The Tuning EU-China Study originates from the EU-China High Level People-to-People Dialogue (HPPD). In April 2012 the EC and the Chinese Ministry of Education announced the initiative for a Tuning study which 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. A first phase of the Study was implemented in the period December 2012 – May 2014. The second was prepared from 2015 and was launched in October 2016 in the setting of the China-EU Education Ministers Conference “Staying connected: why we need to strengthen our cooperation on education” and took place in Beijing.
Aim of Study
The aim of the this Study has been 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 to facilitate credit mobility based on recognition of study periods taken in China and EU countries.
The Tuning EU-China Study has been implemented by the International Tuning Academy, based in Groningen (NL) and was commissioned by the Directorate-General for Education and Culture, Innovation, International Cooperation and Sports. It involved content experts based at many higher education institutions / organisations and countries in Europe. The project was co-financed by the National Centre for Education Development Research (NCEDR) of the Ministry of Education (MoE) of the People’s Republic of China which has acted as co-organiser of the study.
SECOND PHASE (2016-2019)
The second phase of the Tuning EU-China Study identified three action lines:
- to develop a credit reference system for Chinese Higher Education, which is comparable to and compatible with current developments elsewhere in the world, in particular in Europe;
- to discuss in more detail learning, teaching and assessment strategies and methodologies to support the student-centred approach and to tailor these to the Chinese higher education culture as part of its modernization process;
- to broaden the original study to more academic domains, that is health care, (other branches of the) social sciences and natural sciences. This was thought important to obtain a good basis for developing a Chinese Qualifications Framework for Higher Education. The subject-areas identified for this study were Nursing, Information and Computing Sciences and Transport and Logistics. These came in addition to the subject areas covered in the first phase of the Study: Business Studies, Civil Engineering and (Comparative) Education.
The Study 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. For this purpose the survey instrument was used. In total three comprehensive questionnaires were distributed among key stakeholders collecting information about the importance/achievement of generic and subject-area specific competences, credit systems and student workload, occupations and tasks and responsibilities of graduates, modes of teaching, learning and assessment.
Instrumental for the Study is the change towards student-centred and outcome based learning. The Study meant to create a foundation for developing a more encompassing Chinese qualifications reference framework. For this purpose a bottom-up approach was applied, using the model initiated in the setting of the CALOHEE project (https://www.calohee.eu) This approach resulted in subject-area based qualifications reference frameworks offering descriptors and indictors for high quality degree programmes. These subject-area frameworks offer the building blocks of an overarching national qualifications reference framework for higher education. Agreeing and implementing such an overarching framework is a prime responsibility of the Chinese authorities.
The Study also meant to develop a student-workload and learning outcome based Chinese credit framework which should be aligned with comparable credit frameworks of other world regions, in particular the ECTS as endorsed for the EHEA. In this respect use was made of the appropriate methodology developed by the Tuning project.
To implement the study four meetings and an international conference on the use of credit points were organised in China and a site visit of a Chinese delegation of NCEDR/MoE and of academic leaders of the working groups took place to three European universities, University of Wuppertal (D), Technische Hochschule Ingolstadt (D), University of Tampere (FIN) and to the premises of DG EAC in Brussels. The meetings and the visit were used to develop better common understanding and to reach results by intensive debate. The meetings in China were hosted by the Ministry of Education, the North China University of Technology, Beijing, Shanghai Sipo Polytechnic School of Health Care and Nursing and Chongqing University.
The second phase of the Study offers the following results:
- Three surveys implemented among key stakeholders, that is academics, graduates, mature students and employers.
- A model for bridging the student-workload and learning outcomes based European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) and the Chinese model based on the notion of credit hours. The credit hour system is in use in many Chinese higher education institutions, but applied differently. To be suitable, it has been concluded that the diversity of Chinese systems have to be synchronised toward a uniform one and modularised to meet the need for strengthening the cooperation between China and Europe in the field of higher education.
- Three so-called reference frameworks for the three disciplines involved in phase 2. These frameworks make higher education programmes in China comparable and compatible to degree programmes in Europe. They are a key instrument for quality assurance.
- A Guideline for EU-China Credit Transfer and Credit Recognition in Higher Education, which is meant to be agreed between EU and Chinese authorities. This Guideline has been made available in English and Chinese. In April 2012 the EU-China High Level People-to-People Dialogue (HPPD) announced the launch of an EU-China Tuning Study. The study 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 Study has been implemented in two phases, a first covering the period December 2012 to May 2014 and a second phase covering the period October 2016 – December 2019. In this executive summary the two phases are distinguished.
FIRST PHASE (2012-2014)
The first study was implemented from December 2012 to May 2014 by the International Tuning Academy based in Groningen, in close cooperation with the Chinese Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Directorate General Education and Culture of the EU, which together decided on its outline and approach. To implement the study three disciplines were selected to pilot the Tuning approach: Business Administration, Civil Engineering and (Comparative) Education. For each of these disciplines MoE appointed a high ranked university and coordinator. These three – Xi’an Jiaotong University (Business), Tongji University, Shanghai (Civil Engineering) and Beijing Normal University (Education) – invited each another four prestigious universities to establish a working group for each of the disciplines. The Tuning Academy composed a team of ten experts, of which two specialised in each of the disciplines and another four specialised in the Tuning methodology. The study was co-coordinated by the director of the Groningen branch of the Tuning Academy and the director for Lifelong Learning of the Chinese Ministry of Education.
To implement the study three series of Tuning seminars were organised in China and a site visit of a Chinese delegation of MoE and the three academic leaders of the working groups took place to three European universities, Deusto-Bilbao, Ghent and Groningen.
The main outcome of the first phase of the study is three so-called conceptual frameworks or meta-profiles for the disciplines covered. These frameworks offer insight in the strength and weaknesses of higher education programmes in China. They are based on a consultation survey among main stakeholders as well as on intensive discussions between Chinese academic experts and Tuning European experts. The survey is described and analysed in a separate research paper, which has been prepared by the European Tuning management. The paper and three profiles offer 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. Because Tuning and comparable approaches are developed and applied now in all parts of the world, the outcomes of a process of change will have a wider impact than just the cooperation between Europe and China.