Tough scrutiny of KTH educations
KTH's educations have been under the microscope. During an intensive week, the schools' management, programme managers, teachers and students have been interviewed by an international panel on the content and design of their educational programmes. Tough but rewarding, according to both the interviewees and interviewers.
Over the past six months, a comprehensive evaluation has been carried out of KTH courses – the Education Assessment Exercise, EAE. The project culminated in the last week of August with a four day long visit by an international panel of evaluators. This kind of activity is an important aspect of the evaluation work, according to Professor Torsten Braun from Berne University who is one of the evaluators.
“If you work for a long time in the same place, surrounded by the same structures and work culture, it is possible you'll not see which options you have. Therefore, it is always good to take a look at things from the outside. Especially if you can involve people from different backgrounds, who are schooled in different ways of thinking.”
This requirement has been well satisfied. The group of evaluators included, apart from specialists in their own fields, experts in pedagogy/evaluation work, trade and industry representatives and students from other Swedish universities. In addition, the experts came from various universities in Europe and one came from the United States.
This type of major evaluation with the involvement of an international panel is more common in research than education. At KTH in 2008, the research evaluation project RAE, was carried out.
Excellent feedback from students
Torsten Braun has experience in participating in both research and educational panels and regards it as a privilege.
“The people who form a part of the panel learn quite a lot from this. We get an insight into the system at other universities and take new ideas home with us. I regard this kind of continuous feedback and exchange of experiences as extremely important.”
The 50 men and women who made up the panel of evaluators worked in eight different panel groups. Torsten Braun, who is a professor of computer science, chaired the panel that worked on the evaluation of the School of Electrical Engineering. He is impressed by the response that the panel received.
“The people we met were all very committed to the quality of education and very much aware of the importance of developing it. We received for example excellent feedback from the students,” he points out.
One of the representatives in the group of students who met the panel is Joakim Ahnlund who this autumn will begin his Master's education. He is personally very satisfied with the education he has received so far and is of the opinion that it is undeservedly unknown.
“Electrical engineering does not have the ‘trademark’ that Applied Physics and Mechanical Engineering has. If you are, as I am, very interested in environment and energy, I think, for example, that you are in the right place by being here. But I believe that there are many people that do not realise this.”
Discussion about diversity
To clarify what the school's educational programme represents is one of the major challenges that the EE School faces, notes Joakim Lilliesköld, responsible for first-cycle studies in Electrical Engineering.
“We must adopt a ‘3+2 structure’. The Master's programmes in engineering have had a vocational bias, while the master's programmes in general have been more focused on research. Now that they have been placed all in the same category, it has presented a new challenge with regard to making it clearer what the product is.”
Both Joakim Ahnlund and Joakim Lilliesköld describe the meetings with the panel as intense, but they were carried out in a positive, constructive atmosphere. The interviews carried out by the evaluators were based on the extensive self-evaluations the schools had done, and one issue that was discussed a lot at the EE School was that of internationalization and diversity.
“The panel had something to say about our interpretation of ‘diversity’ and that it should be broadened. Many engineers work in multinational environments. So KTH really should include a "toolbox" for students who work in international teams”, says Joakim Lilliesköld.
At the end of the panel's visit, KTH's management received an initial statement of the conclusions drawn by the group of evaluators. Later this autumn, the written reports will arrive. The work will then start on the implementation of the panel's conclusions in the form of a concrete development project.
“It has been very useful for us to have a number of outsiders who have examined us so closely. I hope that it will result in concrete ideas on how we can improve. I also hope that it will help us find what we are good at, our strong sides that we are perhaps not completely aware of,” says Joakim Lilliesköld.
Text: Ursula Stigzelius