5           HPE-CURRICULA

5.1. Though hpe-curricula differ from one establishment to another -since freedom of programming is the leading principle in higher education- they all are designed following the same procedure: The educational objectives are determined based upon an occupational profile set up by the occupational area concerned. These objectives validated by the occupational area concerned define the output-profile: the knowledge, skills and attitude a student must possess in order to be qualified. The required knowledge, the skills and attitude are related to the occupational profile.

 It is, however, explicitly underlined that hpe-output profiles also have a substantial general dimension, since graduates from higher education must be able to contribute to the further development of society. Occupational profiles at high level contain this kind of general requirements anyhow  - not as just an additional asset but as a crucial element in the professional competence. Increasingly the labour market is asking for professionals with communicative skills and problem solving abilities, professionals who can work in a team and take responsibility, who are creative and able to take initiatives.

All these and similar abilities only can be acquired in a teaching & learning environment where students are challenged to develop these skills and these attitudes. So, hpe curricula provide not only for ‘subject teaching’ but also for a teaching&learning ‘environment’ that urges the students to an active participation in order to develop the required attitudes. This new approach requires a redefinition of the relation teacher-student: from ‘have and have-not’ to ‘working together’ as well as a reassessment of teachers’ role: from an omniscient and untouchable authority to a reliable and stimulating guide.

HPE-curricula are characterized by a great variety of working methods: task oriented team work, output oriented projects, plenary lectures mainly oriented at transfer of knowledge, mini-conferences focused on presentations, thematic workshops, discussion-oriented seminars, individual self-study, et cetera. All these methods make a strong appeal on different capacities of the students. And that is exactly the way students can develop the professional skills and attitudes required. Since the labour market played a substantial role in the introduction of hpe, the hpe-curricula are focused on this renewal of the educational methods the horizon of which will be considerably widened through the integration of information technology in the teaching & learning process.

5.2. All hpe-curricula provide for a substantial (in-school and in-company) practical training. The in-company practical training is regulated through a contract between the establishment and the company concerned in which are laid down the particular role, task and responsibility of the establishment, the company and the trainee.

To find a sufficient number of appropriate trainee posts is one of the problems hpe-providers in CEEC-countries (and not only in these countries) must deal with. Companies very often are not willing and/or not able to provide the schools with the trainee posts they need.

Every country, every establishment has to find its own way to solve this problem but the key-issue is how to create an incentive so that the companies come across. Small and medium sized companies in CEEC-countries have to pull out all the stops to survive. Coaching a trainee is, then, an extra burden that they do not want to accept, since trainee posts do not result in an immediate profit. However hpe-providers can sometimes succeed in finding trainee posts by proposing very concrete trainee assignments which meets the immediate needs of the enterprise concerned.

In some EU-countries social partners made a gentlemen’s agreement through which they commit themselves to provide for trainee posts. Other countries create financial incentives through tax deduction. Which measure is taken depends on the governing traditions and on the relation national administration - social partners.

5.3. The quality of hpe finally depends on the quality of the whole education organization in which the teachers play a crucial role. Since hpe-programmes are focused on labour market’s demands and since the quality will be judged from the degree to which hpe meets these demands hpe-teachers must have sufficient and up-to-date knowledge of the developments in the occupational area concerned. In fact hpe-teachers should have substantial work experience in a relevant occupational area. In general, however, it is very difficult to recruit these experienced people from the labour market due to -among others- the difference in remuneration.

This is a common pattern in all countries. In CEEC-countries it is even worse. A system of visiting lecturers, therefore, is very often implemented by hpe-providers. These lecturers, people who really have the practical know-how, are appointed for very specific short-term assignments. The costs are affordable, the impact considerable.

The permanent teaching staff (mostly people without substantial work experience) must have a network in the occupational area concerned and they should keep themselves well-informed about relevant developments. As far as their own education is concerned hpe-teachers should have a higher education degree in a relevant discipline.

Whatever the requirements for a qualified hpe-teacher may be, the question is whether it should be regulated by law or whether it should be left to the competence of the hpe-establishments to decide. In CEEC-countries with a strong stress on formal regulations, requirements for hpe-teachers are laid down by law. Actually this is not that bad, since it will further the identity and social recognition of hpe which, after all, still is in its infancy in some of these countries.