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Sweden:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

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Overview Sweden

Contents

Sweden:Political, Social and Economic Background and Trends

Sweden:Historical Development

Sweden:Main Executive and Legislative Bodies

Sweden:Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions

Sweden:Political and Economic Situation

Sweden:Organisation and Governance

Sweden:Fundamental Principles and National Policies

Sweden:Lifelong Learning Strategy

Sweden:Organisation of the Education System and of its Structure

Sweden:Organisation of Private Education

Sweden:National Qualifications Framework

Sweden:Administration and Governance at Central and/or Regional Level

Sweden:Administration and Governance at Local and/or Institutional Level

Sweden:Statistics on Organisation and Governance

Sweden:Funding in Education

Sweden:Early Childhood and School Education Funding

Sweden:Higher Education Funding

Sweden:Adult Education and Training Funding

Sweden:Early Childhood Education and Care

Sweden:Organisation of Programmes for Pre-Primary Education

Sweden:Teaching and Learning in Programmes for Pre-Primary Education

Sweden:Assessment in Programmes for Pre-Primary Education

Sweden:Organisation of the Pre-Primary Class

Sweden:Teaching and Learning in the Pre-Primary Class

Sweden:Assessment in the Pre-Primary Class

Sweden:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Early Childhood Education and Care

Sweden:Single Structure Education (Integrated Primary and Lower Secondary Education)

Sweden:Organisation of Single Structure Education

Sweden:Teaching and Learning in Single Structure Education

Sweden:Assessment in Single Structure Education

Sweden:Organisational Variations and Alternative Structures in Single Structure Education

Sweden:Upper Secondary and Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Sweden:Organisation of Upper General and Vocational Secondary Education

Sweden:Teaching and Learning in Upper General and Vocational Secondary Education

Sweden:Assessment in Upper General and Vocational Secondary Education

Sweden:Organisation of Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Sweden:Teaching and Learning in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Sweden:Assessment in Post-Secondary Non-Tertiary Education

Sweden:Higher Education

Sweden:Types of Higher Education Institutions

Sweden:First Cycle Programmes

Sweden:Bachelor

Sweden:Short-Cycle Higher Education

Sweden:Second Cycle Programmes

Sweden:Programmes outside the Bachelor and Master Structure

Sweden:Third Cycle (PhD) Programmes

Sweden:Adult Education and Training

Sweden:Distribution of Responsibilities

Sweden:Developments and Current Policy Priorities

Sweden:Main Providers

Sweden:Main Types of Provision

Sweden:Validation of Non-formal and Informal Learning

Sweden:Teachers and Education Staff

Sweden:Initial Education for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Sweden:Conditions of Service for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Sweden:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers Working in Early Childhood and School Education

Sweden:Initial Education for Academic Staff in Higher Education

Sweden:Conditions of Service for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Sweden:Continuing Professional Development for Academic Staff Working in Higher Education

Sweden:Initial Education for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Sweden:Conditions of Service for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Sweden:Continuing Professional Development for Teachers and Trainers Working in Adult Education and Training

Sweden:Management and Other Education Staff

Sweden:Management Staff for Early Childhood and School Education

Sweden:Staff Involved in Monitoring Educational Quality for Early Childhood and School Education

Sweden:Education Staff Responsible for Guidance in Early Childhood and School Education

Sweden:Other Education Staff or Staff Working with Schools

Sweden:Management Staff for Higher Education

Sweden:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Higher Education

Sweden:Management Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Sweden:Other Education Staff or Staff Working in Adult Education and Training

Sweden:Quality Assurance

Sweden:Quality Assurance in Early Childhood and School Education

Sweden:Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Sweden:Quality Assurance in Adult Education and Training

Sweden:Educational Support and Guidance

Sweden:Special Education Needs Provision within Mainstream Education

Sweden:Separate Special Education Needs Provision in Early Childhood and School Education

Sweden:Support Measures for Learners in Early Childhood and School Education

Sweden:Guidance and Counselling in Early Childhood and School Education

Sweden:Support Measures for Learners in Higher Education

Sweden:Guidance and Counselling in Higher Education

Sweden:Support Measures for Learners in Adult Education and Training

Sweden:Guidance and Counselling in a Lifelong Learning Approach

Sweden:Mobility and Internationalisation

Sweden:Mobility in Early Childhood and School Education

Sweden:Mobility in Higher Education

Sweden:Mobility in Adult Education and Training

Sweden:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Early Childhood and School Education

