Methodology

To meet the objectives of the study the standard Tuning methodology was applied of information gathering, consultation and structured debate and reflection. Tuning has developed and fine-tuned this approach since 2001, which has led to a fixed format. The basic model is to develop reference points for each discipline according to a prescribed list of 11 items. Key to this model is a process of mapping of the discipline, the (potential) labour market and a consultation among key stakeholders. This results in a so called meta-profile or conceptual framework for a discipline at national or international level (depending on the type of project and the aim of the study).

To organise the study and responsibilities a distinction was made between the roles of the EU and the Chinese coordinating team as well as actions which required intense cooperation.

At the European side:

  • Composition of a group of Tuning experts (in consultation with the Chinese authorities regarding the topics identified)
  • Desk top research to identify relevant background publications about the higher education sector in China.
  • Designing of setup of the seminars and outlining the methodology of instruction and learning to be applied.
  • Set-up of a Tuning China website in consultation with the Chinese co-chairs of the sectorial /subject area groups

By collaboration of the EU and Chinese authorities and partners:

  • Fine-tuning of the outline of the study
  • Selection of the sectors / subject areas to be involved
  • Selection of locations for the seminars planned
  • Setting up and implementation of the consultation surveys among stakeholders: identification of stakeholders
  • Preparation of report on shared quality enhancement and assurance mechanism and identification and development of tools / mechanisms for recognition of (part of) studies.

At the Chinese side:

  • Selection of higher education institutions and academics to be involved.
  • Selection of co-chairs of the subject area groups
  • Practical origination of the seminars at the locations selected
  • Preparation of conceptual sectorial/subject area based frameworks or meta-frameworks (in close consultation with EU experts).

As stated above, the Chinese authorities selected the three subject areas to be involved in the study: Business Administration, Civil Engineering and Education. Education was limited in practice to the specialized academic field of Comparative Education.

Comparative Education examines education in one country (or group of countries) by using data and insights drawn from the practises and situation in another country, or countries. Degree programmes and courses in Comparative Education are offered in many universities throughout the world. The field, which is very much internationally oriented, has its own scholarly journals. This subject area is offered at Master level by five Normal Universities. China’s Normal Universities, or teachers’ colleges, are institutions of higher education at which the country’s teachers receive training. In addition to providing teacher training, these institutions have other departments which offer a range of programmes for prospective university students. Many Normal Universities are also renowned research institutions.

The other subject areas focused on the bachelor level, in particular at the consultation level.

The consultation among stakeholders was held in July 2013. Use was made of the standard Tuning online consultation instrument. It distinguishes different stakeholders groups as well as the responses of different groups and institutions. Like in other Tuning consultations the following stakeholder groups were identified: academics, students, graduates and employers. The groups were consulted about the relevance of a number of identified generic competences / general academic skills and a number of subject specific competences for work in the profession involved. The consultation was organised through internet. Identified stakeholders received an invitation e-mail to participate in the consultation by going to the Tuning consultation website. The link to this website was included in the invitation e-mail. Each stakeholder group and participating university obtained unique passwords.

Passwords were distributed to the Chinese group leaders who organised the distribution of the questionnaires to four stakeholder groups. In practice both printed questionnaires and the online tool where used. The data of the completed paper questionnaires were inserted in the online database for analytical purposes. The number of responses per subject area should meet the minimum requirement of 400 completed questionnaires, to offer reliable results. For each of the subject areas all five universities participated in the consultation. The numbers of completed questionnaires were the following:

Generic competences (same for all 3 subject areas)

Business Education Engineering Total
Academics 107 66 134 307
Employers 143 230 109 482
Students 152 138 184 474
Graduates 149 213 123 485
Total 551 647 550 1748

The list of agreed Generic Competences is included to this report in Annex 1.

Subject specific competences

Business Education Engineering Total
Academics 107 61 108 276
Employers 141 196 98 435
Students 150 122 166 438
Graduates 144 188 119 451
Total 542 567 491 1600

 The lists of agreed subject specific competences of the three subject areas are included in Annex 2.

The standards were met in all cases, with the exception of the number of academics in Education. This should not be perceived as a serious obstacle, because the outcomes are still reliable given the fact that only five institutions per sector were involved in a limited field. It has also to be stressed that the required number of 400 responses per subject area was amply realized.

The data were analysed by a team of experts of the University of Deusto. The data were presented at the seminars in the form of power point presentations, which required one and a half hour per subject area. The Chinese data were also compared in those power points with the data of the Tuning consultation held in Europe in 2008. The power point presentations and the raw data were supplied to the group leaders to enable further and deeper analysis of the data.

According to the Tuning methodology, the consultation was based on different parameters, that is, first:

    • the degree of importance: the relevance of the competence, in the opinion of the stakeholder, for work in their profession,
    • the level of achievement: the achievement of this competence as a result of having taken this university degree.

To evaluate these two variables, the interviewed had to use a scale: 1 = none; 2 = weak; 3 = moderate; 4 = strong.

and second:

  • ranking of generic competences: based on the categorisation of the five most important ones according to academics, graduates, students and employers. The competence that was ranked highest in the survey was allocated five points, four for the second and so on, with one point for the last in the selection. If the competence was not chosen in the survey, it scored zero points.

See for the templates of the Generic and Subject Specific on-line questionnaires Annex 3.

The outcomes of this consultation process were quite interesting. In the Chinese consultation most competences listed were thought to be important to very important. In general the achievement was thought to be one point lower on average. This gap is larger than in other consultation processes organised by Tuning. In a separate academic paper, already mentioned in the above as the 6th milestone, the data were presented in detail, further analysed and compared to the outcomes of Tuning surveys in other regions in the world, in particular to Europe. A first draft of the paper was ready in the first week of October, to be used for further debates at the third round of seminars in November/December.

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