The European Commission has set a strategy to become a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy by 2020. A key target is to improve European education and training and specifically this refers to the quality and relevance of higher education. External evaluation and self-assessment are defined as key roles. In September 2014 eight European universities began a collaborative Erasmus+ project to create a lean process to enhance self-valuation and accreditation through peer alliance and cooperation. To date the project and its progress have been disseminated at several engineering education conferences including CDIO 2015 in Chengdu.
This paper describes the latest phase of the project, which involves the application of a devised new lean process to enhance the quality of higher education. The overall process can be defined in four steps: 1. Self-evaluation. Each institution evaluates one of their programmes against 28 criteria, which were produced based on the exemplary practices of many self-evaluation frameworks (including CDIO). This culminates in the identification of several criteria that each institution wants to improve on their chosen programmes. 2. Pairing. A pairing algorithm matches two institutions based on their respective self-evaluation scores. It ensures there are significant differences in criteria that matter to them and hence they will be able to help each other in these areas. 3. Cross-sparring. Each institution visits the other with the goal of learning from and inspiring each other. 4. Enhancement. Each institution prepares a development plan for their respective programmes and institutions based on their cross-sparring experiences.
Central to the process is the partnering of two institutions as critical friends, based on prior self-evaluations of specific programmes to identify particular criteria they want to improve. The ensuing meetings between critical friends have been designated as ‘cross-sparring’.
The paper focuses on a case-study of the cross-sparring and resulting enhancement outcomes (steps 3 & 4) between Umeå University and Queen’s University Belfast, and their respective Masters programmes in Software Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.
The particular criteria identified by these critical friends for enhancement in their programmes include: • active learning; • faculty development; • evidence of educational scholarship by faculty; • research used in teaching; • equality, diversity and equal opportunity considerations; • learner assessment; • a holistic view of learning; • appropriate learning outcomes; • wider stakeholder input; • personal and interpersonal skills development.
The cross-sparring concludes with respective documents from each institution reporting on the findings from their collaborative experiences, including the impressive practices, strengths, challenges and open questions raised. Respective enhancement action plans are then developed and reported in the paper, which concludes with general comments and an evaluation of this particular application of cross-sparring.
Proceedings of the 12th International CDIO Conference, Turku, Finland, June 12-16 2016