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'TUNING' Educational Structures in Europe

The Project ‘TUNING Educational Structures in Europe’, submitted to the European Commission at the end of the year 2000, is intended to be a two year Pilot project. It is co-ordinated by the University of Groningen, The Netherlands, and the University of Deusto, Spain.

Important developments are taking place in the European labour market, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the Bologna process (pdf format) is determining quite fundamental changes in the Higher Education sector and the educational systems at large.

Intensive debates are going on concerning the educational structures as well as the ways study contents are organised and offered, but actual exchange of opinions between foreign institutions does not really seem to take place on an issue that is of European-wide relevance.

The political decision underlying the Bologna process implies that convergence between the different educational systems in Europe will occur with the necessary adaptation of curricula in terms of structures, contents as well as the phrasing of competencies or learning outcomes as a starting point.

The ‘TUNING’ Pilot project aims at pooling together and capitalising on available experience and recent developments in several of the Member-states and a number of study areas, particularly from previous and on-going European co-operation in the context of the Socrates programme.

ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) has been facilitating mobility and recognition of study periods abroad, but there is the need to evolve towards a European credit accumulation and transfer system, which will enable to measure workload and the adaptation to the new and dynamic configurations of the labour market and its requirements in terms of learning outputs (professional profiles and needs of society).

The Pilot project aims at enabling European universities to make a joint reflection and debate on these issues, enabling comparative analysis, building upon their experience and conferring a European dimension to the undertaking. It focuses on five Pilot groups, which are representative of university studies and methodologies in general and which regard the areas of : Mathematics, Geology, Business, History and Educational Sciences.

In addition, certain other study areas will contribute to the ‘TUNING’ Project as synergy areas: Chemistry, Physics, Languages, Humanitarian Development, Law, Medical Sciences, Engineering and Veterinary Sciences. These synergy areas were selected on the basis of the work already accomplished in the context of the ERASMUS Thematic Networks action concerning ECTS, quality assurance, definition of core curriculum and minimum requirements.

The main objectives of the project are:

  • To bring about a high level of Europe-wide convergence in Higher Education in the five main subject areas (Mathematics, Geology, Business, History and Educational Sciences) by defining commonly accepted professional and learning outcomes.
  • To develop professional profiles and desired outcomes, in terms of knowledge, skills and competences in the five subject areas.
  • To facilitate transparency in the educational structures and to further innovation through communication of experience and identification of good practice.
  • To create five European networks that can present examples of good practice, encouraging innovation and quality in the joint reflection and exchange, also for other disciplines.
  • To develop and exchange information in relation to the development of curricula in these five areas, and develop a model curriculum structure for each area, enhancing the recognition and European integration of diplomas.
  • To build bridges between this network of universities and other appropriate qualified bodies in order to produce convergence in the five main subject areas.
  • To elaborate a methodology for analysing common elements and areas of specificity and diversity, and how to tune them.
  • To associate other subject areas where a similar process can be incorporated through synergy. Among the areas, where related projects are already underway, are Languages, Humanitarian Development, Chemistry, Law and Physics.
  • To act in a co-ordinated manner with all the actors involved in the process of tuning of educational structures (Ministries, Conferences of Rectors, and Universities).

The anticipated outcomes of the project are:

  • A methodology to move forward in Europe-wide tuning of educational structures in these particular fields, which can in the future be applied to other areas.
  • A set of general and more specific competencies or learning outcomes of teaching of the five selected disciplines, which are also very useful in a wider perspective.
  • Identification of the major obstacles in the process of convergence at the level of structures and possible ways forward.
  • A common methodology for measuring student workload at European level in relation to professional profiles and learning outcomes including knowledge, competence and skills.
  • A platform for discussion with professional bodies on these issues.
  • A final report giving the experience of five subject areas, in their efforts to tune and converge European educational structures.
  • A set of recommendations to be offered to the Ministeries, the Conferences of Rectors, Universities and the European Commission.

Following a call for expressions of interest in joining the project and participation in its implementation, launched via the SOCRATES National Agencies, the project has been generating great interest among the European Higher Education Institutions.

The Steering Committee of the ‘TUNING’ project comprises representatives of the main partner institutions (University of Groningen, NL, University of Deusto, ES, LUISS Guido Carlo, IT, Fachhochschule Osnabruck, DE, Université Libre de Bruxelles, BE), representatives of the "synergy areas", of the Association of Rectors and Confederation of Rectors Conferences and Commission representatives (DG Education and Culture).

There exists an ‘inner circle’ of partners composed of about 70 universities that are directly contributing to the implementation of the project (about 15 per each of the five main study areas) and an ‘outer circle’ of partners consisting of all other interested higher education institutions. Communication between the ‘inner’ and the ‘outer circle’ will take place via an electronic newsletter, a ‘TUNING’ Project website including a discussion forum (on the Europa Server) and hyperlinks to the partners’ websites. In addition, national Rectors Conferences will provide information to their respective universities.

Regular meetings will take place throughout the ‘TUNING’ Project, culminating in a final meeting which is foreseen in June 2002.

Launching Conference, Brussels, 4th May 2001 (pdf format)

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