EURASHE is leading the PHExcel project on Testing the Feasibility of a Quality Label for Professional Higher Education Excellence.
Underneath are further information on:
The PHExcel project aims at proposing an enhancement process leading to the recognition of excellence in professional higher education. The objectives of the PHExcel project are to:
- Survey quality tools that respond to the characteristics of professional higher education;
- Propose a concept of professional higher education excellence;
- Support institutions in achieving excellence through an excellence assessment methodology;
- Validate the proposed quality framework by conducting pilot tests in institutions;
- Build consensus around the concept of excellence through consultation with key stakeholders;
- Deploy professional higher education excellence with an implementation roadmap;
- Mainstream the concept of professional higher education excellence in Europe.
Activities and outcomes
The outcomes of the PHExcel project are:
- A report on Quality Tools for Professional Higher Education Review and Improvement; the quality tools presented in this report are also available in our online database here;
- A Briefing Paper on Excellence;
- A Draft Quality Framework for Professional Higher Education Excellence as well as draft Principles and Guidelines for Assessing and Recognising Excellence; both of which were tested and adapted into the PHExcel Framework & Methodology;
- Four pilot assessments of excellence in higher education in Europe;
- A consultation of higher education institutions and stakeholders as to their understanding of excellence and the draft framework and methodology; the outcomes the consultation is presented in the Report on a Consultation on Excellence;
- A conference titled ‘Striving for Excellence in Higher Education: Bringing Education and the World of Work Together’;
- The PHExcel process for the promotion of excellence in higher education.
Database of quality tools
The data presented in the report on Quality Tools for Professional Higher Education Review and Improvement is available in our online database to allow for comparison between quality labels and models. It contains information on the 18 tools which were selected for further study based on their preliminary compliance with the identified characteristics of professional higher education (PHE). It also presents the results of a first gap analysis towards professional higher education characteristics and a second gap analysis towards the European Standards and Guidelines (ESG). You can search quality tools, as well as compare them. You can specify your search including or excluding specific key words, selecting only tools complying with the ESG or the characteristics of PHE. Please note that when searching, at least one field in ‘ESG Compliance’ and/or ‘PHE Characteristics’ must be ticked. A list of all tools is also available here.
The project is a successor to the initiative on Harmonising Approaches to Professional Higher Education in Europe (HAPHE). The initiative proposed a definition and set of defining characteristics for professional higher education which are being used as the starting point for the PHExcel framework. More information about HAPHE can be gained from its’ website here. The PHExcel Framework & Methodology is based on research within both the PHExcel and the HAPHE projects. It includes 3 years of research into the nature of higher education’s integration with the world of work, through among others a vast survey of higher education institutions and stakeholders as to their understanding of this factor. The three domains where the integration with the world of work, and ensuing criteria, were indicated by this research, and further developed in an iterative process involving experts in the field from around Europe.
At present, higher education in Europe is facing the challenge of implementing a process of continuous quality enhancement across educational programmes and organisational structures. This takes on a particular set of characteristics when considering higher education that integrates with the world of work. Improved performance in this regard is linked to the same quality assurance processes that apply to the whole of higher education, yet it is equally answerable to the ‘professional’ perspective. It thus finds itself in a state of tension between these two priorities; which adds a distinctive dimension to the challenge of quality enhancement. Over the years, many higher education institutions have specialised in integrating with the world of work, from universities of applied sciences to subjects falling under professional legal requirements (e.g. nursing). Yet, in recent years it has become more widespread and all providers of higher education are, in one form or another, aiming to integrate with the world of work.
On the other hand, excellence is a ‘hot topic’ in higher education worldwide. It is used in funding schemes by several authorities and its relevance has risen in recent years through (international) rankings and sectorial initiatives such as quality labels or accreditation. Many in higher education are struggling to cope with a concept that is often used with very different meanings and aims.
PHExcel recognises that excellence is the exceptional capacity of an organisation and its members to add relevant value to input within a given context, surpassing set standards of quality. Excellence is a fluid, dynamic and highly contextual matter.
