1.2 The implementation of education

Auditointiryhmän arvio

Student admission is well-developed and transparent – recognition of prior learning requires further attention

Hanken has developed a transparent system for student admission, which follows national guidelines in student selection. The admissions routes and selection criteria are openly available on Hanken’s website and the national online platform Studyinfo. The selection criteria for doctoral programmes are open to applicants, and application deadlines and English language requirements have been harmonised. Hanken also has a clear process described on its website for the recognition of prior learning acquired in other higher education institutions as well as non-formal and informal learning. Applications for recognition of prior learning are made with the Sisu digital tool. As mentioned in the self-assessment, recognition of non-certified learning is not that common at Hanken. Based on audit interviews, not all students are familiar with the recognition of prior learning process indicating a further need to better communicate the process to students especially in terms of non-certified learning.

Coherent and institution-wide efforts needed to implement student-centred teaching  

Institutional goals and strategy indicate a clear focus on increasing the quality of education, addressed through pedagogically grounded teaching and learning approaches, the collection of course evaluation and feedback data, and through the development of the teaching competence of faculty. Variation in teaching approaches, efforts to enable interactive ways of working, alignment between elements of course design, i.e., learning outcomes, teaching methods, learning activities and forms of assessment, were reported in the audit by both faculty and students. A relevant set of competences, specified by learning outcomes, are considered important for students graduating with a profile that increases employability. Examples are guest lectures by alumni from the business sector, internships and guidance in contact with relevant employers. While the assessment forms may be aligned pedagogically with other curriculum elements, the audit interviews indicate insufficient transparency in the assessment process and grading. The audit team recommends Hanken to endeavour towards creating more clarity about how selected assessment forms contribute to identify students’ knowledge and competence development.

Student-centred learning has been identified as an area of importance for the university. As discussed in relation to the planning of education, student-centred learning is foreseen in the strategic goals and the curriculum development phase, yet the extent to which it is implemented is not completely clear. The audit interviews indicate varying awareness and implementation by teachers. Whereas some teachers describe truly student-centred approaches and teaching strategies, others appear to set up their teaching based on traditional pedagogical principles, where lecturing is the main/only teaching format. Hanken’s self-assessment report and the workshops with teachers and students identified a series of projects and initiatives intended to create environments for students to engage and be active in their learning. Students value the quality of teaching in many respects and appreciated especially the interactive and activating teaching methods used by some teachers, such as flipped classroom, role play, or group work. Examples are instruments for collecting student feedback, internship formats, interactive or project-based teaching. While these have the potential to contribute to students participating in a variety of activities, they appear to be rather irregular and not indicative of an institution-wide and shared understanding of student-centred learning, and how these can be shaped and facilitated in all programmes and courses. While various teaching approaches are needed and welcome, differences between teaching approaches, ways of including research or teaching adaptively indicate a privatisation of the teaching act to the extent that it can generate unequal opportunities for students.

The development of teaching competence is indicated as an enhancement area by Hanken, and it is illustrated by the significant investment and development of the Hanken Teaching Lab. The Lab offers pedagogical support and training for teachers and doctoral researchers, and coordinates communication about university pedagogy training that Hanken teachers can attend at other higher education institutions. The Teaching Lab contributes to informing teachers about course design, pedagogy, and digitalisation but also about Assurance of Learning (AoL) and its continuous measurement process that aims to improve students’ learning. There is ongoing work with a Teaching Portfolio template and with continuously developing support for the didactical competences of staff members (see also Section 3.2 for assessment of the Teaching Lab).

The audit team commends the institution for its facilitation of learning through adapted teaching and digitalisation of teaching and learning activities, especially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Teaching Lab provided and continues to provide support for digitalising teaching, planning of education, management of student data and implementing e-exams with Exam. The digital transformation agenda is visible at the strategic level, through the Digital Learning Policy document, which has been guiding the process of digitalisation of teaching and learning driven mostly by the Teaching Lab.

With regard to approaches intended to generate renewal of both curriculum and teaching, there seems to be a need for a more concerted and coherent approach. A strategic agenda regarding the development and enhancement of collective approaches to teaching and digital transformation was reported both by the management, teachers and support services. To match these ambitions, Hanken needs to create a more collective teaching culture and arenas for sharing and actively exchanging good practices of teaching. Hanken should especially motivate collaboration among teachers, pedagogical innovation and digital transformation that reach their end-beneficiaries, the students.

