Aalto has consistent and transparent provisions and regulations concerning student admission, the recognition of prior learning, the progress of studies, and the completion of degrees
Aalto’s intake numbers result from a national agreement between Aalto and the Ministry of Education and Culture. At the same time, Aalto’s criteria for student admission are decided by the university’s Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) and are openly available.
Aalto’s policy on credit transfer and recognition of prior learning is also openly available. It lists detailed principles relevant to credit transfer and criteria for recognition of prior learning in a target-oriented way, which is a strength. It concludes with an explanation of the formal procedures used in credit transfer, including the opportunity to appeal against a negative decision from the university.
Since 2021, the regulations associated with bachelor’s and master’s degrees have been collected in common degree regulations across schools. Doctoral education has had similar common regulations since 2018. The regulations come across as both consistent and transparent.
Students have an active role in their learning process, but feedback on students’ learning could be more systematic and personal
Both Aalto’s Programme Director’s Handbook and the guide GetInspired! – A Guide to Successful Teaching focus on this constructive alignment principle. Aalto has also designed a Teacher’s Handbook with explicit checklists on what teachers must consider when preparing and implementing a course. It explicitly supports target-oriented learning and the active role of students in their own learning processes.
When it comes to student-active learning, Aalto lists many specific tools for teachers, e.g. in the design of assignments, online sessions, student feedback activities, questionnaires, in-class multiple-choice surveys and shared course diaries. Students can ask the lecturer questions, comment on lectures or give feedback through an online platform. The lecturer can also request students to answer questions. It is a very useful tool to aid target-oriented learning and active student participation.
Responses from student workshops during the audit visit also indicate that students appreciate student-activating teaching methods, assignments and peer tutoring as essential aspects of their learning experience at Aalto.
As regards student assessment, the principles of good assessment are defined in Aalto’s Teacher’s Handbook as aligned – versatile – continual and, interactive – sustainable – transparent. In the SER, Aalto also lists several good practices for giving students feedback on their learning. In the interview with student union representatives, however, interviewees indicated that little or no personal feedback is provided in most courses.
The ongoing project Leap for Learning has been devised to renew Aalto’s digital tools and platforms to support teaching and learning services and workflows. The audit team recommends that Aalto use this tool to improve processes for giving feedback to students on their learning.
Aalto has implemented extensive support procedures for the progress and completion of studies
Aalto has an extensive system for supporting students at all levels throughout their study path, including career guidance. Aalto’s web pages on Academic advising describe how students can be guided and supported throughout their studies in their study skills, study planning, study well-being and career reflections. The web portal Info for Aalto students contains supplementary information. The audit team recommends structuring all this info in a way that is easier to navigate.
Aalto requires each student to draft a personal study plan. Service staff, academic advisors, and the recently updated student information system Sisu support students in this process. The interview with student union representatives emphasised that there is still considerable room for improvement in developing Sisu as a support system.
Degree structures support flexible study paths and student mobility with ample room for electives at the BSc and MSc levels. All bachelor programmes have at least one semester without compulsory courses and include a minor which can be chosen freely.
The webpage Doctoral education services contains information about the support offered to doctoral students. The webpage Your hub for doctoral education includes a Doctoral student study guide. Aalto HR handles employment contracts for doctoral students.
The Leap for Learning project seeks to integrate existing digital education support platforms into a more holistic experience. Thus, developing digital platforms and support systems is ongoing and will probably result in better student support over time.
Aalto has several systematic procedures in place to support students’ integration into working life
A particularly interesting piece of evidence of students’ integration into working life is the 2020 Stakeholder Review process, a part of the Teaching and Learning Exercise (TEE) 2020 project. Sampling the TEE 2020 final report, it was found that the School of Electrical Engineering’s review identified several well-functioning forms of stakeholder collaborations: theses completed in cooperation with stakeholders, project-work courses, assignments from stakeholders, student internships in companies, summer jobs for students, guest lecturers, materials and equipment and Professors of Practice. Several schools seem to have the potential to systematise and strengthen the integration of students into working life. The ELEC School’s good practices should inspire such work.
The comments about working-life connections were all positive in the student workshops held during the audit visit. The students mentioned that much attention is paid to the link to working life and that courses encourage students to apply for jobs in their field. There are also examples of various well-appreciated student events supporting integration into working life. Also, master theses done for external organisations, and visiting lecturers from industry, were appreciated by the students. The visiting lecturers bring viewpoints from the industry and relate them to the theories taught in the courses. The students’ comments confirm that their integration with working life is prioritised and works well at Aalto.
The well-being and equality of students are strongly promoted
Aalto has substantial resources and procedures for counselling and other services to support student study progress and well-being. University-level examples include, for instance, periodic student and doctoral student well-being surveys, systematic discussions of survey results to identify suitable development actions and a Starting Point of Well-being desk, which is a low-threshold service for students experiencing problems, offers of psychology services for students at all levels and ombudspersons and stress management tools for doctoral students. There are also school-specific measures, such as the Business Students association’s new well-being programme, BeWell.
However, output from the staff workshop indicated that although the Starting Point of Well-being offers students a place to drop in for advice and guidance on study issues or well-being, even more emphasis should be addressed on structural guidance as a proactive tool. It was revealed that fewer study psychologists’ resources are available this year (2023), and consequently, there is a long queue for individual appointments. Aalto is recommended to take proactive measures to address this issue, one possible approach being closer integration of health services support at the school level.