The modification and cancellation of study programmes at universities continue. The two-year-long process of introducing new standards in higher education institutions is bearing fruit. Slovak universities have already set up their internal quality assurance systems, and started working and checking whether they meet the standards. What may, at first sight, appear to be a decline in the supply of study programmes at universities, is in fact the result of pressure to increase quality, involve education practice, and better student information about the possibilities of future employment in real life.
“Today’s discussion shows that universities have already implemented their internal quality systems and are reviewing their curricula. We expect from universities more flexibility for students, better management of resources, and related effective internal mechanisms for improving the quality of education directly at universities,” said Robert Redhammer, Chair of the Executive Board of the Slovak Accreditation Agency for Higher Education. In his words, the universities themselves must be co-responsible for this process, which motivates them to better cooperate with the accreditation agency. The accreditation standards issued by our agency follow the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area – ESG. “ESG represents the best experience of quality assurance in higher education that we have in Europe,” he clarified.
In practical terms, this is intended to bring greater transparency for students, more information about the programme, the learning objectives, the qualification they will receive on completion of the programme, greater flexibility of study, greater influence of students and practice on the content, etc.
“I see the accreditation processes as an opportunity to improve the quality of education in our school. I see positively that accreditation processes are fundamentally student-centered through standards, which was never the case before in accreditation. They focus on the education ways and what services the school should provide to improve the quality of teaching. Students are key when thinking about the future of any one school,” said Bohunka Koklesová, Rector of the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava.
The two years for compliance were given to the universities mainly to have time to dampen down those study programmes that will not be complied with but still have students studying on them. It is therefore expected that from the new academic year, universities will only offer complied study programmes.
All overhead is the responsibility of the universities. Most universities have taken responsibility into their own hands and are reviewing the standard of their curricula. It can modify or cancel them.
“A few months ago, we cancelled practically all study programmes we wanted to cancel. In total, we cancelled around 400 study programmes . Many of these programmes have been cancelled in the external form because there is a declining interest in external studies at our university. However, we also have faculties that have not cancelled a single study programme because they were broad-based. We also have faculties that had dozens of study programmes but these programmes were more narrowly focused and we found that there was no reason to have such narrowly specified programmes because the graduate only got an education in a very narrow field. We thank the accreditation agency for this whole process because it will increase the quality of the higher education we provide and most importantly the employability in the labour market.” explained Ervin Lumnitzer, Vice Rector of the Technical University of Košice.
If a university cannot comply with a study programme with the new requirements of the accreditation standards, or there is little interest in it, or it does not have the finances to provide it, or it is simply considered unviable, the school will cancel such a study programme. We anticipate that the vast majority of study programmes that schools will be cutting will have students graduate by the end of this academic year.
Nevertheless, some schools may still fail to do so entirely. If they lose their accreditation and students are unable to complete the study programme they have enrolled in, then the university must offer them the opportunity to complete another similar study programme or arrange for the same (similar) study programme at another university.
The changes are already showing up in the numbers. Of the more than 6 600 study programmes that were registered in the list of the Ministry of Education in Slovakia as of 1 September 2020, approximately 5 700 are now registered. By the start of the new academic year, the agency expects this number will be reduced by around 1,000. Overall, this will be a decrease of one third in about two years.
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