Harmonising Approaches to Professional Higher Education in Europe


Stakeholder Survey Overview

As part of our research we carried out a survey of Education & Training stakeholders. Find the results of this survey below or download it..

Legislation & Policy Overview

The following section gives an overview of the national PHE environment within Belgium. The profile was completed by Vlaamse Hogescholenraad.

Section A: General Profile of PHE

1. How is PHE defined in your country?

Bachelor programmes can have a professional or academical orientation. Master programmes always have an academic orientation, but can have a professional orientation on top of that.  Professional orientation means that the programmes aim at broad and general education and gaining professional knowledge and competences, bases on the application of scientific or artistic knowledge, creativity and practical knowledge.  More in particular professional bachelor programmes have as a goal to bring students to a level of general and specific knowledge and competences necessary for the autonomous and independent execution of a profession or a group/cluster of professions.

Commentary: Also level 5 programmes are called ‘professional higher education’. They are now being developed in Flanders.

1.1 What is your nationally recognised definition of a PHE Institution?

There is no definition of PHE institutions as there is no type of institutions only offering PHE.

Commentary: Some university colleges only offer PHE, but there is no definition for university colleges that only offer PHE.  Traditional universities only offer academic programmes (some might have an additional professional orientation, but these programmes are not really seen as belonging to PHE).

1.2 Are there any specific requirements towards PHE Curriculum/Course?

There are no specific requirements for PHE curricula or courses.  However the accreditation terms state that learning outcomes should be suitable for the level (6 or 7) and the orientation (professional or academic) of the programmes.  Further it mentions that the learning outcomes should fit the actual demands for the content of the programme from the world of work and the professional field in international perspective.

Commentary: Also see 4. Quality Assurance.

2. Which EQF Levels does PHE cover?

EQF Level 5 – Yes
EQF Level 6 – No
EQF Level 7 – No
EQF Level 8 – Yes

Commentary: As mentioned before, the law states that some master programmes (level 7) can have an additional professional orientation on top of their academic orientation. As they are not regarded to belong to PHE, this is not taken into account when answering the questions above. 

3. Which governmental bodies are responsible for governance of the PHE sector? Do these differ from the governance of AHE? Is there any engagement of any other public authorities and which, if so?

The same governmental bodies are responsible for governance of PHE and AHE. The same minister and administration is responsible for both types of education. The same advisory boards are in place, both for education and for research. Also the accreditation body and the Quality Assurance Agency is the same for PHE and AHE.

4. Quality assurance: Please provide information on quality-related legislation (national QA/accreditation system, regulations concerning QA at institutional level etc.). Are there any specific QA criteria for PHE? If so, which (if necessary, refer to specific EQF levels or institutions)?

The quality assurance system is the same for all programmes (PHE or AHE, university colleges or traditional universities).  It is a combination of an institutional review (same for all institutions of HE) and programme accreditation.  Institutional reviews are executed by the NVAO (Accreditation organization for Flanders and the Netherlads) for all institutions in Flanders and the Netherlands.  Programme accreditations consists of programme evaluation including panel visits executed by VLUHR-KZ, a unified QA Agency for all programmes in Flanders. After they have published their report, the programme can be accredited by the NVAO (see above). This is the same for all programmes irrespective of the institution or orientation.  The framework for the programme evaluation does not differ for PHE or AHE as it concentrates on the Learning Outcomes (that should be appropriate), the way these are achieved and assessed, and the quality loops in the operations.  The framework does mention that professional expertise is a prerequisite for at least one of the members of the panel when assessing a programme with professional orientation. This panel member should have a good insight in the demands in the professional field for the graduates of the programme. Involvement in a relevant professional (umbrella) organisation or an executive position with a big or exemplary employer are mentioned as good examples.

5. Are there any specific funding mechanisms/principles/criteria for PHE, different from general HE principles?

The funding mechanisms for PHE and AHE as far as the educational part is concerned are very similar, with the same indicators to come to the amount of funding.  In this calculation the value for each field of study is different. This is the case for both PHE and AHE. However, the value for PHE fields of study ranges from 1 to 1,6 whereas the AHE programmes range from 1 to 4,2. So in average, academic programmes better funded that those of PHE.  In addition to their education funding, academic programmes in Universities get a large extra sum for research (base funding, non competitive) in a 55 / 45 ratio, meaning that for every 55 euro of educational funding they get 45 euro for research. So the educational part of their funding (with a similar calculation as PHE) is only 55% of their total base funding.  PHE programmes almost have no base funding for their research.

6. Are there any formal requirements for stakeholders, in particular from the part of the professional sphere/employers’ representatives concerning their engagement in PHE steering and provisions? If so, in which areas (governance, quality assurance, curriculum development, students’ placement etc.)?

