Outcomes

Second phase (2016-2019)
The four meetings which took place in China, the International Conference on Tuning Higher Education Quality and Credit System and the site visit of the eight persons’ Chinese delegation to Europe all had there relevance and importance for the 2nd phase of the Tuning EU-China Study.  It allowed for exchanging and discussing information to develop better insights in (the aims of) the European Higher Education System and the Chinese Higher Education System. They can therefore be perceived as key outcomes.

The first result of the Study is the outcomes of the surveys to identify the importance and achievement of generic competences and key subject specific competences completed by the stakeholder groups of employers, graduates, academics and students. This for all three new subject areas: Nursing, Information and Computing Sciences and Transport and Logistics. The research confirmed the gap again between the level of importance of generic competences and the actual level of achievements. This was a clear indication that the (paradigm) shift from expert driven education to student-centred education was still in a very initial stage; not different from many other world regions and countries. The information collected was turned into PPT presentations which were shared with all involved in the Study. They proved important information for developing meta-profiles for each of the three new subject areas. The meta-profile discussions were in turn used as input to develop one page qualifications reference frameworks taking into account the European CALOHEE project outcomes. In particular at the third meeting of the Study in Shanghai it became clear that there was (still) an insufficient basis, that is support from the higher education sector, to develop a Chinese Qualifications Framework for Higher Education. It seems that the model developed by CALOHEE to offer clear indicators of the direction to go will be helpful, because it combines a number of important indicators regarding the educational process: the intended outcomes and relevance of the learning process as well as – in terms of descriptors defined -, the level of competence to develop. The one page descriptors for the three academic fields covered in the 2nd phase should offer the evidence of the usefulness to develop a national qualifications reference framework as an important means for credit recognition.

A second result of the study is the outcome of the discussion regarding the development of a learning outcome and student workload based Chinese Credit Reference system (CCRS). This ‘system’ should be compatible with the features of ECTS and comparable systems already developed, such as CLAR (Latin America), or at present in the process of being developed around the world. Developing such a system was one of the main reasons for the Chinese Ministry of Education to sign up for a second phase of the Tuning EU-China Study. It was also an important incentive to organize the International Conference on Tuning Higher Education Quality and Credit System. This conference with participants from key higher education institutions from all over China showed the interest in the topic. It showed at the same time there are doubts whether it would be possible to develop one reference credit system for China. As explained earlier, at present, many institutions apply their own model of the US Carnegie System which is based on contact hours, so called credit hours. A key issue identified was the discrepancy of number of class hours and credits between institutions. It also became clear that institutions operate with different number of credit (hours) per academic year and therefore degrees. It showed the need to obtain more and better data about the organization of the academic year and the calculation of student workload (taking into account the intended and achieved) learning outcomes. This information was collected and obtained as a result of the survey / questionnaire which was distributed and completed by academics and students of a range of higher education institutions involved in the Study. The outcomes show that the academic year in China is comparable and compatible to the ones in continental Europe. In the institutions surveyed a semester system is applied which consists of a teaching period, one or two weeks to prepare for examinations followed by two weeks of (summative) examinations. According to the data collected, the student workload is around 1600 hours per academic year, which is comparable to those of EU higher education institutions. As a result of the discussions about the establishment of one Chinese credit reference system the authorities in China concluded that it would be very helpful if the number of class hours could be synchronized with the number of credits, resulting in a fixed formula. This policy is implemented at present.

An interesting outcome of the survey on workload was also that serious differences were found between course units having the same credit load. This proved an eye opener. It also made clear that more attention should be given to student workload calculations.

Based on the data collected and the intensive discussion hold in the context of the Study it has been concluded that it is indeed possible to develop a reference system which should act as a bridge between a reformed and synchronized/harmonised Chinese credit system and ECTS and comparable student-workload and outcome based credit systems. In practice this means that the Chinese need to modularize their existing system to make it compatible and comparable to the European system. This will not only add to the quality, fairness and feasibility of Chinese higher education dgree programmes, but will also contribute significantly to facilitating credit transfer between the EU and China and vice versa.

In this context also the work established in the setting of the Guideline for EU-China Credit Transfer and Credit Recognition in Higher Education should be perceived and understood. The most current version resulting the discussions between European experts and NCEDR staff is included in annex.

