TU9, the network of the leading German technological research universities, highly appreciates the intentions of the Bologna Declaration of the European Ministers of Education, in particular the ministers’ statement that there is the necessity of “increasing the international competitiveness of the European system of higher education”. Competitiveness requires to produce quality. The TU9 universities are keenly engaged in assuring and developing the quality of German higher engineering education.
The European organisations CESAER and SEFI recommend to offer two different profiles of higher engineering education:
- The member institutions of CESAER, among them the TU9 universities, aim to produce highly-qualified engineers able: (a) to work beyond the bounds of existing knowledge and technology, (b) to promote innovation, and (c) to assume leading positions in industry and academia. Such research- and innovation-based engineers have a crucial role in contributing to the competitiveness of the economy of Europe and in particular in furthering the Lisbon Agenda. Their formation depends on an education with a strong scientific basis and requires a qualification at the 2nd cycle level (Master) or above.
- In addition, Europe needs different educational programmes which foster the ability to work within existing technologies and which emphasise an application- and skill-orientated capability, rather than the more scientific and research-based approach. In these cases, qualifications at the 1st cycle level may be sufficient but may need to be supplemented by a 2nd cycle qualification devoted to particular technical topics related to specific applications. Applied programmes are in Germany primarily offered by the Fachhochschulen (FH). TU9 emphatically pleads to maintain the approved profile of the German FH engineer in the Bologna process.
The graph depicts the two profiles of higher engineering education, comprising different proportions of research and application related elements
For the TU9 universities the introduction of the two cycle system is an opportunity to realise necessary enhancements of educational quality.
The two cycles combined with the concept of modularisation facilitate curricular flexibility and improve the conditions for the national and international mobility of students; by the latter the students acquire competences relevant to today’s internationalised world of labour.
In the 2cycle system the qualification profile of the graduates normally will cover a wider disciplinary spectrum.
The definition of a fixed interface between the first and the second cycle will facilitate the moving of students between the two profiles of higher engineering education, FH and TU. The receiving university has to define precisely the requirements of access to its second cycle programmes. Bridging courses for applicants with qualification profiles not sufficiently meeting the entry requirements of the receiving university should be offered.
At which improvements is TU9 aiming?
One of the greatest challenges in the context of increasing the international competitiveness of the German higher education system is the normalisation of the duration of studies and the increase of the retention and success rates. These targets can only be achieved if the German universities apply an effective system of recruiting and selecting students. TU9 supports therefore the plan of introducing qualification tests and demands the creation of respective legal conditions.
The Bachelor at universities
TU9 states, referring to the reports of the TU9 departments and in agreement with CESAER, the organisation of the European technological research universities:
In the framework of higher engineering education at universities the Bachelor is the „door opener“ to Master studies in the same or related areas at national or international universities, i.e. a mobility interface. The TU Bachelor in engineering does not interfere with the engineering degree of the Fachhochschule. The Bachelor phase of consecutive TU9 programmes in engineering is designed to prepare for Master studies at university level. The university Bachelor qualification is relevant to the labour market, its holders are employable but not professional: With respect to knowledge and skills the university Bachelor is not a professional qualification. Its value on the labour market will depend on the preparedness of the enterprises to provide the necessary continued training.
The Master at universities
In engineering disciplines the Master awarded by universities is the professional qualification. The TU9 universities educate the engineer prepared for research and innovation. In the Master phase of university studies students learn by being integrated in research activities. This is where they acquire their characteristic research related application orientation which comprises the application of scientific knowledge and methods to analyse complex technical problems and to develop advanced know-how for the design of innovative products and systems. According to this the Master phase has to have a sufficiently long duration, which means 4 Semesters or 2 years.
The present confusion concerning the designation of the new degrees requires clarification. It is necessary to introduce degrees in Germany which unambiguously indicate the educational profile and are in accordance with the international designation of engineering degrees.
The TU9 universities claim that they can add the designation “TU” to the degree they award. They will certify the equivalence of their Master degrees to the traditional Dipl.-Ing. TU.
Quality and Quality Assurance
The quality of a study programme cannot not be measured by its curricular conditions, but has to be measured by its outcome, i.e. effects and results. There are two important aspects of quality
- the value of acquired knowledge and skills for the profession to be measured by surveying the opinion and situation of the graduates in the profession
- the appropriateness of the study conditions to be evaluated by investigating the retention and success rates
The TU9 universities underline the necessity to conduct systematic quality management of study programmes referring to the above mentioned aspects of educational quality. They will install this type of quality management as an integrated element of TU9 higher education.
It is necessary to change the paradigms of accreditation from input to output orientation. Accreditation should not be fixed on directly comparing programmes, but should be focused on intended qualification profiles and the instruments by which the respective qualification profile can be generated. A practice of quality management comprising the elements “output control” and “control of the process quality” has to be an indispensable condition of accreditation.
According to the criteria of the German Science Council this includes
- unambiguous internal regulations concerning the competence of decision referring to processes and responsibilities; these regulation should be manifested in the constitution of the institution
- appropriate procedures of internal and external quality assurance
- appropriate feed back procedures to implement results of evaluation and to develop the educational quality