The effects of programme evaluations

An analysis of the national evaluation system adopted 2011-2014 showed quality-enhancing effects on different levels at the Higher Education Institutions (HEI) in Sweden.

In 2014 UKÄ (Swedish Higher Education Authority) completed the mission that was assigned to its predecessor, the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (HSV – Högskoleverket), to evaluate higher education in Sweden. A new report presents and discusses the effects of these evaluations.

Evaluation system had a positive Impact

The report concludes that the evaluation system has had a positive impact on quality at different levels. This impact can be discerned both in the form of measures that directly affect the structure and implementation of the programmes evaluated as well as effects of a more general character.

General effects

An example of one general effect can be found in the overall review of the programmes evaluated due to the increased focus on quality assurance procedures. The review of the educational offerings has also resulted in greater cooperation among different programmes at one and the same HEI. Another general effect of the evaluations is the increased awareness of and focus on the qualification descriptors in the Swedish Higher Education Ordinance.

Direct effects

The evaluations also have had a large number of direct effects on the programmes. The programmes assessed as having inadequate quality are subject to the most explicit and concrete effects. As the students’ independent projects (degree projects) played the most important role in these evaluations, many of the different measures adopted to remedy shortcomings in a programme have therefore involved raising the quality of these projects. This has been achieved by, for example, better supervision and by tightening the demands made when the projects are submitted for grading and examination. Other direct effects is that Programmes have been restructured, programme and course syllabuses have been revised and new courses have been introduced. Reading lists have been reviewed and greater emphasis has been placed in different ways on theory and methodology to enhance academic standards. These effects and others will be described further in the report.

Comparision with previous systems

The end section of the report contains a comparison between the 2011-2014 evaluation system and the system adopted between 2001 and 2006.

The 2001-2006 system was intended to contribute to the development and enhancement of the internal quality systems at the HEIs while the system of 2011-2014 was focused on control of results. The concepts of control and enhancement are frequently considered to be opposites.

This report shows, however, that even if the two evaluation systems had somewhat different outcomes, they can both be characterised as developmental. The report concludes with a number of reflections about the future.