While PHExcel addresses the intense integration with the world of work, excelling in this domain means using in an outstanding manner (taking into account the national and international field) the systematic and circular relationship between education, research and professional practice.
PHExcel is a consultancy service for higher education providers that strive to excel at integrating with the world of work. Through PHExcel, participating organisations can analyse their relationship with the world of work, and through a process of active-learning, identify areas for enhancement and develop appropriate actions. It is a problem- client- and action-centred consultancy service. It involves organisations in a diagnostic, active-learning, problem-finding and -solving process.
PHExcel is a quality enhancement service with focus on organisational processes. The fundamental objective of PHExcel is to contribute to raising the standard of higher education in Europe, especially in its collaboration with the world of work. It considers the domains of policy and strategy, teaching and learning, and research, development and innovation.
PHExcel is a 3-stage process, including first a ‘definition of needs visit’ followed by a consultancy visit and finally a longer-term follow-up. It follows the principles of a collaborative and co-creative exercise, based on an open mutual exchange and an open atmosphere with the support of a team of international peers, the PHExcel coaches.
There is, in Europe, a large variety of institutions delivering higher education that integrates with the world of work and the boundaries within higher education between so-called academic and professional higher education are permeable and dynamic. This blurring of boundaries will continue to be influenced by the importance given to employability by the entire higher education community.
Integrating with the world of work is not limited to training relevant only to contemporary professional needs and narrow solutions for immediate employment requirements; higher education’s role in this regard is to also provide a wide range of transferable skills – indeed, its intimate connection with professional environments and attitudes makes for a particularly rich range of professionally relevant transferable skills.
A sense of professional value is critical when considering this concept. It is about integrating professional aspirations and ethos with those of knowledge acquisition and self-growth applicable to any learner group. Learners assimilate these through their learning and through their realisation that the professional world is in both the classroom and the (work) placement – i.e. that they are learning for a profession but also learning in a profession.
The translation of this understanding into practice is therefore crucial to the definition and adoption of one’s own strategy for excellence, and ultimately for its implementation. This extends the concept of excellence into that of ‘contextual excellence’. This approach reflects the necessary dynamic contextual approach within the higher education provision and aims at recognising a supreme fitness for purpose within its delivery.
PHExcel has been created through the EU-funded PHExcel project, which is an initiative of the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education (EURASHE), the Association Européenne des Conservatoires, Académies de Musique et Musikhochschulen (AEC), the European League of Institutes of the Arts (ELIA), The University of Nottingham and the European Federation of Nurse Educators (FINE), the SPACE Network for Business Studies and Languages (SPACE), with Knowledge Innovation Centre (KIC) Malta, and Jagiellonian University.
The intense integration with the world of work is the basis of the PHExcel framework. The framework identifies three domains where this integration takes place; each is divided in sub-domains and criteria for the integration with the world of work.
The use of the framework within the process
Excellence is not a static concern, nor are these criteria intended to amount to a closed or fixed enumeration of the ways the integration with the world of work is manifested in higher education. Instead, the idea is that by considering its ambition for excellence a participating organisation should develop a reflection on excellence, which is mapped against the criteria. This reflection is not restricted to these criteria; it develops its own relevant indicators.
PHExcel proposes an approach that stimulates organisational reflection on the concept of excellence and that empowers organisations to critically analyse their own situation. The framework serves as a set of minimum standards for the integration with the world of work. Organisations should use the framework as a reference point during their continuous process of enhancement.
The development of the framework
The framework is based on 3 years of research into the nature of higher education’s integration with the world of work. The research included a vast survey of higher education institutions and stakeholders as to their understanding of this factor. The three domains and ensuing criteria were indicated by this research, and further developed in an iterative process involving experts in the field from around Europe.
