23 June 2021
Unite! joint programmes and flexible study pathways developed at the Boot Camp
The Unite! Boot Camp took place in June 2021, and was organized by the Aalto led task forces “Virtual Campus “ and “Teaching and Learning Academy “.

Unite! universities work together to implement novel pedagogical approaches for teaching and learning at all levels (B.Sc./ M.Sc. /Ph.D.) and to develop flexible study pathways and joint programmes, with embedded mobility. For students, Unite! offers physical and virtual mobility through virtual exchange courses, winter and summer schools, trainings and joint programmes that emphasize multidisciplinary, multicultural and multilingual education. For teachers, Unite! provides expert pedagogical training and promotes lifelong learning and professional development both for faculty and teachers. In spring 2021, Unite! Teaching and Learning Academy offered eight pedagogical courses that were attended by more than 100 teachers from all seven universities.

The Unite! Boot Camp took place in June 2021, and was organized by Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya - BarcelonaTech (UPC) in the context of the Aalto University led teams working on the “Virtual Campus" and “Teaching and Learning Academy “. The event gathered together 140 teachers and staff from the seven universities to discuss the developments of Unite! teaching and learning activities including for instance joint programmes, flexible study pathways, and good pedagogical practices as well as creative virtual spaces for teaching and learning. The objective was to collect feedback on these initiatives, explore synergies, and discuss the next steps to take.

Joint programmes and flexible study pathways

Unite! universities are piloting models and building joint Master’s programmes in e.g. communications engineering, data science, artificial intelligence, Industry 4.0 and entrepreneurship. These areas have been chosen as areas for piloting the building of joint programmes, and the idea is to expand the activities across a broad disciplinary selection. The focus area of energy is targeted at the Ph.D. level. Models for flexible study pathway and challenge-based learning are being generated. Unite! aims to  provide facilitation models for teachers to support the students in flexible study pathways that are in line with quality assured learning outcomes. The models for pedagogical development for flexible options can also be adapted to the doctoral level with the idea of creating different professional “profiles”. Moreover, development of models for joint and flexible entrepreneurship education is high on the list of initiatives for Unite!.

Picture of Katrina Nordström (Aalto University)

”The joint programmes are important for developing multidisciplinary, multicultural and multilingual novel educational offers across Europe, to provide future graduates with professional knowledge and skills that match the needs of increasingly global job market. In order to develop such highly ambitious and complex new educational offers, we need to also develop the processes that provide the platforms on which we can build these programmes and assure a sustainable continuation of such initiatives. Accordingly, to achieve this goal, it is important that we develop clear, well designed flexible study pathways, that can be tailored so that for example, regulatory barriers and national degree regulations do not become a bottleneck to these initiatives." says Professor Katrina Nordström who leads the Unite! partnership at Aalto University.

The management of such joint programmes is not without challenges. In the Boot Camp Karin Knutsson from the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden and Marta Abrantes from Universidade de Lisboa in Portugal presented the do’s and don’ts for the management of joint programmes. There are lots of things to consider: Is accreditation needed? Should there be the same fee for all students in all seven universities? Compared to national programmes the cost of joint programmes are almost double – how do you ensure the financial sustainability of the programme?  Should students have a common start in one university or multiple entry and exit universities? Joint or separate application process for different universities? Ranking criteria? And the list goes on. The task force continues by building internal guidelines and templates as well as mandatory and obligatory criteria for Unite! joint programmes. 

”The ambition for 2025 is a fully operational inter-campus Teaching and Learning Academy with creative physical and virtual spaces that support the joint teaching and joint development of programmes and curricula in co-creation with students. This enables the creation of flexible study paths for individualized professional profiles of students, the collaborative work of pedagogical experts and teachers”, explains Katrina Nordström.

Published by Suvi Lavinto: https://www.aalto.fi/en/news/unite-joint-programmes-and-flexible-study-pathways-developed-at-the-boot-camp