Given the size of the China and the number of institutions as well as the type of governmental system, institutions higher education institutions accommodate / reform their programmes on the basis of guidelines and/or examples. These are distributed by government authorities. Therefore, the Chinese are very interested in pilots which can serve as a tool to change higher education policies. The Tuning study was intended and acted as one of a limited number of pilots which should serve as input to decide on educational reforms in the country. For strategic reasons, 15 universities were selected for the what became the first phase of the Tuning study. All these universities have a high profile and prestige in their respective academic fields. Therefore there work should serve as guiding examples for all other institutions. For the second phase 40 universities and colleges would be involved.
For the first phase, it was agreed to involve two European experts for each of the three disciplines to pilot, Business, Civil Engineering and Comparative Education. They should serve as advisors for the Chinese working groups. In the second phase, 6 European disciplinary experts were involved, representing the subject areas of the first and second phase. Furthermore, three European experts in developing credit systems were part of the team.
Both in the first and the second phase a learning visit was included in the study to three European universities. In the first phase, Ghent (being close to Brussels), Bilbao and Groningen for a delegation of six (three representatives of the Ministry of Education and the leaders of the three subject areas identified), to develop a better understanding at the Chinese side regarding the Tuning philosophy and approach and its actual implementation. In the second phase a learning visit by a Chinese delegation of 8 members was made to the University of Wuppertal (D), Technische Hochschule Ingolstadt (D), University of Tampere (FIN) and to the office of DG EAC in Brussels.
A crucial step in deciding the final outline of the first phase of the study was a first combined seminar of all participants in the study. This meeting took place at the Xi’An Jiao Tong University in Xi’An on 23-24 March 2013 and was hosted by the Chinese Ministry of Education.
The agreed outline for phase one scheduled five outcomes:
- The establishment of 3 disciplinary working groups of 5 universities each with high prestige and profile in their respective academic fields. They should in practice serve as guiding examples for all other institutions in China. Each group to be coordinated by a leading university.
- A survey among four stakeholder groups on the relevance of defined general academic and discipline specific competences: employers, graduates, students and academic staff. The outcomes of this consultation is to be published in a research paper,
- A conceptual framework / meta-framework for each of the subject areas involved, based on the consultation process of stakeholders and intensive reflections among experts in the field. The frameworks follow a fixed template.
- A paper identifying communalities and differences between European and Chinese HE systems to be based on the conceptual frameworks / meta-profiles prepared. The focus of this paper is on criteria of quality assurance and practical tools and mechanisms for recognition following the Tuning approach of competence development and the achievement of Learning Outcomes.
- Establishing connections between Chinese and European disciplinary networks as well as higher education institutions – to be met by linking the outcomes of the Tuning EU-China Study with the (work established by) Tuning networks related to Business Studies, Educational Sciences and Engineering.
The agreed outline for phase two scheduled three outcomes:
- 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 is thought important to obtain a good basis for developing a Chinese Qualifications Framework for Higher Education.