Policy and strategy
An intense integration with the world of work is the core focus of PHExcel. As such, this aspect should be a transverse strategy, an element embedded within an entire organisation, and offering illuminative exemplars throughout. However, while an intense integration with the world of work may be the ideal, it does not disqualify a stand-alone strategy feeding into all aspects of the provision of higher education. Therefore, the first domain to be considered is that of policy and strategy. Although, because of starting with this domain the characteristics are formulated on institutional level, they should also be applicable on the levels of faculty, department, programme etc.
|Policy and strategy||Policy and strategy integration|
|Integration of the world of work into policies and strategic framework.||Institutional policies and strategies are defined in collaboration with the world of work.|
|Policy and strategy||Objectives and outcomes|
|Main objectives in relation to the outcome of [professional higher education].||[Professional higher education] specifically focuses on enhancing job-related skills and competencies with a view to raising the employability of students. The emphasis is on learning outcomes and use-inspired research.|
Teaching and learning
Teaching and learning is the second domain of the framework. The mix of theory and practice is at the centre of the criteria of teaching and learning. The positions of organisations engaged in this integration with the world of work do vary; from those with little engagement with stakeholders to those achieving a full cooperation, where academia and the world of work participate equally in e.g. curriculum development.
|Teaching and learning||Teaching and learning strategy|
|Teaching and learning||Approaches to curriculum development|
|The process of design and development of:
||Curricula are developed by academia in collaboration with stakeholders, in particular from the world of work, taking into account the future needs of the practice and context of employment.|
|Teaching and learning||Content for teaching and learning|
|The content comprises:
||The learning content is productively integrating theory and practice as the basis for complex problem-solving in real work situations. The content is informed by the latest research, trends and references from both the world of work and academia.|
|Teaching and learning||Learning environment|
|The surroundings and conditions in which learning takes place.||The learning environment includes experience within institutions as well as outside, in the world of work. Significant practice phases and/or job experiences serve to reflect theory in a practical context.|
|Teaching and learning||Programme team(s)|
|All persons involved in the design, delivery and assessment of learning, including visiting lecturers, professionals and support staff.||At the programme level, the team shows a combination of academic background and relevant experience from the world of work.|
Research, development and innovation
Research is a fundamental component of all higher education; in the PHExcel context it may emphasise, but is not necessarily confined to, applied research. Research, development and innovation (RDI) in certain subject areas, such as the humanities, social sciences or the arts, may take different forms and be manifested in different types of output, from scientific, medical or technological disciplines. Yet its importance in ensuring that higher education does not merely follow professional needs but helps to shape them is every bit as relevant. Highlighting excellent practice in this area opens up new opportunities for organisations and individuals. This understanding of research also contains specific characteristics not linked directly to the integration with the world of work, such as the involvement of students in the research process, and the importance of the cross-fertilisation of teaching and learning and research.
|Research, development and innovation (RDI)||RDI agenda|
|The scope of the RDI activity.||The RDI agenda is informed by the world of work in order to meet the needs of society and of the world of work.|
|Research, development and innovation (RDI)||RDI process|
|The way RDI meets the needs of society and the world of work.||Researchers seek and provide input from and to the world of work and value stakeholders’ requests and contributions. The RDI process respects the nature of the inputs and can include various types of research activities and scholarship.|
|Research, development and innovation (RDI)||RDI outputs and outcomes|
|The expected result of RDI.||RDI outcomes aim to be relevant to the world of work, and society. In addition to traditional outputs, such as licenses, patents and publications, RDI outcomes are solution-oriented with tangible benefits for the world of work and society.|
 This further development included the streamlining of certain criteria. In the domain of policy and strategy the criteria relating to ‘regional integration’ were embedded throughout the framework and not left as a stand-alone section. In the domain of teaching and learning, the criteria relating to ‘learning outcomes’ and to ‘learning methodology’ were streamlined into those of ‘teaching and learning strategy’; finally, the criteria relating to ‘methods of curriculum development’ were considered under those of ‘approaches to curriculum development’.
The original research is available in the report Professional Higher Education in Europe: Characteristics, Practice examples and National differences, October 2014
PHExcel is a process for the promotion of excellence in higher education aimed at supporting higher education in its ambition to develop excellence and at providing opportunities for further enhancement in the field of the PHExcel framework.
