Enhanced co-operation in Higher Education between the European Union and Canada by aligning standards and reference points : final report - Study
This study, executed by an EU team of experts, investigates how higher education cooperation between Canada and the European Union can be strengthened, having the Tuning Methodology in mind. Tuning offers a number of key characteristics relevant for curriculum reform in a global context, in particular for output based learning. The study has focused on three objectives: alignment of academic standards and reference points in higher education based on case studies of three subject areas (Engineering, History and Nursing); the relevance of a Tuning approach for Canada and the identification of... best ways to implement a possible pilot project, including the scope of the undertaking and issues at stake. The study, which was limited in time and scope, presents the outcomes of desktop research and study visits undertaken by a team of Tuning experts to a selected number of higher education institutions. A first draft of the report has been discussed and validated at a joint meeting of the EU expert team and key Canadian stakeholders involved in the study. After describing the general features of Canadian Higher Education, identifying strengths and weaknesses, the most relevant observations from the site visits made to a selected number of institutions are presented. The EU team has noted that the focus is still very much on the use of learning objectives (what the teacher intends to teach), and less on the use of learning outcomes as a basis for degree programme design and delivery (what the students are intended to learn). Although awareness of outcomes based education is widespread in Canada, but implementation varies. In Nursing and Engineering (following the Washington Accord) there is already a lively interest in the learning outcomes approach, while in History there seems little coordinated work in the learning outcomes direction, and no general coordinated projects appear to have been envisaged. The general impression of the EU team was that development of an outcomes approach is at level one: the establishment of LOs in the curriculum. Little evidence was seen of alignment of LOs with teaching, learning activities and assessment techniques. Similarly, it is concluded that the lack of a nationally recognized credit system based on student workload impedes mobility and the accreditation of prior learning. On the basis of comparing the main characteristics of the Tuning approach with the current situation in Canada, it has been concluded that a full-scale Tuning project would be helpful and meaningful. Work done so far in Canada suggests there is a good basis for setting up Tuning pilots to enable universities to trial a collaborative method of setting commonly agreed standards to enable transparency for all and mobility for graduates and students. These pilots should be tailor made for the disciplines to be involved and would therefore slightly differ in scope and content. It is expected that the outcomes of these pilots would serve both the interests of Canadian higher education institutions themselves and the position of the Canadian higher education sector with the outside world, in this case in particular with the European higher education sector. Such pilots would also be of interest to those in Canada interested in the accreditation of qualifications from overseas, since they would help to clarify the Canadian system.