Cooperate to govern

27 June 2011

"AlmaLaurea, given the experience made in the Italian context, will be very helpful to establish a system which delivers comparable data, a prerequisite in the creation of a unique area of higher education in Europe". Kolja Briedis, of the Institut für Hochschulforschung, Hochschul Informations System HIS, Hannover, Germany, interviewed during the National Conference on "Quality and Evaluation of the University system", held in Alghero on the occasion of the presentation of the XIII AlmaLaurea Survey on Graduates’ Profile, depicts the current state of the university in Europe through central topics as the satisfaction of graduates, learning arrangements, teaching methods, governance, internationalization and cooperation between different research centers in Europe.

Universities have everywhere an increasingly "mass" character and, on the other hand, are required to be even more effective and efficient in their performance (although having less access to resources). What are, in your opinion, the main policies that the universities should require in order to achieve these goals?
Of course, universities have to address the question of resources to their government. But most of all, it is important to improve the system of teaching and learning within the universities. We know a lot about learning arrangements and their impacts on the competencies of students. But still many universities act like in former times and do not make use of this knowledge. Therefore they should try to get support especially in improving the teaching and learning processes.

The special focus on “satisfaction with university experience” showed that, in the Italian case, student are wholly satisfied with the university experience; in the German case data show an overall increase in student satisfaction in the last years. What are the main reasons behind this positive picture?
In my opinion it is a mix of several developments: First of all the formation of a system of evaluation over the last years, which brings into mind the needs of students. Then there have been changes in the study programs due to the Bologna Process. These changes seem to be – despite some problems that have appeared – quite appropriate. And in Germany a change of academic staff is taking place. Therefore a new generation of teachers is coming to the universities. These teachers are getting socialized in a time in which universities are becoming more aware of the needs of students.

What is, in your opinion, the relationship between internationalization and quality of studies?
Science has always been an international affair and its internationalization is becoming even more important. The study programs have to take account of this development – especially in times of a merging European higher education area and a merging European labour market. Programs of high quality have to consider the main international developments and contents of their subject and to ensure that students get to know about it.

What should be the role of the responsible for the governance of the university system and of stakeholders on the theme in promoting and fostering the quality and the internationalization of the university system?
At first it is important to raise the awareness of the importance of these topics, e.g. by means of agenda setting. The next task then is to find and evaluate ways of implementing elements of internationalization and quality assurance to study programs and scientific work. And finally all participants have to define the needed framing conditions which have to be provided.

How do you rate AlmaLaurea? What could be the role of initiatives such as AlmaLaurea, that analyze and collect information both on the quality of graduates’ university experience and on their employment status, in the governance of the changes occurring in the higher education system?
AlmaLaurea with its graduate studies provides important data. The data can be used to detect developments within the academic system, which have to be corrected or advanced. But these data on graduates also evoke new research questions, e.g. concerning the correlation of study quality, competencies, and professional success. Researchers on academic graduates have to detect and formulate these questions and, of course, to work on them. In the end, the results of this work should lead to recommendations to the government and stakeholders.

Do you think that AlmaLaurea can be an effective unifying framework for the promotion of an higher educational system in the Euro-Mediterranean area?
I think it is important to cooperate in questions concerning the higher education system in Europe. A lot of questions are quite similar throughout all countries. Therefore we need comparative research. EUROSTUDENT already provides comparative data on the social dimension of higher education in Europe. The cooperation between AlmaLaurea and other researchers concerned with graduate studies will be very helpful to establish a system which delivers comparable European data, and AlmaLaurea will be able to help others with the experiences made in Italy.

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