While the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) has contributed significantly to harmonisation of HE in Europe, the ‘Professional’ Higher Education sector is still in significant flux. Thus, e.g. ‘Fachhochschule’ are increasingly becoming Universities of applied Sciences while traditional universities are increasingly providing professionally orientated programmes. The wide variety of systems which now fall under the umbrella term of ‘Professional’ HE, makes it difficult to transnationally analyse this sector, hinders recognition of qualifications, and limits the ability of soft-policy tools to strengthen its growth.
To address this issue, the HAPHE group brought together a group of field experts, who, through a wide consultation with stakeholders from education, business and society, harmonised approaches to professional higher education (predominantly at European Qualifications Framework (EQF) level 6 and above) throughout Europe, by:
- Surveying the different approaches to PHE provision throughout EU-member states;
- Setting out the defining characteristics of a ‘professional’ Higher Education programme;
- Proposing a set of quality criteria which contribute towards the best-case fulfilment of those characteristics;
- Collecting and sharing best practice on how institutions can adopt the criteria;
Suggested indicators and quantification methodologies to allow comparison of PHE in the context of overall HE and LLL provision.
The involvement of stakeholders in all stages (research, design, valorisation), has ensured the group’s ability to provide sustainable results by creating a critical mass of consensus, to allow the de-facto adoption of the proposals as a standard.
By strengthening the PHE sector, and improving the transparency of PHE provision, the group has enhanced employability of European HE as a whole, contributed towards a more cohesive Higher Education Area, and supported the modernisation of European HEIs, through encouragement of increasing responsiveness to enterprise and society.