuous learning to keep their practical knowledge and pedagogical skills up to date, and so is the opportunity to go for a working life period. Teacher’s competence development with regards to the implementation of online studies is supported by Edulab, a service centre for digital pedagogy. Particularly due to the Covid19 pandemic, it has become a necessity for all VAMK teachers to offer online courses and studies. Edulab can support the long-term success of the participating higher education institutions which focus on how to use digital pedagogical tools effectively.
An example of good practice concerning the development of teaching skills is the team teaching, fostering learning from each other and helping students to deal with different perspectives. The auditors encourage VAMK to explore and expand these forms of professionalisation even more.
Furthermore, it would be important to provide teachers with opportunities for pedagogical renewal, for example, through coaching programmes, or further collegial support from peers as this could even out the differences experienced by students in the quality of courses. While the interviewed students were mostly pleased with the quality of teaching, and the wide range of courses as well as the availability of online provision, in some cases, teaching methods and material would need refreshment and updating. Based on the audit, VAMK is aware of these issues and is actively addressing them through projects.
Student well-being and tutoring are well taken care of
The institution’s student-centred approach, which begins while designing educational programmes that aim at developing students’ competences for work-life and practice, is fostered by various opportunities of flexible learning paths. This flexibility is facilitated through cooperation agreements with other HEIs, ECTS credit transfer and recognition of prior learning, as well as by institutional support for learning and learning progress.
At VAMK, tutoring is widely used to monitor the students’ progress, study abroad and practical training plans and to gain and provide feedback. The annual appraisal meetings organised by the teacher tutor for all students of a cohort is an example of VAMK’s student-centred approach. In addition, teacher tutors regularly monitor the progress of studies of the students within their tutor group by using a standardised monitoring sheet and a digital tool called Peppi. The first student experiences of this newly reformed group tutoring approach were very positive. The auditors consider this uniform improved approach to tutoring and monitoring student success and progress as an example of good practice.
Student representatives from VAMOK also engage in tutoring fellow students, in organising leisure and sport activities and supporting fellow students in critical situations, such as harassment.
As for the equality and non-discrimination plan within VAMK, a corresponding plan pertaining to students is included in the student well-being programme. However, the 2021 programme published on the website does not refer to equality and non-discrimination. VAMK should check that the principles of equality and non-discrimination concerning students are up-to-date and published adequately.
As a point for further development, VAMK should ensure that all information is available in English for the sake of international students.
Support systems and services for students work well
A competence-enhancing and motivating study environment also means provision of efficient and flexible support services. To provide more flexibility as well as more time for personal service and support of students, VAMK has largely digitised its services by introduction of an automated student affairs service (ATOMI) as well as a graduation service called VALO. In the audit, students expressed their satisfaction with the digital services as they are handy to use and well accessible. Through regular meetings and cooperation with the educational units, areas of further development as to services are identified and solutions are discussed.