Harmonising Approaches to Professional Higher Education in Europe

Objectives and outcomes of PHE

Objectives and outcomes refers to the main objectives in relation to the outcome of PHE. The core criterion for it in PHE, is that PHE specifically focuses on enhancing job related skills and competencies with a view to raising the employability of students. The emphasis is on learning outcomes and use-inspired research.

The following are best practice examples of implementation of this criterion:

Developing “Sandwich courses” for better employability at instituts universitaire de technologie in France

Author: Stéphane Lauwick, Vice-President (International Relations), Association of IUT Directors

Instituts universitaire de technologie (IUT) in France have awarded University Diploma of Technology (DUT) for 40 years. The 2-year EQF level 5 programmes offer placements for students which typically last 10 to 12 weeks. However, enterprises have been asking for graduates that are more immediately employable, can adapt very quickly to changing conditions and start their career with more knowledge on the world of work without compromising on academic performance. More and more DUT graduates continued their studies in Master’s programmes and Engineering schools, thus depriving the world of work of the high quality level 5 graduates they need for their development and following a career path other than the DUT programmes were intended for (short cycle for immediate employment).

Consequently enterprises and the financing bodies for Lifelong Learning (called OPCA in France) collaborated with a number of IUTs to create 3-year long “sandwich programmes” in which students work a full year in partner enterprises to make learning genuinely dual. The programmes are set up as follows:

  • Year 1: Two semesters of academic training with a short (2 to 3-week) introductory work experience session. The format used to be deployed in the first and second semester of the traditional of the traditional DUT programme.
  • Year 2: one semester (16 weeks) of academic training followed by 32 weeks in an enterprise. The placement part of the year is accompanied by one or two ‘get together’ sessions at the institution;
  • Year 3: The student spends one semester with the enterprise and the last at the IUT for academic learning.

The dual programmes combine a full year of on-site training within the enterprise and are in line with the nationally defined requirements for National IUT curricula.[1] Work contracts are required (learners are employees, not students) and are co-funded by the enterprises and OPCAs in a standard Lifelong learning mechanism. After signing Contrats de professionnalisation, learners become company employees, not students and receive a regular salary. This compensates for the extra year to graduate.

Employment is a must – companies send their staff to PHE in Southern-Germany

Cooperative State University Baden-Württemberg (DHBW) aims for the employability of all graduates and to grow their competences necessary for the different fields of the job market. Each semester at DHBW is divided into 2 parts to achieve this: Theory at the PHE institution on the one hand, and learning/working at a private company or in the public sector on the other.

Theory at the PHE institution VS Learning/working at a private company or in the public sector .

Theory at the PHE institution VS Learning/working at a private company or in the public sector .

Theory phases at DHBW are comparable to traditional undergraduate education. Practice phases give students insight and work experience with a cooperative education partner. Those phases are accompanied by pre- or post-placement lectures which distinguish the DHBW practice-phases from pure on-the-job training. The cooperative HEI crafts the regulations and content of these training periods which follow a curriculum as well.It is noteworthy, that employment with one of DHBW’s dual partners is a requirement for student admission. Therefore, recruitment is in the hands of the cooperative education partners, who decide with their staff about parallel participation in higher education. DHBW verifies their qualification for higher education entrance only. Students are granted vacation days as stipulated in the three-year study contract signed by the student and the cooperative education partner at the beginning of the programme. The students spend their time until graduation with the same employer who pays them a salary comparable to the wage of a trainee.

[1] There are 24 national curricula for IUT programmes defining teaching volume and learning objectives for each module and competences to be acquired.

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