12 October 2023

Unleash the Synergy! How AUN’s Strategic Positioning Fosters Mobility and Brings Qualifications System to Global Standards, AUN-QA IC Agenda 3

Patitin Lertnaikiat
AUN Programme Officer;

AUN-QA is still going strong with the agendas for this year’s International Conference! Last week, we saw the updates AUN-QA has made to the Guide to Institutional Assessments and the plans going forward. In this article, we are covering the third Agenda of the conference, “Quality Assurance & World-Class Curriculum Delivery: Unleashing the Synergy”, which involved one of AUN’s major initiatives –  the CALOHEA project. 

Short for Measuring and Comparing Achievements of Learning Outcomes in Higher Education in Asia, the CALOHEA Project  is a collaboration between the ASEAN University Network and Tuning Academy International, University of Groningen, the Netherlands.Through its three innovative Key Recognition Mechanism, the project aims to usher qualification standardization, student mobility, and internationalization efforts for Higher Education Institutions across Southeast Asia. 

To better explain the process, three Subject Area Group (SAG) Coordinators involved in the CALOHEA project joined the discussion session and helped guide the participants on what the project is all about. Each panelist comes from one of the project’s three SAGs – international teams working on the 3 Recognition Mechanisms in specific subject areas, including civil engineering, teacher education, and medicine.

The honourable panelists in Agenda 3 of the Conference included:

  1. Prof. Dato’ Dr. Ahmad Farhan Mohd Sadullah, School of Civil Engineering, Universiti Sains Malaysia (Civil Engineering)
  2. Dr. Richard R. Jugar, Dean of School of Education, University of San Carlos (Teacher Education)
  3. Dr. Muhamad Saiful Bahri Yusoff, School of Medical Sciences, Universiti Sains Malaysia (Medicine) 

 In this session, we welcomed Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ornsiri Cheunsuang, Chulalongkorn University (CU) as moderator for the third agenda.

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Creating Qualifications Frameworks Using Recognition Mechanism (RM) 1 with Prof. Dato’ Dr. Ahmad Farhan Mohd Sadullah

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The session began with Prof. Dato’ Dr. Ahmad Farhan Mohd Sadullah, who started off the session by introducing to the audience first what the CALOHEA project is about. Having been in the works for over 2 years, the project is a part of the Erasmus+ project, involving many universities in Southeast Asia and Europe . After the introduction, Dr. Ahmad proceeded with explaining the first of 3 Recognition Mechanisms of CALOHEA, which are:

  • RM1: Creation and use of Regional Subject-Specific Qualifications and Assessment Reference Frameworks to permit greater comparability of institutional degree programme profiles.
  • RM2: Instalment of the culture of student workload measurement as an integral part of curriculum design
  • RM3: Implementation of authentic assessment of internationally comparable learning outcomes in degree programmes.

Credit transfers are the biggest challenges when it comes to student exchange programmes. When qualifications of programmes between different universities are not aligned together, students can end up with credits not being approved among different qualifications frameworks. So how can we solve this?

RM1 is the process of creating a qualifications framework that can be utilized as per region it is designed for. However, while doing so, the resulting framework will also be compared and aligned with all other existing countries’ and regional frameworks. This will make programmes comparable to each other, allowing universities to recognize the programmes of other universities. This mutual recognition can help in student mobility programmes by facilitating credit transfer initiatives. 

In the end, it will be a framework that supports flexible education, and in the future we hope to see that students will be getting into, getting through, and getting out across ASEAN in these 3 SAGs will be better supported, especially when it comes to credit transfers.

Calculating Student Workload, RM2 with Dr. Richard R. Jugar

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Next, the agenda continued with Dr. Richard R. Jugar, now taking the helm of the dialogue to explain the next mechanism, RM2. This recognition mechanism is focused on the idea of student workload calculation, and this will determine how curriculums are designed to ensure students are truly understanding the educational materials. 

The CALOHEA team has observed that student workload calculation is not a considered factor in SEA higher education. Student hours that are taken account for are entirely contact hours, which is time spent physically present in classrooms. The current status quo has the issue that it does not consider the time students spend individually to study and understand the course subject, which are called independent hours. 

The key to designing a course with the perfect balance between contact to independent hours is to first measure student workload properly. It begins with the desk estimation, which is a first look at the expected total student workload in order to complete the degree programme. Next is to actually get feedback, first being a survey to both students and lecturers, and second being students keeping track of their time spent on academic activities in a logbook. This is then all wrapped up by having a group dialogue with students to explore their experience and get a perspective about their workload throughout the course.

The end result of the observation and research done by the CALOHEA team is a proposed tiering system for courses. There are three tiers in total, each with different amounts of contact hours demanded from students. Tier 1 consists of the most contact hours, while Tier 2 demands less, and Tier 3 requires the least amount of contact hours. What tier a course will fall into greatly depends on many factors, such as the amount of credits acquired and whether lab activities or lecturing are the main focus, just to start. In any case, it is important to remember that student working hours should never exceed 60 hours and this time should be distributed fairly among all the courses they must complete.

Achieving Authentic Assessment, RM3 with Dr. Muhamad Saiful Bahri Yusoff

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Students should not be at universities just to memorize information. They must truly understand what they are being taught. How can we make sure our students are developing skills that can be utilized in the real world? Dr. Muhamad Saiful Bahri Yusoff was there to answer this by introducing the third Recognition Mechanism. During their academic time, students must learn how to apply their skills in authentic tasks and projects. On the institution side, it must also be ready to provide valuable feedback to students. 

The curriculum provided to the students can apply various methods to help students have a more authentic experience. An easier one to begin with is to give real life contexts, examples can be a great tool to help students understand the programme. A step further would be having students to conduct activities and doing real-world tasks, which will greatly develop their skills. For the most intense method, realistic or simulated situations can be devised to provide the most authentic experience possible for students without the risks of a real working environment.

After students go through the various methods to develop their skills, there needs to be an authentic assessment to make sure that they can apply their knowledge in real-life contexts. They must also show they can demonstrate skills in real situations. The students must also be able to perform the responsibilities of their field as an individual and as a professional.

The 3 Recognition Mechanisms all focus on different aspects of higher education, but it all works together to provide students with the best possible education that is truly flexible and international. The efforts of CALOHEA will make sure our up and coming graduates are well prepared to face the demands of the real working world.

Looking into the Future of Global Recognition and Standardization

Agenda 3 of the AUN-QA International Conference succeeded in introducing AUN-QA Member Universities and partners to the methods and mechanisms which can help drive and transform qualifications standardization that will serve as a foundation for degree recognition. It will be crucial towards facilitating student mobility as it will bring support towards important systems such as credit transfers. This in turn will further enhance internationalization of universities in SEA.