Sweden:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Higher Education

Sweden:Other Dimensions of Internationalisation in Adult Education and Training

Sweden:Bilateral Agreements and Worldwide Cooperation

Sweden:Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments

Sweden:National Reforms in Early Childhood Education and Care

Sweden:National Reforms in School Education

Sweden:National Reforms in Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning

Sweden:National Reforms in Higher Education

Sweden:National Reforms related to Transversal Skills and Employability

Sweden:European Perspective

Sweden:Legislation

Sweden:Institutions

Sweden:Glossary

In Sweden, overall responsibility for higher education and research rests with the parliament and the government. They decide on the regulations that apply to the higher-education area. The Swedish Government is responsible for:

  • Granting university status 
  • Enacting legislation regulating the higher education sector 
  • Funding higher education courses and study programmes 
  • Funding a high proportion of research 
  • Appointing vice-chancellors of higher education institutions 
  • Regulating the agencies involved in the higher education sector

Responsible Bodies

Higher Education Institutions

Each Higher Education Institution (universities and university colleges) is responsible for the quality of its own activities. The Higher Education Act (Högskolelagen) states that quality development is a joint responsibility for staff and students. Students are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their education, both in terms of content and organisation. Students, teachers, researchers and others in the academic world should be involved in the development and renewal of subject knowledge, pedagogical approaches, educational programmes and courses and important support functions (library, premises, and equipment). HEIs enjoy a great deal of freedom within the framework of the statutes, ordinances and regulations laid down by the government. HEIs can make decisions about the following:

  • Organisation of the HEI into units and decision-making bodies
  • Allocation of government funding within the organisation
  • Quality assurance procedures
  • Content and design of courses and study programmes
  • Number of available places on courses and study programmes
  • Admission and enrolment procedures
  • New professorships
  • Research focus
  • Contract education

The self-governing and independent higher education institutions have greater freedom with regard to the governance and management of their affairs.

The Swedish Higher Education Authority and the Swedish Council for Higher Education

From January 1, 2013, the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education (Högskoleverket) ceased to exist as did The Swedish Agency for Higher Education Services (Verket för högskoleservice) and the International Programme Office for Education and Training (Internationella programkontoret). Their operations have been transferred to two new public authorities: the Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslersämbetet) and the Swedish Council for Higher Education (Universitets- och högskolerådet). This is the distribution of responsibilities across the new authorities:

The Swedish council for higher education (Universitets- och högskolerådet)

  • Providing information about higher education
  • Administering admission to study programmes on behalf of HEIs
  • Recognising qualifications from abroad
  • Promoting participation in international collaboration (e.g., national agency for Erasmus+)

The Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslersämbetet)

  • Reviewing the quality of higher education
  • Granting degree awarding powers
  • Ensuring higher education institutions (HEIs) comply with relevant legislation and regulations
  • Monitoring how efficiently the higher education institutions operate
  • Responsibility for official statistics on higher education in Sweden
  • Monitoring trends and developments in higher education
  • Encouraging the professional development of administrators in higher education

The Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslersämbetet) has the task of evaluating all higher education. The government has laid down a qualification descriptor for each qualification awarded by the higher education institutions. Irrespective of the organisation of the studies that have led to the award of a qualification, the quality of the courses and programmes must always be high enough to ensure that the goals laid down in the qualification descriptor are attained.


Approaches and Methods for Quality Assurance

The Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslersämbetet) is accountable to the Ministry of Education and Research, and exercises supervision of the HEIs, which means ensuring their compliance with the statutes and regulations that apply to higher education. The authority also reviews the quality of higher education and the efficiency and effectiveness of the use of resources and public funding at the HEIs. The following section describes its approaches and methods for quality assurance in higher education.

Degree-awarding powers
Before a higher education programme can be started, entitlement to award a qualification is required. The Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslersämbetet)  awards degree-awarding powers to public-sector higher education institutions but can also revoke them if there are shortcomings in their courses and programmes.

Focus on the outcomes of programmes
Courses and programmes have to be evaluated on the basis of how well they fulfil the requirements laid down in the Higher Education Act and the qualification descriptors in the statutes linked to the Act.  In other words, the Swedish Higher Education Authority assesses to what extent the learning outcomes achieved by the students correspond to the intended learning outcomes.

