Prof. Dr. Socrates Kaplanis
TEI of Patras, Greece
Mobility: ECTS, CATS
. Academic, Professional Recognition
. "Quality Assurance": Management, Evaluation
. Peers Standards & Conformity to E.C. Directives on "Products"
SOCRATES DIALOGUES: ABOUT THE CITY
"The next stage in the training of our young men after music (Harmony) will be physical education."
"And here again they must be carefully trained from childhood onwards. My own opinions about this are as follows; let me see if you agree. In my view physical excellence does not of its self produce a good mind and character: on the other hand, excellence of mind and character will make the best of the physique it is given. What do you think?"
The efforts, at European political level, to overcome the obstacles, in the four freedoms, as specified by the Treaties, are admittedly effective. As it concerns the mobility of the "educational products" that is, graduates, students and professionals, various studies show that many individuals suffer from the absence of a normalized standards system; a system that will provide for recognition of courses and degrees.
Up to now ECTS and the Directive 89/49 gave an impetus to that and put a transparent frame and the legal basis for academic and professional recognition. To plan an effective system for the above requirement, one is invited to draw parallel strategies and actions as the Directives for the free circulation of products do.
The study of the sequential stages and of the prerequisites and requirements to achieve this freedom will disclose the relative position of curricula development, (ac) countable knowledge/competences/skills, assessment procedures, qualifications, etc. Within the whole frame of the mobility of graduates, students and professionals, as compared with the corresponding issues of the free circulation of products.
. The mobility of persons and especially, of students, graduates, professionals, from one m.s. to another, is somehow discouraged, as there is no (common) policy for Education & Training (E.T) in the E.U.
. Harmonization of structures and degrees, is not, at present under any effective consideration, while on the other hand, normalization of standards for E&T might be a rather welcome concept for adoption.
The latter, as a concept, was one of the intrinsic fundamental factors in ECTS and CATS.
. The adoption and practice of ECTS had as a prerequisite the mutual confidence and faith between volunteeringly exchanging Higher Education Institutions. Although of no legal biding, it was effective in practice, with bilateral agreements and exchanges.
. The requirements to implement ECTS were, on one hand, the transparency in the management of student mobility at administrative and academic level, and on the other, the understanding of each others curricula, the learning standards and the Institutional Culture.The implementation was attempted progressively via a formatted satisfactory description of courses, available or delivered, and the understanding of the chemistry of credits (allocation and award). However, the ECTS as implemented for Academic recognition of modules/courses attended, could not guarantee for the Quality of the learning environments, as well as the affectivity of Teaching & Learning, necessary indeed for Academic and Professional recognition purposes.
1. The mobility, a draft shown in fig. 1, carries along all the possible configuration, the recognitions issue via an accrediting transaction. To award and accumulate credits, implies that the necessary documentation is available from the part of the Higher Education Institution and the course and that prerequisites and requirements are satisfied and the Credibility is established either a posteriori or ex ante, fig. 2.
2. The posteriori route is not tackled here, as it needs sampling and long time of experience and evaluation of exchanged "products".
3. The ex ante approach is the one to investigate, mostly, as it will meet one of the prerequisites for the generalized concept of recognition to be presented, hereafter.
a. One should accredit or confer titles/labels to "products" of the other partners, provided that an agreement is signed as such. In this case credibility is enhanced through full documentation or quality certification but for Academic purposes. This issue is very significant and has to be examined in depth by all the component bodies.
b. Competent certification procedures and the nominated certified body for that, underpin the above requirements. Neither, ISO9000 as it stands nowadays, or any other existing Quality evaluation model could easily prove themselves able to offer the service of assurance of the academic picture of Teaching & Learning, its affectivity and satisfaction of the related bodies and of the recipients of the "products", unless they are adapted to the Education-Learning ethos.
c. However, this requirement could, in principle, be satisfied if, within a period of 2-5 years Higher Education Institutions could try to establish Quality management models for their Teaching & Learning environments, their development & operation, the RTD & services, etc., while the achievements of their departments, staff and graduates, at all the above sectors, should be transparently highlighted and documented.
d. Auditing by a transnational Peers' group to cover several m.s., in average is considered as one key requirement to gain a rich European impact of the Quality evaluation. Peers' group composition: academics, representatives from employers and also from sectoral Boards/Institutions, professional hodies, etc., is a guarantor that the evaluation report will provide a European component for the Credibility sought for the Academic & Professional recognition. A satisfactory report of the Peer group under the above synthesis, meets basic Quality principles and requirements.
e. The generalised system of Quality Assessment & ECTS/CATS based on networks for auditing with European Peers', as outlined above, provides to a large extent a metron, metric system, which underpins pan = (totality, everything within the university sphere) and ariston, under the meaning of: a metrics system which provides effective and reliable measurements of all processes within the University sphere i.e. TQ.M. approach.
Credits and therefore ECTS provide the way to measure the effort by the learner to master the objectives of the learning module/curriculum. It measures relatively and it measures the output. It does not measure the student performance, done by the grading system and not the Quality of the performance of all the processes in the Higher Education Institution, which is the core to establish Credibility. A Quality Assessment model may provide for measurement of the performance of all processes, the level and targets (pre) et, via Strategic Planning and the satisfaction of all the concerned, i.e. the inside and outside University customers. All the above highlight the required Metrics System. It serves the requirements for Academic and professional recognition, as shown in fig. 2.
f. What the Quality standards might be?
After, a study of the equivalent or corresponding issues of the Directives for the free circulation of product, that might be a set of items like those, which one can identify in the flow diagram below, see table II, fig. 3.
There, one can realize that credit allocation, award transfer, etc. are elements of a more general system, which we might develop for the teaching & learning processes.
For these standards, the processes' performance has to reach, we need that the Quality System includes Quality Indicators too.
g. However, for reasons of competitiveness and viability/sustainability and for meeting the requirements of the recipients to the University outputs, we may proceed further and the metrics system be accommodated under a T.Q.M. model, for educational establishments, rather than a generalized Q.M. model or extended ISO one, used in the market economy.
h. This issue falls in another discussion about Q.M. models, which fit or could be developed by the Higher Education Institution themselves, provided an effective training and consultancy is available via (the) European networks.
i. Conclusively, ECTS as a tool to measure Academic expected output-achievements should be integrated into a more general framework to Manage Quality and Evaluate Quality.
i.a. Self-assesment exercises are incorporated within this model, while the evaluation of the performance of the Quality model, applied towards the continuous improvement, with Peers' coming from various national & European bodies per case provides a complete (pan) Quality Evaluation system to audit documents, processes performance and achievements.
i.b. The overall picture of the Peers' report gives (the) European passport to a University process with a satisfactory level of performance.
Students or graduates having passed part of their studies in a Quality certified/qualified Higher Education Institute, could be able to transfer themselves to other m.s. for academic and professional activitities, especially as some members in the peer group come from social partners of other m.s. and the co-signing of the Quality report binds, in general, their Institution and the authorities, they represent.
It is obvious that for a case of centrally regulated professions, such a Peer report may be considered as a passport for access to professional activities in those m.s. where the peers do come from and so on.
However, the "passport" needs the Credibility to be built progressively with continuous efforts via a Quality Policy whose frame and marry together the European experienc we all have lived up to now on one hand and the perspectives and requirements of its European Citizens on the other.