Curriculum development is well-structured and involves different stakeholders
Defining competency goals and the processes of curriculum development and approval takes place through thorough processes, which provide a solid basis for the planning of education. The involvement of a wide range of units and actors in the process (Management Team, Academic Council, External Stakeholder Advisory Board, Department Councils, programme coordinators and students) allows for a broad representation of perspectives and interests. The revision or renewal of degree programmes is organised every second year. The curriculum development process also includes students, who can provide input to curricula through their student representatives in various Hanken bodies at the university and at department level, and via the student union. In addition, administrative units support the process, amongst others, by providing information generated through quality management processes as well as advice on didactical matters.
The degree programmes are framed in line with the criteria outlined by the National Framework for Qualifications. The course descriptions are regulated through a set of rules of procedure for studies and examinations which cover legal, procedural and pedagogical matters. The planning of education also takes into account the resources at Hanken, which leads to the conclusion that the process can be characterised as smart planning, being resource-driven as much as strategy-driven.
Hanken has implemented a system of Assurance of Learning (AoL), which supports the assessment and documenting of learning outcomes at the programme level, and a data-driven approach to evaluating teaching and learning. The AoL process covers the general competency goals of the programmes. AoL is also used as a tool for curriculum management (see sections 1.3 and 3.1 for a detailed discussion and assessment of the AoL). The audit visit revealed good practices in its implementation, but also that the AoL process covers only part of the competency goals of a programme and of the strategic areas for teaching. ’Closing the loop’ is recommended across all courses and teaching initiatives, where feedback and evaluations serve as direct input into programme revision and are responded to and become a systematic practice.
Mandatory curriculum to be connected to institutional strategy on sustainability
The education provision is connected to the institutional strategy in several ways, although, the impact differs among programmes and types of initiatives related to education. The impact of the institutional strategy is visible in the regular education provision, for example, in the teaching of labour market relevant skills. The strategy is less clearly implemented in the provision that addresses sustainability and emerging societal challenges. The audit visit revealed greater and more concrete efforts to include sustainability as a topic in some programmes, but clearly less in other programmes. The education provision addressing this thematic area seems more person-dependent; highly regarded academics disseminate research knowledge and some deep-impact initiatives that appear more isolated than cross-cutting. Together with the mandatory course included in the bachelor’s (BSc) and master’s (MSc) programmes, these were framed as the institution’s primary provision on this strategic area.
A gap was identified between the belief that this strategic area is being sufficiently addressed, the strategic goals on sustainability and responsibility (one of the key learning outcomes) and the way the current education provision in mandatory courses has the potential to match the strategic goals and ensure students’ deep learning. Success depends on the willingness of those involved in the programme development process to take up new impulses. This could be promoted by additional efforts from the side of the management, through a better understanding of what is meant with sustainability and what it means for education, and through implementation that is more anchored in the various levels of the institution (see also Section 2.2). The audit team recommends that Hanken considers a more integrated approach to sustainability, where competency goals and education about sustainability are built into various courses at different levels (both BSc and MSc), in addition to offering the generic, mandatory courses and specific project-based initiatives (as per today).
Continuous learning is a theme given some attention at Hanken and is considered to some extent when planning education. Hanken’s Open University offers basic-level courses in business and economics suited for everyone, without formal requirements on prior degrees, while the intermediate and advanced level have requirements related to previous studies of the subject. As mentioned in the self-assessment, Hanken owns the Hanken & SSE Executive Education Ltd. together with Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) and offers executive programmes with a global reach. There remains some unclarities on how continuous learners are accommodated in terms of intake, education provision and follow-up. The need to have a clear institutional strategy on continuous learning, including Hanken’s Open University, cross-institutional studies and the joint Digivisio 2030 programme creating an open and sustainable learning ecosystem in Finland, was also recognised in the university’s documentation available for the audit team.
A systematic research-based approach to education and updating of the curricula to be implemented institution-wide
The connection of research to teaching and learning as well as the research-based nature of education was emphasised explicitly in the self-assessment report and during the audit visit. The staff members involved in teaching at the university are directly involved in research, which is assumed to ensure a connection between research and curriculum and teaching. Testimonies of research interests and knowledge being translated into the curriculum were provided by several participants in the audit. The flexibility with which individual courses can be implemented enables teachers to adapt their courses to the current state of the art of research in the field. Teachers’ autonomy in selecting course content and building on their own research was repeatedly emphasised during the visit. There are many indications that this autonomy contributes to the relative flexibility in the curriculum development and contents being updated easily as teachers assess needs for change.