Regarding the third line of action, raising awareness about current 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. At the third meeting held in Shanghai it was concluded the discussion would be facilitated by a survey. Taking the CALOHEE experience as a reference, a questionnaire about current practices regarding learning, teaching and assessment approaches would help to develop better and more tailored strategies for change. The data collected through the instrument of a questionnaires indeed supported this assumption. A first analysis was made and presented by NCEDR staff at the final meeting  which took place in Chongqing in December 2019. Discussion showed that additional analyses are required to make maximum use of the information collected. Nevertheless, the data made available already offered a robust basis for proposing strategies for student-centred learning that focusses on the outcomes of that learning and the relevance for society. This to answer the key questions what should be learned and how can this be learning be organized best, to reach maximum effect and satisfaction. A report prepared by NCEDR staff which contains a summary of the survey outcomes, in particular about the organisation of studies and the potential employability field and the tasks and responsibilities taken on by graduates, is included as an annex to this report.

For all involved in the Study it has been clear from its start that the ultimate objective of the Study was and is to arrive to a comprehensive publication which allows for wider distribution both in China and in Europe. This outcome of the study should allow for further trust and confidence building between Europe and China by offering more transparency. Based on the material available now this publication will be prepared in the months to come. This timeframe is no different from the first Tuning EU-China Study in which also the publications were published after the formal termination of the project period.

First phase (2012-2014)
The outcomes of the first phase of the Study are manyfold. Highlighted should be the process of trust and confidence building between all involved which developed gradually from the first seminar meetings on. This allowed for open discussions, required to develop a mutual good understanding of the higher education systems in China and Europe. The learning visit of a delegation of six Chinese experts to three European universities contributed significantly to this.

The outcomes of the first phase of the Study are manyfold. Highlighted should be the process of trust and confidence building between all involved which developed gradually from the first seminar meetings on. This allowed for open discussions, required to develop a mutual good understanding of the higher education systems in China and Europe. The learning visit of a delegation of six Chinese experts to three European universities contributed significantly to this.

The five outcomes agreed in the final outline were met by the study. The first of these was the establishment of 3 disciplinary working groups of 5 universities, each with high prestige and profile in their respective academic fields. For each group a coordinating institution and academic leader was appointed.

The second outcome was the development and implementation of the survey among four stakeholder groups: employers, graduates, students and academic staff. The outcomes met the minimum standards. They proved of crucial importance for the development of the conceptual frameworks or meta-profiles. The outcomes were presented and analysed in a lengthy paper of 60 pages carrying the provisional title An Analysis of the Generic and Subject Specific Competences in three Subject Areas based on the China-EU Tuning Joint Study Consultation.

The third outcome is three substantial reports containing a conceptual framework / meta-framework for each of the subject areas involved. The frameworks follow a fixed template. They offer a wealth of information about the Chinese educational system in general and about the three subject areas in particular. They also highlight the challenges ahead.

Intensive discussion and written information collected allowed for realizing the fourth outcome, a short paper identifying communalities and differences between European and Chinese HE systems to be based on the conceptual frameworks / meta-profiles prepared.

The material available forms the basis for meeting the fifth scheduled outcome, establishing connections between Chinese and European disciplinary networks and higher education institutions by linking the outcomes of the Tuning EU-China. Relevant European networks have been directly informed about the results.

The study also allowed for identifying weak elements in the present Chinese higher education system, namely the lack of a reliable credit system. This is particularly relevant for recognition of studies in an international perspective. It also became clear that the learning and teaching strategies applied are very traditional and input based. The Chinese experts themselves concluded that it would be very useful to study the development of a student workload and outcomes based credit system. Such a system could also serve as a means to reform and enhance degree programmes. To develop standards for the different cycles it is also thought advisable to study the possible development of a qualifications framework.

The scope of this study was limited. Although the three qualifications frameworks may have their impact, there are obvious limitations. The three disciplines only represent two sectors or domains of education, engineering and social sciences. The sectors not covered, that is the humanities, natural sciences and health care have their own features as we know from other studies. It would therefore be advisable to involve more subject areas / disciplines to cover the whole spectrum of higher education.

The results of the study have been published in the book Tuning Teaching and Learning Process in China.

It contains a Chinese and English language part and is meant to inform the Chinese higher education community. The book contains basic information about the Tuning approach, the consultation process as well as the three conceptual frameworks.