Feedback on student learning and performance to be implemented systematically

Feedback on students’ learning is recognised as very important in the implementation of education. In workshops and interviews, students mentioned many aspects related to the planning and implementation of education in a positive light. Among the aspects that were recurrently referred to as insufficient was feedback on their learning and performance, based on formal assessments. Both student representatives and students participating in the workshops mentioned that feedback on exams were non-existent and that grades were often provided without any explanation or justification of rationale or criteria used. Based on the audit visit, such a practice is not valid for all courses. Students have also the right to on request obtain information on how assessment criteria have been applied. However, given the representativity of the students the audit team discussed with during the visit, the conclusion is that the lack of feedback is a phenomenon that Hanken ought to address. Formative and summative feedback are shown by pedagogical research and practice to be powerful tools for learning. For an institution that cares not only about graduation rates and employability, but as stated during the audit visit, also about students’ learning and development, having consistent practices of providing feedback to students is of critical importance.

Doctoral supervision requires more structure and quality assurance

Hanken has doctoral researchers placed in different departments, which are characterised by different academic cultures and supervision traditions. There are different measures to support doctoral researchers in their development, such as doctoral training and courses, in-house or at other universities. The doctoral researchers participating in the audit reported sufficient support by Hanken services, high-quality courses, and the possibility to customise their training programme. The doctoral researchers acknowledged the good support provided by their supervisors and easy access to Hanken staff. However, the audit visit unveiled some doctoral researchers experiencing varying degrees and types of guidance. Some of the interviewees appeared baffled by these differences in approaches and at times contradictory advice given by different supervisors to different doctoral researchers. These reports raise concerns about the coherence in supervision and the institutional approach to supervision. While no standardisation is expected, it appears that supervision is person-dependent and not always in favour of supporting a systematic support that contributes students’ progress.

Hanken doctoral students represent a diverse population. It was reported that the different backgrounds, academic and otherwise, of international doctoral researchers could be better accommodated. In addition, doctoral researchers without scholarship or contract worker status appear somewhat disadvantaged in terms of access to research resources and infrastructure. Doctoral researchers who had Hanken funding reported that the 1 year full-time + 2+1-year part-time funding system with encouragement to apply for funding from external sources creates some challenges. There was a worry among some of the interviewees about the end of full-time funding and the difficulty to get grants from external sources, although it was acknowledged that support is available for applying external funding. The system was considered as discouraging especially for international doctoral researchers with families. The various roles and in some cases changing status of the doctoral researchers, e.g., from employee to grant holder without access to employee services, was reported as confusing. This appears to create a two-tier system, which has the potential to impact students’ progress and wellbeing. Hanken should investigate these challenges and implement the appropriate solutions. The funding situation for doctoral researchers, their status and the organisation of the supervision requires to be addressed at the institutional level, to further improve the situation of doctoral researchers, including the international ones (see Chapter 4 for elaboration on this topics).

Good structures are in place to support study progress and completion

The self-assessment and the audit visit provided evidence of systematically organised support for students to ensure study progress and completion. Appropriate support structures are in place that address all necessary areas, providing administrative, pedagogical, digital and library support. The support services carry a large amount of the responsibility for the administrative support provided to degree programmes, outreach and evaluation of education, with the Teaching Lab providing expertise and support that concerns pedagogical and digital support. Student progress data is available for the monitoring of degrees, as well as data on completion. Digital tools for the systematic tracking of students’ progress (Sisu) are used to identify students’ progress and needs for support, in order to refer them to the necessary support and guidance services. Hanken is proud to feature individualised arrangements for student support and well-being services as enhancement areas. As part of this enhancement effort, the institution has also renewed its guidelines on student well-being, student equality and accessibility in studies to better inform students of their rights and opportunities, support uniform application throughout Hanken, and facilitate teachers in supporting students with special needs; as well as interventions required when students are in need. The individualised arrangements for student support have been shaped in response to the specific needs for guidance of students during the COVID-19 lockdown and were continued after. The audit visit confirmed that Hanken arrangements, in general, were of great value for students both in terms of guidance in their studies (e.g., support group for master’s theses, the HIT initiative) as well as generic support, such as counselling and career guidance and integration of students with professional life.

As Hanken is a relatively small institution with a specialised education provision, not comparable with the provisions of many other institutions in Finland, the topic of alternative study paths was not raised much. In addition, the teacher-student ratio was mentioned by several participants during the audit visit, with concerns for the quality of education and equal treatment of all students. The support services and the Teaching Lab assist teachers in accommodating the situation, yet this may need attention in the coming years.