This consultancy service is a problem-, client-centred, and action-oriented consultancy service. It involves higher education institutions in a diagnostic, active-learning, problem-finding and -solving process with focus on the PHExcel framework. Data is not simply returned in the form of a written report but instead is also fed back in open joint sessions.
Scientific method in the form of data gathering, forming hypotheses, testing hypotheses, and measuring results, is an integral part of the process. PHExcel sets in motion a long-range, cyclical, self-correcting mechanism for maintaining and enhancing the organisation, leaving the organisation with practical and useful tools for self-analysis and self-renewal.
PHExcel is inspired by the action research methodology, conceptualised by Kurt Lewin, using a spiral of steps, each of which is composed of a circle of planning, action, and fact-finding about the result of action as illustrated underneath.
The underlying values and principles of PHExcel are:
|Areas of concern for PHExcel||Underlying values and principles|
|Institution||Context-oriented and general improvement on education quality with focus on the PHExcel framework|
|Curriculum||Strategy on high quality outcome and cooperation with stakeholders/world of work in the 3 PHExcel domains|
|Programmes||Transparency for participants and cooperation with stakeholders/world of work in the 3 PHExcel domains|
|Students||Learning-centred training and development of students’ intellectual and practical skills|
|Staff||Dedicated staff with methodological, didactical and professional competences, knowledge and experience with focus on the PHExcel framework|
|Link between educational context and the world of work and/or stakeholders||Interface with the practice and other interested stakeholders with focus on the PHExcel framework|
Therefore, in carrying out the process, the team of international peers:
- Acts as a coach;
- Involves student participation;
- Involves participation of professional bodies, practitioners and/or employers;
- Follows explicit and open guidelines: the PHExcel framework and methodology;
- Puts a major emphasis on collaboration, support and enhancement.
The documents, models, and tools suggested in the PHExcel guidelines for the self-assessment, for the consultancy visit and for the report are possible tools suggested for the team of international peers and the organisation to use. They are not exhaustive or prescriptive in character; they should not prevent the team and the organisation from using the most appropriate tool for the context of the participating organisation in line with the joint definition of needs.
PHExcel is a consultancy service for higher education providers that strive to excel at integrating with the world of work. Through PHExcel, participating organisations can analyse their relationship with the world of work, and through a process of active-learning, identify areas for enhancement and develop appropriate actions.
Stages and conduction
PHExcel involves 3 stages:
- Stage 1: Definition of needs
- Stage 2: Consultancy
- Stage 3: Follow-up
Stage 1: Definition of needs
The principal elements of this stage include a preliminary diagnosis and joint action planning by the participating organisation and one PHExcel coach working together. The preliminary diagnosis is based on a self-assessment with focus on the 3 domains of the PHExcel framework.
The self-assessment criteria are at the core of the first stage, as they determine certain directions and perspectives that the process will adopt. The criteria state vital features and act as a narrative by providing information on the consultancy service.
One of the approaches of the self-assessment can be a gap analysis based on:
- The simplified model of quality assurance development phases in organisations with respect to the PHExcel framework, and/or
- The university-business cooperation model taking the PHExcel framework into consideration.
The simplified model of quality assurance development phases in organisations is described in the table below (developed by Lucien Bollaert).
|Phase #||Management & organisation processes||Results|
|Phase 1||Quality is the result of purely individual commitment.||Quality is variable.|
|Phase 2||There is a beginning of thinking in processes.||Quality is the result of a beginning systematic approach.|
|Phase 3||The organisation is managed professionally.||Quality is guaranteed.|
|Phase 4||The organisation as well as its management is systematically renewed.||Quality is continuously improved with innovation.|
|Phase 5||The organisation is outward-oriented and strives for excellence.||Quality is recognised by externals as excellent and thus an international example.|
The university-business cooperation model is:
In conducting its self-assessment, the participating organisation can therefore consider
- in which phase it is placed/its actual performance
- in which phase it wants to be placed/its desired performance
in relation to both the simplified model of quality assurance development phases and the university-business cooperation model, linked to the PHExcel framework.
Stage 2: Consultancy
This stage includes a site-visit of the complete team of international peers where actions relating to learning processes according to the agreed joint action plan are considered and consulted upon.
