Educational provision is clearly linked to UEF strategy
UEF’s degree programmes are clearly linked to the university’s strategy. As mentioned in the University’s Self-Assessment Report (SAR), the implementation of “modern and renewed learning” is one of the goals of UEF’s Strategy 2030. The university strategy has several targets that are related to education. UEF strives to be a learning-centred university and to create student-centred and networked learning environments. As UEF is one of the largest providers of open higher education in Finland, continuous learning and education that anticipates societal needs is also highlighted as a strategic goal. The same applies to the internationalisation of teaching and learning.
The courses of study, degrees, and other educational provision are planned with clearly defined intended learning outcomes. As mentioned in the SAR as well as during the audit visit, the PEPPI study data system is used to support and guide the definition of learning outcomes. Generic competences, such as digitalisation, ethics, internationalisation, sustainability and responsibility, critical thinking, interaction, and communication, are part of the curriculum. This underlines the high relevance of the education provision for the future workplace or employment.
Numerous institutions and departments of UEF are involved in the design of study programmes. The process seems well coordinated between the different bodies. For example, the Lifelong Learning and Continuous Learning curricula for 2022−2025 were developed in collaboration between the Centre for Continuous Learning, the Language Centre, and the faculties. UEF focuses on research- and evidence-based teaching. In the audit visit, it became clear that research activities are integrated into education in a way that links research-based information to education in a relevant way. The importance of constructively aligning intended learning outcomes, teaching, and learning assessment was emphasised by various university representatives during the audit visit including the teacher’s workshop. Flipped learning pedagogy, widely adopted by faculty members, supports student-centred learning, promotes deeper understanding and is in line with the ideas of modern learning.
The faculty councils of UEF approve the curricula, and UEF ensures that degrees and learning outcomes are in line with the national qualifications’ framework. Student workload is determined according to the principles of ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System). A calculator (ECTS-Meter) is available to the teaching staff to estimate the workload of the students. Feedback on the students’ workload is requested in course surveys. During the audit visit, students indicated that they are heard when it comes to the distribution of the workload over the academic year.
There is a clear focus on the needs of the labour market especially in medicine, pharmacy, forest sciences, and teacher training. In the general education subjects of the humanities, the HUMUS project is a good example of UEF’s efforts to involve stakeholders in planning teaching and learning.
Interdisciplinarity, internationalisation and continuous learning should be more integrated into the planning of education
In Strategy 2030, UEF has emphasised the importance of developing competences through interdisciplinary research and teaching. In the audit visit, it was revealed that these aspects are also relevant for the planning of education. It seems that interdisciplinarity is mainly implemented in more advanced degree programmes than the bachelor’s degree. The audit team recommends that UEF strengthens the strategic goals of multidisciplinary and excellent research in all educational programmes.
Internationalisation is anchored in the university’s strategy and should also be considered in the planning of the degree programmes. At UEF, there is a wide range of international study programmes, especially master’s and doctoral programmes, and new international programmes are in preparation. There are also various joint Erasmus Mundus programmes. There is a small sub-project on professional intercultural competence. Programmes like this are relevant for embedding internationalisation in all degree programmes. However, it is not easy to get Finnish students to study abroad anymore and in the past students had more connections to international universities and other countries. UEF should be attentive here. Since UEF belongs to the Young Universities for the Future of Europe (YUFE) alliance and is also part of the European Bioeconomy University (EBU), the audit team recommends using its international partnership opportunities to integrate internationalisation as well as benchmarking and joint initiatives into the educational provision to enhance internationalisation. In the next phase of curriculum design, all programmes need to include internationalisation issues in the planning of courses for all students.
In the audit visit, it became clear that continuous learning is a central theme at UEF and is considered when planning education. One of the strengths of the university’s educational provision is that UEF integrates continuous learners into regular courses and ensures the integration of continuous learners within the university. Every graduate can apply for continuous learner status. The audit team recommends using this approach to strengthen the relationship between UEF and its alumni.
Stakeholder involvement and student participation should be strengthened in the planning of education
During the audit visit, it was evident that both students and external stakeholders are involved in the planning of education. Students can participate in the development of the current study programmes as well as in the development of new programmes. However, student involvement could be further developed, and the members of the student union reported difficulties in getting students to participate in different committees.
External stakeholders are consulted in the development of study programmes through work-life seminars and stakeholder meetings. This collaboration is particularly intensive in the areas of medicine, pharmacy, and teacher training. The relationship with local stakeholders is close. There is an ongoing process to involve stakeholders in discussions about future labour market needs and to anticipate changes in the UEF environment in both locally and globally. Stakeholders report excellent engagement in creating new programmes, but limited engagement in renewing existing programmes.
The audit team recommends more systematic use of stakeholder expertise to improve study programmes and especially in the renewal of existing programmes. Extensive stakeholder involvement in the planning and operation of existing study programmes would be beneficial for skills development and would help UEF to ensure the relevance of study programmes to working life. The audit team recommends strengthening the implementation of processes of ongoing reflection on future competency goals.