Tuesday, 3 November 2015

At Last (and Thank You)! AUA Poland Study Tour Report Now Available

The Study Tour team are glad to announce that the AUA Poland Study Tour Report is now available.

If you want to read the report, you know where to click...
Again thanks to everyone who helped make this Study Tour a success.

This blog will continue to cover planned dissemination activties and occasional blogposts about developments in Polish HE.

Friday, 16 October 2015

It's at the printers...

Just a quick note that the report is at the printers. When it becomes publically available, we'll post on the blog.

We can't wait to share what we have found.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Reflections: Nirmala Arunasalam

There is a proverb that states, “When you travel, you learn things about the people and places you see” (Anon).  Participating in the Poland study tour allowed me to “move out of my comfort zone” to network and expand my learning and understanding of the Polish public and private Higher Education system. 

During the week, we met many senior representatives both in the public and private universities who were very welcoming.  They engaged in conversation about their Higher education systems, which are different from the UK’s.  Within the UK, although universities charge tuition fees, they are ‘state-funded’ and are responsible for employing their own staff; there are a very small number of private universities.  Similar to the UK experience in the early 1990s to meet the higher education demand, polytechnics were amalgamated with or became fully fledged universities.  Similarly, in Poland it led to the introduction of many private universities, with a great deal of competition between universities to attract students.

Most UK universities are becoming more business focused whilst the private universities in Poland have been and continue to be very competitive, business focused and offer higher quality services compared to their public universities.  The number of international students in the UK is high despite the restrictions on student visa entry but the number in Poland is small.

A few aspects put a smile on my face, firstly, students worked full-time during the week and opted to study at weekends, secondly, Polish universities do not operate a system of external examiners similar to UK to ensure university assessment guidelines are adhered in the marking and moderation process and finally, plagiarism is seen as a criminal offence!  

The study tour was an informative and insightful experience as the people we met were welcoming, willing to share information and I saw some scenic landscapes and extraordinary historical sites.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Reflections: Andrew Tuson

I have learnt that travel changes you in ways you do not expect and my recent experiences with the Study Tour confirms this.

The most important point the trip pushed home for me is this: you have to consider an HE system from its own internal point of reference, and not the Anglo-American axis. This for me makes external reports that try (even implicitly) to impose a norm rather problematics. A better way is to uncover the assumptions and dynamics, and then see how well and robuitly the system compares against that and any external pressures it may face.

One may even wish to be radical and ask what the students get out of it. Burton-Clark's triangle of coordination sprung to mind a number of times during the visit.

As the coordinator I had the pleasure of making a lot of contacts along the way. I am of course indebted to Paul Temple and Mike Shattock, who I had the pleasure of being taught by on the IoE's HE MBA. They put me in touch with another MBA alumus from a private Polish  HEI. They also pointed me to Poland's foremost HE management scholar. You will hear much about his work in the report. These contacts were invaluable.

As far as observations about what I oberved on the tour, much of it is along the lines of what the others have said. The fact that academic misconduct is covered by the Polish Penal Code did raise raise a smile. But I would like to make two of my own.

First, given the large private sector I would have expected entry by private equity firms such as in the US but this was not the case. The clue would be seem to in the fee levels chared (c.a. 2,500 pounds against 18,000 pounds for a three-year bachelors), even accounting for the much lower wages in Poland, I would find it hard to see how the large margins they typically seek would be acheiveable.

Second, the Polish I think have adapted as well as could be expected given their historical trajectory; but on their own terms. Some of the practices we have seen, compare well with good practices in the UK.

In fact after the Study Tour, I spent three more weeks backpacking round it (until I fell ill). I like the place and given the opportunity might be persuaded to stay there a while (Polish HEIs - hint, hint!).

There is a good story to be told about Polish HE and I hope we as a team will be able to do it justice.

Anyway, now to write the report. I hope to get it out of the door for November.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Reflections: Angela Pater

The third of the series of reflections on the study tour is by Angela Pater, so over to you...

The Study Tour was a fantastic opportunity to meet a wide range of people in Higher Education in Poland. I was touched by their kindness and willingness to give substantial amounts of their time to us to explain their systems, especially as many of them were senior staff and exceptionally busy. I was surprised to note that many staff held more than one role, often at more than one institution; this was perhaps because of the PKA rules about minimum numbers of academic staff required to run a programme, but perhaps also because of that famous ‘Polish work ethic’ well known in the UK?  Students too, often seem to work full-time during the week and then study at weekends for an undergraduate degree which they would complete within three years. The private universities we visited (perhaps because they were the more successful ones) were very professional and strategic in their approach, being aware of the ‘demographic cliff’ which means the number of young Poles entering the higher education market has dropped dramatically since 2006. The key role of the ‘Founder’ in private universities was also unexpected; the provider of the funding has substantial executive powers in appointing staff and running the institution. State regulation of HE seems high, with a constitutional right to free higher education, and legislation setting the percentage of student representatives which must be included on decision-making bodies in universities.

Everyone we met upheld the magnificent Polish tradition of hospitality, with excellent provision of food and drink at every opportunity; I particularly liked the Polish ‘cheesecake’ sernik, of which I think I ate my own bodyweight over the week. We were welcomed at the main door of many university buildings, without even having to step inside to ask for our contact, and were escorted courteously onto our next destination, which even included walking us to our hotel in Poznan at 11pm (rather out of the town centre) after a starlit tour of the city’s beautiful main square and castle. Even strangers in the street were helpful in giving us directions, despite my appalling Polish.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Reflections: Marie Holmes

The second of the series of reflections is from Marie Holmes, so over to you...

Being a participant in the recent AUA study tour to Poland has proved to be a very beneficial and interesting experience for me.  Having the opportunity to meet with a broad range of people from both private and public universities has given me an understanding of Polish HE. 

I anticipated that there would be some similarities and expected there to be differences in structure and quality assurance processes and this proved to be the case.  I have also learnt from discussions with fellow tour participants about operations within UK institutions.

The welcome from individuals from all the institutions visited in Poland was brilliant; all were very generous with their time and hospitality. Some points which left an impression; both private and public university representatives talked of the challenges that lay ahead particularly of demographics/declining student numbers and the strategies to combat this situation. 

External evaluation is undertaken at either programme or institutional level by the PKA (Polish Accreditation Committee equivalent of the QAA) who carry out approximately 1000 reviews per year. Polish Universities don’t operate a system of external examiners as in the UK. Some institutions reported that student engagement and participation on university’s committees was very high others that it can be sometimes difficult to encourage students to participate (sound familiar?) even though students in Poland are required by law to be represented on committees and can have significant influence on policy and decision making including financial decisions. And the fact that plagiarism is seen as a criminal offence was a very interesting point of view.