Professional Higher Education in Europe: Characteristics, Practice examples and National differences


The report on Professional Higher Education in Europe: Characteristics, Practice examples and National differences presents the main outcomes of the work conducted under the HAPHE project in 2012-2014 by EURASHE, DHBW, KIC, ASHVC, CASPHE, TTK UAS, VLHORA, ADIUT, CCISP, PWSZ-TAR and VVIVŠ.

The report presents the definition of professional higher education and the accompanying framework of characteristics which are outcomes of the collaborative authoring of the HAPHE team. Furthermore, this document has been enriched by examples of professional higher education, and we are thankful to the above contributors for sharing their practices with us and our readers. This publication was made possible by replies to our survey from more than 600 European stakeholders and by discussion among 200 participants in 12 national and European validation seminars.

The report starts out with a short historical view on “academisation” and “professionalisation,” illustrating how much professional higher education (PHE) in Europe has been in flux in the past years. With examples from France and Ireland, the chapter argues how a new spectrum of missions, differences in national organisation of PHE and a variety of denominations for PHE providers and programmes has slowed down a shared understanding of what PHE commonly characterises. It continues by giving information on research aims and methodology of the HAPHE initiative, which made this publication possible. The report goes on to present a validated definition for PHE and a structured set of characteristics (framework) including quality criteria. The three framework dimensions: policy and strategy, teaching and learning, and research, development and innovation are accompanied by examples of PHE from several European countries. Those examples where gathered from programmes and institutions that have developed a clear professional profile in all or most of the framework criteria. Further the report highlights differences in PHE systems in 15 EU member states for curricular requirements, PHE provision on EQF levels, the recognition of professional degrees, and, not less importantly, access to (research) funding. Finally, the final chapter builds on the outcomes of all previous chapters and formulates recommendations to European and national policy-makers, the providers of PHE policy, and individuals/organisations working on quality development.

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For the data behind the report, view the project website here.