Feedback at this stage would move via ‘Feedback Loop A’ and would have the effect of altering previous planning to bring the learning activities of the participating organisation into better alignment with their own development/enhancement objectives.
Included in this stage is action-planning activity with stakeholders (world of work, managers, lecturers, students, administrative staff, graduate). To this end the organisation and the coaches may use a SWOT approach to identify ways to improve the identified areas in the short- and in the long-term. This analysis is carried out jointly by the team of international peers and representatives of the organisation.
In stage 2 the coaches act as process consultants with respect to the preliminary diagnosis and the joint action plan. Initially however they may wish to act as observers rather than lead or directly participate in the group meeting.
The PHExcel coaches are highly qualified professionals that have insights into and understand the psychosocial dynamics of working with higher education institutions’ systems as whole organisations, groups, and individuals. They:
- work concomitantly with groups and individuals (managers/directors) towards a wider enhancement objective with focus on the PHExcel framework such as strategic visioning, strategic planning, etc.;
- select from a variety of methods, tools and change theories a ‘facilitative intervention’ that will most benefit the organisation based on the gap analysis, the preliminary diagnosis and joint action plan;
- stay aware of covert organisational processes, group dynamics, and interpersonal issues.
The last part of the site visit, reporting, takes place in an open joint session focusing on continuous enhancement of quality with respect to essential elements such as leadership, communication, participation and commitment; essential attitudes in this session are openness, constructive criticism, objectiveness, systematics, problem-solving, innovativeness and collectiveness.
The outcome of the joint session is an agreed action plan for stage 3.
The participating organisation is invited to submit any further evidence to substantiate their ambition after the departure of the coaches. It serves as triangulation of claims and findings.
As a tangible outcome of stage 2, the team of international peers provides the participating organisation with a written report of its involvement in the process.
Stage 3: Follow-up
This stage may include actual changes in behaviour resulting from corrective actions taken following the second stage within the participating organisation.
This output stage is a period, in which new behaviours are tried out in the organisation and if successful and reinforcing, become a part of the organisation culture. Minor adjustments of this nature can be made in activities via ‘Feedback Loop B’ of the first figure. Major adjustments and re-evaluations might re-start stage 1, via ‘Feedback Loop C’ of the first figure.
When planning the schedule, it should be considered that:
- The schedule includes sessions with all groups relevant for the organisation to present and discuss their contribution to the process;
- Sessions are not back-to-back; each session should be followed (or prefaced) by short breaks to discuss the findings of the previous session and prepare for the following one; sessions should allow time for summing up;
- Names and positions or roles of participants should be known beforehand in order to prepare specific questions and contributions.
Practically, the participation of an organisation in PHExcel follows the indicative timeline underneath:
- Enquiry: An enquiry can be conducted at any time by email, phone or in person to the PHExcel organisers.
- Application: An interested organisation submits a formal application with practical information to the organisers. It should include data on the organisation, a brief justified statement on their wish to take part, a preferred timeline to organise the process and a preliminary indication of the area they wish to concentrate on. The application takes place in month 1.
- Contract: Following the review of the application, a contract is drawn up between the organisation and the PHExcel organisers by month 2.
- Selection of a coach for stage 1: The PHExcel organisers select a coach based on the indicated preliminary area of focus of the organisation, to carry out stage 1. The selection takes place after the signature of the contract.
- Definition of needs: stage 1 of the process takes place. A one-day on-site visit is conducted with the selected coach and the participating organisation. The purpose of the visit is to ensure that the organisation’s expectations are discussed and the contribution of PHExcel is clarified. Stage 1 takes place 1 month at least after the selection of the coach.
- Selection of the full team of coaches: the PHExcel organisers select a complete team of international peers based on the outcomes of stage 1 of the process and in agreement with the organisation. The selection takes place after the completion of stage 1.
- Further self-assessment: Following the definition of needs, the participating organisation is invited to continue its reflection on excellence to properly allow the conduction of the consultancy visit. Any additional documentation is submitted within one month of stage 1.