Concurrently, the audit visit revealed the drawbacks of this considerable autonomy. One is the differences between courses, with some courses being up to date in terms of research-based contents, as the respective teachers dynamically engage with recent research and developments in their disciplinary area. Other courses, however, were reported to be unchanged in terms of content for several years and not up to date in terms of more recent development in the research and disciplinary area. Discussion with the board and student representatives revealed an understanding of how Hanken will be impacted by fast-paced societal and technological developments, in particular digital technologies such as AI, in terms of the competencies and the employability of future graduates. Hanken is taking measures to better integrate analytics in teaching at Hanken. For instance, the topic was addressed in the last annual dialogues with the rector. Hanken also has a Quantum Laboratory, a data lab which offers access to databases, organises events and courses, but also collaborates with industry and conducts research. Considering the magnitude and pace of change in this field, it will require further attention at the institutional level.
Overall, Hanken should consider a more systematic, institution-wide approach to research-based education, from planning to evaluation, where both teachers’ autonomy and the relevance of all education provision is ensured. This requires, firstly, a clear and relatively shared understanding of research-based education at the institutional level within and across units. Secondly, it requires concrete approaches to develop a more research-based, up to date curriculum for all education provision. Experience sharing among those involved in curriculum development across programmes and units may be a strategy to raise awareness of differences and the need to shared understanding.
Relevance to work life, internationalisation and mobility are embedded across all curricula in a systematic way
Relevance to work life and internationalisation are strongly embedded in the university’s strategy, the degree programmes and activities, and the setup of the study administration. At the strategic level, the university covers relevance to work life and internationalisation in its strategic goals and identifies these as strategic priorities in its education provision. The strategic importance accorded to internationalisation is visible in the form of a mandatory semester of studying abroad for all Hanken students. The mandatory semester abroad enhances internationalisation in an excellent way. It has proved its benefits for students in terms of competence development, network development as well as a broader understanding of the global business landscape and its challenges. International cooperation is furthermore used to enhance education provision at the university beyond matters of internationalisation.
Internationalisation is also visible in Hanken’s educational offer for international students, which are provided the same study opportunities and follow-up as the local students. Among the possibilities for further development in this area, internationalisation “at home”, is one of the aspects that could be considered for further development. The challenge of keeping international graduates in Finland was highlighted during the audit visit and in audit documentation, which may require more attention for measures to support students in learning the language and being involved in local professional networks already during their study period (see Section 4.1 for further discussion on this topic).
Both the audit documentation and the audit visit revealed that the connection to work life is very clear and that ties with the business community are maintained and capitalised upon. Formal agreements with various internship partners from the business community as well as close ties with Hanken alumni create good opportunities for input from work life into the curriculum and study-related activities. This connection is represented through elective courses and course formats implemented in various projects and initiatives. Work life connections are also created and maintained through work life days, career guidance, expert lectures on work life, traineeships and thesis work in companies. Internships as part of undergraduate and graduate degrees support the formation of connections with work life. Students are also supported in being engaged in society-relevant projects.
There is an ongoing process to involve corporate world representatives in discussions about future labour market needs and to anticipate changes in the Hanken environment both locally and globally. Feedback discussions with external stakeholders are now systematically arranged every second year at the subject level, and once to twice a year at the university level in the External Stakeholder Advisory Board. Some of the labour market representatives interviewed reported that they have provided input or are participating in the development of a new bachelor’s programme. It appears that especially in the planned bachelor’s programme that is to be taught in English inputs from and cooperation with the labour market have been systematically sought. However, less concrete involvement in renewing existing programmes were mentioned by the interviewees. The audit team recommends more systematic use of stakeholder expertise, especially in renewing its existing programmes. More specifically, in this area, a clearer framing of how these activities and components are linked to learning outcomes, knowledge and competences to be acquired by the students, and how they are relevant for work life could be considered. The audit team also recommends strengthening the implementation of processes of ongoing reflection on future competency goals. The know-how of staff regarding the various procedures implemented could also be more transparent and accessible across campuses.