9           RECOMMENDATIONS FOR HPE-IMPLEMENTATION

The following recommendations should be kept in mind when launching the implementation of hpe in CEEC countries. These recommendations take into account some specific features common to all CEEC countries.

9.1.  After the -indispensable- conceptual and political preparatory phase the implementation of hpe as a new sector in higher education can start. From the very beginning implementation of hpe must be structured as a clear-cut project supported by the Ministry of Education with well-defined objectives coupled with appropriate human, institutional and financial resources.

9.2. In many CEEC countries employers’ associations are weak or non-existent. This may be a problem because the legitimacy of hpe rests on its close relationship with the labour market. Implementation of hpe should start with study programmes aimed at occupations and/or sectors where employers are sufficiently organized to sustain a dialogue with educators and the Ministry about the professional requirements of the middle-level occupations concerned.

9.3. In view of the limited financial resources the launch of hpe should be modest. Building a massive new hpe sub-sector within higher education from scratch is not a feasible course of action, as new institutions would compete with existing ones for (scarce) public funds. Across-the-board initiatives involving large numbers of institutions should be avoided. Transforming or upgrading existing institutes and study programmes on a selective basis is considered as a more suitable alternative. This already requires a huge effort from all partners.

The selected institutions could be public or private, secondary or higher education institutions. The decisive factor should be the capacity and ambition of the institution to achieve the hpe-objectives according to the hpe-standards as defined in this report.

9.4. The appropriate institutional setting for hpe may vary across countries. In Western countries hpe-study programmes can be found either in university departments, fully distinct from faculties and/or departments that offer academic programmes, or in secondary schools, upgraded and transformed into hpe-establishments, or in hpe-institutions built up from scratch. Choosing the right option is a matter of negotiation in each country about the available institutional and financial resources. However, it is important to make sure that, whatever institutional option is chosen, all hpe-study programmes within one discipline will lead to the same qualifications and will meet the same nationally defined standards.

9.5. Given the scarcity of public funds in CEEC countries, private provision of hpe should be encouraged.

9.6. Whatever institutional setting is chosen, all (public or private) hpe-providers  should go through the same process of licensing and accreditation aimed at ensuring quality and relevance to labour market needs. The Ministry and the social partners should play a major part in this process that would be distinct from the internal quality assurance systems required from hpe-study programmes.

9.7. The hpe-sector should fit into the existing education structures. Here, preference should be given to hpe-study programmes that meet the double objective of (i) providing high-level qualifications that are recognized by the labour market and (ii) creating additional higher education opportunities for secondary school-leavers, whether general or vocational. The Ministry should consider the setting up of hpe as part of its policy to broaden access to higher education which is at present more restrictive in CEEC countries than in Western countries.

9.8. Quality rather than quantity should be a pervasive concern in the new hpe-sector. Therefore, implementation of hpe should include the introduction of systematic arrangements for quality assurance the basic features of which are described in this report.

9.9.  HPE-study programmes should be designed for traditional higher education students (initial education), as well as for adults seeking re-training and/or upgrading of their qualifications. Continuing professional education should be a major goal of hpe-providers. To achieve this, flexibility in terms of delivery modes (evening courses, distance teaching, on-line instruction) and in terms of curricular structure (modularization) should be given a premium when selecting hpe-programmes for funding.

9.10. HPE-study programmes and qualifications should be designed in accordance with procedures set down in formal documents to ensure international comparisons, which for its part can further mutual recognition amongst European countries. The basic features of hpe-study programmes are described in this report.

9.11. The available local expertise, which could be backed by short-term foreign experts from qualified hpe-institutes, should be the driving force behind the launching of hpe-study programmes. The partnership-model in which local and foreign establishments work together is a suitable approach, because it makes it possible to bring-in sustainable foreign assistance through study trips abroad, fellowships and teacher training focused on aspects of hpe such as (e.g.): organization, management, teaching&learning context , educational standards, curriculum, education materials and quality assurance.

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