Welcome to the Tuning EU-China Study for the modernization of higher education in China (2012-2019)
The aim of the this study is to contribute significantly to a better alignment and understanding of the European and Chinese higher education systems and their implementation at the level of individual degree programmes. The study has focussed on the development of more sophisticated instruments for mutual recognition of studies and study periods by developing qualifications reference frameworks at subject area level as well as an applicable instrument for credit mobility. Instrumental is the change towards student-centred and outcome based learning. As intended, the Study has created a foundation for developing a more encompassing Chinese qualifications reference framework, which is a prime responsibility of the Chinese authorities. It has also developed a model for bridging the student-workload and learning outcomes based European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) and the Chinese credit systems based on the notion of credit hours in use in many Chinese higher education institutions. To be applicable, it has been concluded in the setting of the Study that the Chinese systems have to be synchronised toward a uniform system and modularised to meet the need for strengthening the cooperation between China and Europe in the field of higher education.
From November 2012 until December 2019 EU Tuning experts and academics of a selection of renown Chinese Universities worked closely together to find out whether the Tuning methodology successfully applied in many parts of the world would also be a good strategy to reforming higher education programmes in China both at undergraduate and (post-) graduate level. The study consisted of two phases. A first phase was carried out in the period November 2012 – May 2014. A second phase was implemented during the period October 2016 – December 2019.
The joint EU-China TUNING Study, co-financed by the European Commission and the Chinese Ministry of Education, was initiated in April 2012 by the EU-China High Level People-to-People Dialogue (HPPD). It should allow for (i) strengthening the compatibility of EU and China education systems, (ii) enhancing outcome-based education, (iii) overcoming obstacles to mobility, (iv) establishing commonly acknowledged quality criteria and (v) developing tools for mutual recognition.
The outcomes of the study offer insight in the strength and weaknesses of higher education programmes in China in general and six selected disciplines. The subject areas covered in the first phase were Business Studies, Civil Engineering and (Comparative) Education. In the second phase the focus was on Nursing, Information and Computing Sciences and Transport and Logistics. The study implemented offers a good basis for enhancing outcome-based learning of higher education programmes in China. As in most other parts of the world in China degree programmes are still staff centred. It is the official policy of the Chinese authorities, however, to move to outcome based education, which in practice means a shift of paradigm in the way education is organised and offered. By basing higher education programmes on outcomes the compatibility of Chinese and European higher education (degree programmes) will be enhanced as well as mobility and recognition will be facilitated.This applies to mobility and recognition in both directions.
The outcomes of the first phase of the study have been published in the years 2014-2015. The results of the second phase of the study will be published in 2020.
Both the first and the second phase of the Tuning EU-China Study can and should be experienced as a successful cooperation of EU and Chinese academic experts to develop a better understanding of both European and Chinese higher education systems and the degree programmes on offer. Because the Study was organised by the International Tuning Academy and the National Center for Education Development Research it had a wider scope and more ambitions in terms of policy implications than many other cooperation initiatives.Main conclusions of the EU-China TUNING Study:
- The Tuning ‘student-oriented and competences based’ approach is in compliance with the Chinese reform policy for Higher Education;
- The theories and methods of Tuning have obvious value as reference for the reform process of the talent – training model of Higher Education in China;
- There is an urgent need of a mechanism to compare and recognize periods of studies expressed in credits between China (credit hour system) and Europe (ECTS). At present, the absence of such a mechanism proves to be a substantial obstacle for the extension and deepening of cooperation. The Study shows that recent reforms of the credit systems as applied in China allow for the development of a bridging instrument.
The outcomes of both phases of the Study are promising. As a result of the information collected, discussed and analysed by applying the instrument of data collection, it is reasonable to expect that the outcomes of the Study will contribute in a structural way (to the ambition) to align the European and Chinese higher education systems better. The outcomes of the Study, the qualifications reference frameworks for six subject areas, as well as the discussions and resulting instruments and tools for the implementation of the student-centred approach and recognition of credit mobility, will be of interest for many working in the field of higher education. To have impact these instruments and tools have to be transferred in handy and easy to use documents. This will be done in the coming months and should be perceived as a bonus to the Study. That activity will end the role of the EU expert team. It is up to the Chinese to make further adjustments to their study programmes to make the change of paradigm from expert driven / teacher centred-education towards the student-centred approach based on the notion of outcomes and active learning a reality. By doing so it will line up with a world-wide reform process to enhance the quality of higher education and will make it of more relevant . This is of great importance for both graduates and society at large.