With respect to the development of learning outcomes, it is stipulated that professional representatives should be part of the procedure. This is the case for both PHE and AHE, although in the latter case there will be an emphasis on academic peers, whereas for PHE it will predominantly be representatives of the world of work.  Governing bodies all institutions should include representatives of socio-economic sectors.  The nature of those representatives will be different between PHE and AHE.

7. Are there any other legislative differences between PHE and other HE institutions (e.g. partnership with enterprises, regional involvement etc.)?

These differences might be there, but are not laid down in legislation, but rather a natural consequense of their orientation.

8. Is PHE limited to some specific branches and/or fields of study? If yes: Which ones?

No, in almost all fields of study you will find PHE and AHE.

Section B: Teaching & Staffing

1. Are there any formally set requirements for academic staff teaching at different levels in PHE (e.g their qualification, expertise, selection & appointment)? Are they different from AHE?

There is a  difference in the type of functions and titles the staff can carry.  Some of these titles cannot be carried by staff in PHE (similar to (associate) professor, full-professor …).  Staff in AHE with specific titles need a PhD with a doctoral thesis.  PhDs are not required in PHE, although they will be found in the staff of PHE, but will not be able to carry certain titles.  Other titles are only found in PHE.

2. Are there any specific requirements for PHE staff work (teaching/research) arrangements and workload? If so, which? How do they differ from AHE?

Generally speaking there are no individual research requirements in PHE, although there might be on institutional level. As the funding is almost entirely related to education / teaching, the workload will be in that field.  In AHE there are specific quantitative and qualitative requirements about the relationship between teaching and research. As the proportion in funding is 55 (education) / 45 (research) the overall workload division will be similar.

3. Are there requirements to include non-academia (professionals) to teach in PHE institutions? What qualifications must they have if any?

There are no formal requirements although it is common practice. There are exceptions in personnel legislation to allow for professionals without the necessary qualifications or degrees to be included in the staff.

Section C: Curriculum

1. Are there any specific requirements as regards contents/structure (e.g. percentage of practically oriented modules) as regards PHE? If so, which? What are the differences with respect to AHE?

No specific requirements although in practice there will be a difference with respect to the curriculum, content, work forms.

2. Are there any specific requirements as regards practical elements of PHE study programmes (e.g. work experience/Practical placements/Internships)? If so, which? What are the differences with respect to AHE?

No specific requirements although in practice those elements will be found in all PHE programmes.

3. Are there any other legal requirements specific for PHE programs?


Section D: Research & Technology Transfer

1. What is the involvement of PHE in R&D&I&TT activities? Are there any formal differences at different levels/institutions of PHE?

There is only limited funding for research in PHE programmes. This is also related to the fact that there are no master programmes with only professional orientation.  There is a specific (but very limited) funding channel for practice oriented research which is exclusively reserved for PHE.  PHE programmes try to attract other money from external sources for their practice oriented research. The aim is to develop specific funds for that.  There is a huge difference with the regulations of AHE (cfr before) where apart from the 45 % base funding, almost all competitive funds are only accessible for AHE.

Commentary: Enter commentary or delete line if none.

2. Are public research programs restricted to some types of HEIs (e.g. academic sector)? If so, what are the criteria?

Most of the research programmes are restricted to the academic sector. Some might be accessible for PHE as part of a programme where the academic sector in in the lead (and where PHE sector is only secondary partner).

Section E: Recognition & Credit Transfer

1. Are there formal differences in the enrolment process into PHE and AHE?

In Flanders there is open access to all programmes of HE (for all those with a secondary education degree), whether these belong to PHE or AHE.  There are some disciplines with admission exams or requirements, but this is only limited (for all programmes (PHE or AHE) in the arts, and for Medicine and Dentistry.

2. Are there formal paths for transfer from PHE into other HE programmes (for graduates, during the study)? Are there automatic transfers for students between PHE and AHE? Do students need bridging programmes or other means of transition?

Graduates from PHE programmes (bachelor programmes) have to do a bridging programme to get entry to a related academic master. This bridging programme counts between 45 and 90 ECTS.  During the study students transferring between different programmes (whether different in orientation or not) will have to apply for exemptions through previously earned qualifications (on basis of ECTS cards).

3. Are there any specific regulations concerning employment of PHE graduates? Do you need to justify delivery of certain PHE studies? e.g provide evidence of labour market needs or collect data on employability of graduates).

There are no such requirements.  Only when setting up a new programme, there is a procedure to investigate the overall necessity to set up such a programme. There is no difference in the criteria for new PHE or new AHE programmes. Labour market needs will be relevant in both, however they might be difference in interpretation of both by the commission who has to decide whether or not the new programme can start.  The criteria include the demand for future graduates and the relevance for society of such a new programme.

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