- Consultancy: stage 2 of the process takes place, the site-visit of the PHExcel coaches. It takes place within 1 month of the submission of further documentation on the self-reflection; it cannot take place less than a month after stage 1.
- Additional evidence: the organisation is invited to submit additional evidence as to underpin its ambition for excellence in the report. Evidence is submitted within two weeks of stage 2.
- Report & statement: the team of international peers provides its full written report to the participating organisation and the organisers within one month of stage 2; the PHExcel organisers issue a formal statement on the participation of the organisation in the process.
- Case study report: if present, the coaches identify and report to the PHExcel organisers on excellent practices in the participating organisation. Such case study reports are published by the PHExcel organisers following stage 2.
- Feedback: the participating organisation is invited to provide feedback, comments and recommendations to the coaches and the PHExcel organisers in the two months following stage 2.
- Follow-up: stage 3 of the process takes place. The organisation considers actions for its continuous enhancement. The link with the PHExcel organisers is kept to inform each other of potential benefits. This process takes place from the reception of the report of the team of international peers onwards.
This indicative timeline may vary between 4 and 7 months, depending on, among others, the availability of the coaches.
Following is a visual representation of the conduction of the PHExcel process, with relative timeframes, over a possible 6 month-period.
The report of the team of international peers to the participating organisation summarises the contribution of the team through PHExcel. It reports on the facts and discussions of the team’s involvement with the organisation, as well as reflects on possibilities for its future enhancement.
It is recommended that such a report is between 5-10 pages long. In addition, it is recommended it follows the following structure, addressing the PHExcel framework, the domains and criteria for integrating with the world of work in chapters 3 and 4 of the report.
|Chapters||Content, areas to discuss|
|0||Executive summary||Major findings of the team of international peers addressing the joint action planned|
|1||Introduction||Brief introduction into PHExcel, its framework and methodology
Aims and objectives of the organisation, based on stage 1 of the process
|2||About the organisation||Brief history, academic context, mission statement
Note anything outstanding, distinctive, and noteworthy
|3||Findings||The findings may be presented using e.g.
|4||Recommendations||The recommendations may be presented using e.g.
The recommendations of the team refer to an area or process that is handled by the organisation or parts thereof in a way that is either not adequate in regards to the PHExcel framework, or not adequate in regards to what the organisation itself has defined as its aims and goals to strive for excellence.
The recommendations must:
- Be agreed upon by the members of the team;
- Contain prescriptive actions;
- Be put in a way that can support the organisation’s development process.
Participating organisation’s role and responsibilities
The participating organisation commits to:
- Engage in the process openly and seriously;
- Adhere to its contractual obligations;
- Accept the results of stage 1 as basis for its participation in the process.
In addition, the participating organisation is responsible to support the PHExcel coaches in all their work in any capacity necessary, which may, for example, include the provision of summary translation of any documentation to conduct the process.
Confidentiality and publication
PHExcel is a consultative service for organisations wishing to reflect on their processes and receive external expert advice. To achieve these aims, participants must have an open and trusting approach to the process. This can only be secured with the confidentiality of the results.
Therefore, the elements that are available to the public are:
- The names of the organisations taking part in PHExcel;
- The dates of the visits;
- The names of the members of the team of international peers taking part in the process;
- The statement by the organisers;
- If applicable, a case study report.
In parallel, the elements that remain confidential are:
- The report of the team of international peers and its contents.
The participating organisation retains the possibility to publish the report of the team or not; if it were published, it would have to be in a loyal manner. Aside from the organisation, the members of the team who wrote the report and the organisers will have access to the report, but will refrain from publishing it and from mentioning its content.
Statement by the organisers
At the end of the process and with the submission of the coaches’ report to the organisation, the organisers issue a formal statement, recognising that:
- The organisation is involved in an ongoing exercise of internal quality enhancement by striving to excel in its field of study and its integration with the world of work;
- The organisation has been visited by a team of PHExcel coaches who have formulated suggestions which intend to further facilitate the ambition of the organisation to excel.
