Work programme and Implementation

In the work plan of this study a number of milestones were foreseen to offer structure to the work to be established.

As part of the preparatory phase two meetings were scheduled with representatives of Unit C4 of DG EAC and the Mission of China to the EU. These took place in September and October 2012. As part of a process to develop further understanding of the Tuning methodology and its impact representatives of the Mission of China participated in the conference Tuning in the World. New Degree Profiles for New Societies which took place in Brussels on the 21st of November 2012.

The first mile stone was realized by a visit in November 2012 of the EU coordinator, Robert Wagenaar and the co-founder of Tuning, Julia Gonzalez, to Beijing – which took place in conjunction with a visit to the Commissioner for Education and Culture – to discuss further implementation. As a result, the project outline was fine-tuned and the three subject areas and their Chinese academic leaders were agreed as well as the 5 high level universities to involve in each of the subject area groups identified.

At the second mile stone, the Xi’An seminar which took place at the Xi’An Jiao Tong University on 23-24 March 2013, the European experts presented the Tuning methodology, the survey instrument for stakeholders and the European Tuning findings in the three subject areas involved. Each of the three subject areas also had an initial meeting to discuss the outline of the study and the two strands of generic and subject specific competences. The different sessions of the meeting were very lively and showed serious interest and commitment from the Chinese MOE and the subject specific experts. The Chinese colleagues confirmed the relevance of the Tuning approach for their country and higher education institutions. They stressed that also for China reforms were thought necessary to line up with global developments and to prepare their students better for their future role in society. In particular the emphasis on transferable competences/skills was thought to be important. Concrete examples were offered in this respect. Focus was at that moment more on knowledge acquisition than on development of generic competences or general academic skills. For example, oral and written skills were felt to be insufficiently developed. This is also the experience of European HE institution hosting Chinese students. Furthermore, it was stipulated that approaches towards learning and teaching should be more active, to stimulate full participation of students in class. This is related to competences focusing on developing debating skills, peer reviewing but also to an entrepreneurial spirit as well as creativity. At the meeting the three academic leaders took the initiative to organize the activities of their groups for follow-up meetings of Chinese group members to prepare the lists of generic and subject specific competences based on the European examples.

The third milestone was the Tuning workshop at the first meeting of the EU-China Higher Education Platform for Cooperation and Exchange (HEPCE). It was attended by the EU Tuning project leader, the project manager and representatives of the MoE, two Chinese academic group leaders and one substitute group leader and a number of invited guests and Tuning experts. The seminar was directly followed by a learning visit to 3 European universities – the universities of Ghent (26 April), Deusto (29 April) and Groningen (1 May) – of a Chinese delegation of 6 representatives, 3 from the Ministry of Education and the three academic leaders of the subject areas selected.

The fourth milestone was the preparation of the lists of competences to be consulted. The process to prepare these started, as stated above, at the Xi’An seminar, continued during the site visit and was finished in June. The translations were an important point of attention. The consultation on generic and subject specific competence took place according to plan among four stakeholder groups (students, academic staff, graduates and employers) during the month of July 2013.

As a fifth milestone, the second seminar meeting for each of the three groups took place at the end of August / beginning of September in three different locations: Shanghai, Xi’An and Beijing and was hosted by the leading universities of the groups: Tongji University (Civil Engineering), Xi’An Jiaotong University (Business) and Beijing Normal University (Comparative Education).  The meeting of the Business group in Xi’An was attended by the Chinese coordinator of the Tuning study / the Director of Lifelong Learning of the MoE, Dr. Xianjin Dou,. The Deputy Director of the same unit, Ms. Dr. Hai Hong Lu, was present at the meetings of the Engineering Group and the Education Group.

The presentation of and reflection on the outcomes of the consultation process took place at this second seminar meetings. At the three seminars the preparation of the conceptual framework / meta-profile of each of the subject areas, on the basis of the Tuning template, started. Before the seminar, the document a “Brief Summary of Tuning methodology with reference to the EU-China Tuning Study” was distributed.

At the seminar meetings also the transfer from the identified key competences (clustered set of competences based on the consultation process) into learning outcomes, the actual preparation/writing of these learning outcomes statements, were covered.

The sixth milestone was the preparation of the research paper by the EU coordination team in which the outcomes of the consultation surveys were presented and analysed and compared to the outcomes of surveys implemented in Europe. A draft version was finished in October 2013, in time to be taken into account for the final stage of the Study, the production of the conceptual frameworks. A more final version of the paper became available one month later.

During the September-December 2013 period the Chinese subject area groups worked hard on the preparation of the Conceptual Frameworks. The Chinese group leaders were in contact with each other as well as with the EU experts to prepare draft texts. These frameworks are a key outcome of the study and will serve not only the understanding of the Chinese Higher Educational system and its degree programmes structure, but they will also contribute to the reform of the existing system, one of the key objectives of this Study.

The work on the Conceptual Frameworks / Meta-profiles is based on a draft structure of 11 items presented at the August/September seminars, which follows the Tuning methodology applied in all Tuning projects. The items covered at these seminars were:

  • Description of the field of the Subject Area in China;
  • Overview of typical degrees offered in the subject area: orientation and application and main-subfields and specializations;
  • Overview of typical occupations, distinguishing first and second cycle (Bachelor and Master).

The seventh and final milestone – before the publication of this Final Report – were the 3rd Subject Area Group seminars which took place – according to plan – at the end of November / beginning of December in three different locations: Suzhou (28-29 November 2013), Shanghai (30 November – 1 December 2013) and Beijing (1-2 December 2013). The Civil Engineering and Comparative Education meetings were hosted by its leading university, respectively Tongji University and Beijing Normal University. The Business group meeting was hosted this time by Xi’An Jiaotong-Liverpool University in Suzhou. The meetings of the Business group and the Civil Engineering Group were attended by three representatives of MoE, Dr. Xianjin Dou, the Chinese coordinator of the Tuning study / Director of Lifelong Learning of the MoE, Ms. Dr. Hai Hong Lu, Deputy Director of the same unit and Ms Dr. Li Chen, Programme Officer of the Division of European Affaires of the Department of International Cooperation and Exchanges. Dr. Dou attended also the seminar meeting of the Education Group in Beijing. He was accompanied by another representative of the European Affairs unit at the MoE. At this meeting the first draft of the conceptual frameworks / meta-profiles were discussed. A conceptual framework or meta-profile offers the key features of a subject area in term of core generic and subject specific competences or combinations there off.

The work done during the period September – November 2013 was presented at the 3rd subject area group seminars. The presentations inspired very open and intensive discussions for further improvements and fine-tuning of the material presented.

One of the papers that was circulated as preparation for the meeting was an informative PPT presentation prepared by the Chinese project coordinator dr. Xianjin Dou, entitled Macro Educational Politics in the first two Decades of the 21st Century in China. Also a PPT presentation regarding the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) and Learning Outcomes, prepared by the EU-project leader was distributed to serve as input for further discussions.

During these meetings also much attention was devoted to the identification of communalities and differences between European and Chinese HE by focussing on the structures and content of degree programmes, the credit systems in use and the approaches to teaching, learning and assessment applied, as well as quality assurance in Higher Education. Both with regard to the first cycle (bachelor), and second cycle (master), a detailed picture was obtained of the Chinese situation compared to the European.

All Conceptual Framework / Meta-profile Reports were finalised in draft format before Chinese New Year. The period February-April was used to compare and edit the materials of the groups. This was a shared responsibility of the EU team and the Chinese team. E-mail was used as the main means of communication.