Diversity of Professional Higher Education in Europe / HAPHE project outcomes

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Author(s)Raimund Hudak
Rationale of and background to the research project HAPHE
The issue of institutional diversity has moved to the centre of policy discussions in Europe. With such questions as how to ensure the competitiveness of knowledge-based societies and respond to the diversity of students’ and stakeholder demands and needs.
Understanding professional higher education in Europe needs to take into account the complex reality of institutional responses and the internal mix of the HE institutions’ missions.
EURASHE and its members have found that there is no real consensus as to the definition of Professional HE, with variations being found in type of institution/programme providing it, EQF levels, qualifications offered and more. The diversification of HE Institutions is only exasperating the problem. Thus, among many ‘traditional’ professional education institutions, academic drift is being observed, (‘Fachhochschulen’ becoming Universities of applied Sciences), while on the other hand, a trend to provide professionally oriented -/practically orientated- study programmes (e.g. theoretical physicists promote "econophysics") is becoming popular among ‘traditional’ academic institutions.
The consortium’s motivation, dovetails neatly with that of the European Commission, who, in its modernisation agenda for universities, stresses the linkage between education, labour market, research and innovation as strategic and crucial for reaching the goals of the Europe 2020 strategy. The commission also identifies a huge gap between graduate competences and labour market’s needs, as well as the need to improve recognition of qualifications and to strengthen QA policy and practices.
EURASHE and the consortium members have explored the field of professional Higher Education extensively through collecting specific information in 16 European countries about national PHE systems, institutional profiles of providers and through quantitative and qualitative surveys and research. Harmonisation of the field of Professional HE across Europe as a key factor in enabling and strengthening growth of the EHEA as a whole which will:
• Accelerate development of the professional education at EQF level 6+
• Improve trans-national recognition of professionalised qualifications
• Improve coordination, and collaboration amongst actors in the sector

The overall aim of the project is building a consensus around the defining characteristics and quality criteria for professional education while developing policies, implementation guides and support tools for strengthening of that sector in a sustainable manner.

The place of PHE in the current debate on the role of higher education
A key part of the modernisation agenda for higher education, as advocated by the EU, is the reform of higher education in order to meet the requirements of the labour market.
In many countries, such a reform has involved either the creation or further expansion of a type of HEI, generally known as a professional HEI (sometimes also referred to as advanced vocational education), which is specifically targeted towards this goal, or the reform of current HEIs (of all types) through the professionalisation of courses, i.e. make them more oriented towards a future profession.

The workshop outline
For the purpose of this conference, Qualifications for the Labour Market, the workshop led us to a reflection on the diversity, nature and profile of PHE institutions and the discussion about:
• Will the importance of PHE further increase and if so, why?
• How to improve HE offerings to be adequate to market needs?
• How to improve the relationship between HEIs and employers?
The HAPHE consortium has carried out a wide mapping and surveying of different approaches to PHE provision throughout EU-member states. Major outcomes of the mapping exercise will be presented in the workshop. It will be accomplished by sharing best practices on how HE institutions adapt the criteria of PHE and how they collaborate with the world of work.
Workshop participants will share expertise among stakeholders in education, enterprises and civil society on PHE understanding, definition and defining characteristics and quality criteria.
CategoriesMission of PHE » 2014 24th Annual Conference, HAPHE