This statement describes the consultative nature of the PHExcel process, and it refers to the PHExcel framework and to the advice expressed by the team of international peers, without making a judgement on the level of excellence of the organisation. The statement contains a visual mark, a ‘coached by PHExcel’ logo, which may be displayed by the organisation in its communication.
During the project phase of PHExcel, four pilot visits were conducted:
- Karol Lipiński Academy of Music in Wrocław, Poland, Date: 18 May 2015
- Limerick School of Art & Design (LSAD), Ireland, Date: 11 May 2015
- Escola Superior de Enfermagem de Lisboa (ESEL), Lisbon School of Nursing, Portugal, Date: 6 May 2015
- V. A. Graiciunas School of Management, Lithuania, Date: 16-17 April 2015
A team of international peers with expertise in their fields, in quality enhancement and in the integration with the world of work provide the PHExcel consultancy service. Each expert has been specifically trained to support and coach organisations.
Composition and profile of the team of international peers
The team consists of 3-4 experts selected by the organisers of the PHExcel process, based on the definition of needs of the participating organisation. The team is composed of a majority of international experts.
The team includes the expertise of:
- A programme/institutional manager;
- An administrator;
- An academic expert in the subject area of the organisation;
- A representative of the world of work;
- A graduate;
- A student;
- A chair, chosen when the full team is selected.
While the majority of the team of international peers reflects the subject area of the organisation, PHExcel believes that the cross-participation of experts from different subject areas can be an added value to the process.
The PHExcel process is an international, external, supportive development process for organisations striving for excellence. The team of international peers acts as:
- A coach, to support the organisation in implementing future continuous improvement;
- A mirror, to facilitate self-reflection;
- An adviser, to suggest alternatives and enhancement;
- A peer, to recognise excellent practices.
Each team must find the appropriate balance among these roles.
The team of international peers is responsible for:
- Conducting the site visits;
- Issuing a report;
- Gathering a case study report if applicable.
The specific responsibilities of the chair of the team of international peers are to:
- Prepare the necessary documentation for the team;
- Lead stage 2 of the process;
- Ensure that the team remains focused and manages the process of the visit in a timely way;
- Create and maintain a team spirit and encourage everyone to participate in all phases of the development process;
- Write the report of the team in collaboration with its other members;
- Write the case study report, if applicable, in collaboration with other members of the team;
- Provide the participating organisation and the organisers with the final report endorsed by all members of the team;
- Provide, if applicable, the organisers with a case study report endorsed by all members of the team.
While the team of international peers is collectively responsible for the consultation process, the chair takes the ultimate responsibility for the final report.
The organisers of the PHExcel process are:
- The main contact point for the participating organisation;
- The contracting party for the participating organisation and for the team of international peers respectively;
- The organisers of the practicalities of the visits of the team of international peers (e.g. travel arrangements).
Namely, they are:
Case study reports
The case study reports are examples of excellent practices gathered by the team of international peers during its involvement with the participating organisation. The team should gather such a case study report only if excellent practices are present in the organisation in question. The organisation is consulted on it to provide clarifications and details; but it should not propose nor suggest any example to the team to choose from.
The case study reports are published for the benefit of the wider higher education community.
What is it about? PHExcel recognises that excellence is the exceptional capacity of an organisation and its members to add relevant value to input within a given context, surpassing set standards of quality. Excellence is a fluid, dynamic and highly contextual matter. While PHExcel addresses the intense integration with the world of work, excelling in this domain means using in an outstanding manner (taking into account the national and international field) the systematic and circular relationship between education, research and professional practice.
Who is it for? PHExcel is open to all higher education institutions and units within them (school, institute, faculty, department, programme etc.).
What is the aim? PHExcel supports organisations in their ambition to develop excellence in their integration with the world of work by providing them a roadmap for further enhancement.
What is the outcome? Organisations taking part in PHExcel receive a report by expert coaches containing reflections on their ambition to develop excellence together with recommendations.
Who are the coaches? A team of international peers with expertise in their fields, in quality enhancement and in the integration with the world of work provide the consultancy. Each expert has been specifically trained to support and coach organisations.
