Good reputation but too many dropping out
Review of educational programmes produced expected results
Education at KTH has a good reputation and graduate students are coveted on the employment market. But the throughput on several of the educational programmes is weak, the role of those responsible for the programmes must be clarified and mathematics must be developed. These are some of the overall conclusions following KTH’s major assessment of its educational programmes.
KTH has conducted the largest assessment ever of its educational programmes. The EAE, Education Assessment Exercise, involves both a thorough self-assessment and a methodological review by an external assessor. An initiative that has attracted the attention of other universities and university colleges, project manager Sara Karlsson, points out.
“We are among the first of the universities in Sweden to implement such a comprehensive assessment entirely on our own initiative,” she says.
“The initiative already implies an increase in status with regard to educational issues,” says Vice Dean Per Berglund.
“We have been able to take up educational issues on the agenda. And as a result of these self-assessments, the quality and development work has already been started,” he says.
The self-assessments were conducted in the spring and a visit by the external assessor group was made during a few exhaustive days at the beginning of the autumn. Comments and points of view from the group of assessors were presented verbally to KTH’s management and project management in connection with the visit.
The panel’s assessment was also summarized in the form of a detailed report on each school and their programmes.
Large amount of students drop out during first year
The results of the assessment vary from school to school but there are also some general conclusions. On the plus side, you can attribute the high demand for KTH students and that both students and alumni are satisfied with their education. Generally speaking, from a scientific point of view the courses are also firmly established.
On the minus side, for several programmes, there is weak throughput, and there are a number of reasons for this. On many of KTH’s programmes, the students are so sought after that they find work before concluding their degree. For students on the international Master’s programmes, it may also be tactical not to take the final examination in order to test the employment market in Sweden before the visa expires.
What is worse is that several engineering programmes have a large number of drop-outs as early as the first year. There are many reasons for students dropping out early on. Students may for example, quite simply have discovered that they made the wrong choice. But it could also be difficulties in coping on the programme. Mathematics is a stumbling block for many students in several self-assessments.
One interpretation that is being put forward by most of the programmes is that the role of the people responsible for the programmes must be strengthened and clarified. What responsibilities and what powers should they have? And how are these responsibilities shared among those in charge of the programmes and those in charge of first-cycle courses?
“Prior to the EAE assessment, we had already arranged for an investigation on these issues. Only a year ago we decided centrally that each programme would have a programme director. Previously it was up to the schools to decide. At some schools, there was someone responsible for the programmes, but at other schools, there was not,” says Per Berglund.
SEK 30 million for measures
“The report, produced by the assessment group contains no direct surprises. But together with the self-assessments, it nevertheless provides a clearer and more comprehensive picture of KTH’s educational programmes,” says Per Berglund.
“We now know the areas that need attention. And we have a better instrument as we prepare for the National Agency for Higher Education’s assessment next year. An important aspect is also all of the positive examples as to how to promote the quality work that has been developed,” he says.
A central action plan will be produced. Among other things, the School of Education and Communication in Engineering Science, ECE, will make efforts to support the work of those responsible for the programmes.
“But in the same way that the schools and the programmes’ own assessments form the foundation for the entire EAE, the ball is now back with the schools,” Sara Karlsson points out.
“The evaluation process has led to the development of many different processes and now a lot of knowledge has been acquired. But the important thing is actually what it is being done to follow up on the assessment at school and programme level,” she says.
Each school is expected therefore to produce an action plan and has had the opportunity to apply for specific funds for the EAE follow up. Approximately SEK 30 million has been provided for specific development initiatives at first-cycle and third-cycle levels at the schools during 2012.
Text: Ursula Stigzelius