The last evaluations were carried out according to the parameters laid down by Högskoleverket (the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education) for its system for quality evaluation 2011–2014. The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education was the authority responsible for evaluations up until the end of 2012, when it was phased out and this task transferred to the Swedish Higher Education Authority. This system is based on the mandate assigned by the Government and was developed after discussions with the higher education institutions, the Association of Swedish Higher Education (Sveriges universitets- och högskoleförbund), the Swedish National Union of Students and representatives of the labour market.


Qualitative targets
The targets in the qualification descriptors are grouped under three headings, or forms of knowledge, that apply for all courses and programmes:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Competence and skills
  • Judgement and approach

The courses and programmes that have to be evaluated are those that can lead to the award of a first-cycle or second-cycle qualification. Certain courses and programmes are exempt, for instance those that have been established recently or are in the process of being phased out.

Three-level scale 
The Swedish Higher Education Authority´s evaluations are made by panels of external experts which include subject experts, students and representatives of the labour market. The panel has to propose an evaluation of each programme it assesses using a three-level scale:

  • Very high quality
  • High quality
  • Inadequate quality

The evaluation must state clearly how well the students (and therefore the courses and programmes) are considered to have attained the targets appraised. The panel must provide its grounds for each evaluation. The report from the assessment panel provides the basis on which the Swedish Higher Education Authority then decides on the overall evaluation to be awarded for each course or programme. Those that are assessed as having “inadequate quality" will be reviewed within one year. After that the Swedish Higher Education Authority decides whether or not to revoke its entitlement to award a qualification.

Quality increment – high evaluation means extra resources
Today resources are allocated to the higher education institutions on the basis of student performance as indicated by the number of higher education credits awarded for first and second-cycle courses and programmes. In June 2010 the Riksdag decided that the results of the quality evaluations should also affect allocation of resources at these levels. Higher education institutions whose courses and programmes are considered to attain “very high quality" will receive the incentive of an extra funding increment. This quality-based allocation of funding applies for courses and programmes offered by public-sector higher education institutions as well as Chalmers University of Technology and Jönköping University.

Standard evaluation process 2011-2014

  1. Letters to Vice-Chancellors. Survey of the extent of the evaluations.
  2. Recruitment of assessors. Consultation meeting with labour market.
  3. Panel proposes which targets evaluation of programmes will be based on. Targets expressed concretely in the form of criteria at three levels.
  4. Start-up meetings for Higher Education Institutions (HEI's). Swedish Higher Education Authority (SHEA) decides on targets and criteria. Self-evaluations begin.
  5. Student's independent projects listed and random selection made. Independent projects scrutinised and assassed.
  6. Self-evaluations are submitted and assessed.
  7. Student's experiences – student interviews take place. HEI interviews.
  8. Panel writes its report and proposes overall evaluations.
  9. Swedish Higher Education Authority decides on the overall evaluations: Very high quality, High Quality or Inadequate quality.
  10. Very high quality>Result to government>Quality Increment. Inadequate quality>Follow-up>Approved or Entitlement to award qualification revoked.

Reference group and Scientific Council
To ensure the continual quality assurance and further development of the quality evaluation system, the Swedish Higher Education Authority has established a reference group consisting of representatives from the higher education sector, students and the labour market. The Swedish Higher Education Authority has also set up a scientific council on evaluation issues to enhance scientific support for the evaluation system.

International cooperation on the evaluation of higher education
The Swedish Higher Education Authority plays an active role in international cooperation on the evaluation of higher education, in particular in Europe. Cooperation mainly takes place within the framework of ENQA (The European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education) and the Nordic NOQA network (Nordic Quality Assurance Network in Higher Education), but also in INQAAHE (International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education). The most recent project and report in the Nordic network NOQA dealt with the quality assurance of Nordic Joint Master´s programmes.

Sweden develops a new system for quality assurance
The current Swedish system for the assessment of programme evaluations of Higher Education was completed in October 2014. The Swedish University Chancellor  was commissioned by the government to propose a future quality assurance system to evaluate higher education in Sweden. The proposal was presented to the government on December 1, 2014. The proposal is based on an evaluation that has been conducted in collaboration with two reference groups, one with representatives from universities, students and Swedish Higher Education Authority, and one with representatives from the labor market. The new evaluation system is anticipated to be implemented in 2016 and takes European Standards and Guidelines into account. 

Higher Education Act (Högskolelagen, SFS 1992:1434)