Who are the creators? PHExcel is backed by representatives of institutions in higher education and institutions of higher education. They are: EURASHE, AEC, ELIA, The University of Nottingham/FINE, SPACE, with Jagiellonian University and KIC Malta and represent different subject areas and types of institutions throughout the EHEA.
What is the basis of the process? PHExcel uses a peer-review methodology involving self-reflection and assessment. It is based on the PHExcel framework and methodology.
What is the framework? The PHExcel framework presents three domains where the integration with the world of work takes place. The domains are broken down into a set of criteria. An organisation’s excellence is underlined by how far the organisation goes above and beyond these minimum requirements.
What does PHExcel involve for participants? PHExcel is a 3-stage process, including a ‘definition of needs visit’ followed by a consultancy visit and finally a longer-term follow-up. An organisation participating in PHExcel first arranges with one of the organisers a ‘definition of needs visit’. This first visit aims at identifying with the organisation its vision on excellence and at discussing the basis on which PHExcel can support the organisation’s ambition. After defining together which area of the organisation’s activities should be consulted on, the team of experts joins the organisation during a consultancy visit to reflect and provide coaching support on how to (further) develop excellence. In the longer-term, during the follow-up stage, PHExcel continues to interact with the organisation to further reflect on its enhancement and developments towards excellence.
What is the format of the visit? The visit follows the format of a collaborative exercise, based on an open mutual exchange and an open atmosphere.
Why creating PHExcel? The importance of excellence has risen in recent years (through accreditation, rankings, funding) and higher education providers increasingly strive to be excellent. At the same time, higher education in Europe has also been engaged in a process of continuous quality enhancement across educational programmes and organisational structures. The integration with the world of work is a condition for the completion of higher education’s mission. Over the years, many have specialised in this aspect, from universities of applied sciences to subjects falling under professional legal requirements (e.g. nursing). Yet, in recent years it has become more widespread and all providers of higher education are, in one form or another, aiming to integrate with the world of work. PHExcel has been created to provide organisations with advice and guidance in their process of striving for excellence in the integration with the world of work.
Is PHExcel an accreditation process? PHExcel is not an accreditation process, nor a quality assurance (or ‘excellence assurance’) agency. It proposes a reflective consultancy service. It does not recognise or judge excellence as such.
Is PHExcel a label of excellence? No, participating organisations do not receive a label of excellence. Next to the report for enhancement, organisations receive a letter confirming their participation and a visual mark stating that they have been coached by PHExcel.
How does higher education benefit from it? PHExcel proposes to support the enhancement of the whole of higher education by sharing excellent practices, collected by the coaches in participating organisations.
- Briefing Paper on Excellence (0.9 MB)
- Challenges and Barriers to Assessing and Recognising Excellence in (Professional) Higher Education (0.2 MB)
- Conference conclusions (1.3 MB)
- Delivering Excellence (0.6 MB)
- Draft Quality Framework for Professional Higher Education Excellence (1.3 MB)
- Excellence in teaching and learning: what does it mean? (0.7 MB)
- Excellence in teaching and learning: what does it mean? (4.0 MB)
- How to achieve excellence in research, development and innovation? (1.3 MB)
- PHExcel Final Report (0.4 MB)
- PHExcel Framework & Methodology (5.2 MB)
- PHExcel Mid-Term Report (0.4 MB)
- Principles and Guidelines for Assessing and Recognising PHE Excellence (1.1 MB)
- Quality in PHE: what is it all about? (18.7 MB)
- Quality Tools For PHE Review And Improvement (2.1 MB)
- Report on a Consultation on Excellence (1.3 MB)
- Research excellence in the arts: research, development, innovation (1.4 MB)
- Results of the PHExcel project & looking forward to the future (0.4 MB)
- Striving for a Perfect Ensemble (0.4 MB)
- Striving for Excellence with PHExcel (1.9 MB)
- The Role of Education in Quality Management – Grasping the Nettle (2.1 MB)
- What characterizes excellent policies and strategies? (0.4 MB)
Following are some of the experts involved in the project: