On November 21, Androulla Vassiliou, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, closed the "Tuning in the World: New Degree Profiles for New Societies" Conference, which took place in Brussels and convened around 600 people from all over the world.
The Conference was co-organised by the Tuning Academy, a joint initiative of the University of Deusto (Spain) and the University of Groningen (The Netherlands), and the Directorate General for Education and Culture of the European Commission.
It brought together representatives from universities in Africa, Latin America, Russia, Central Asia, Thailand, USA, Canada and Japan, representatives from European universities involved in the initial Tuning process, Tuning experts, Higher education associations and Member state agencies present in Brussels, Embassies, Foreign missions and Commission services.
The Conference focused on key elements of Degree Profiling and analysed how new profiles are developed in Europe and other regions of the world to respond to specific social and economic demands using the Tuning approach. Tuning is a widely tested methodology for looking at educational structures internationally. It was first developed in the framework of the European Union's Erasmus programme a decade ago and consists of using the competence/learning outcomes based approach in designing degree programmes in rapidly growing and diversifying systems.
One of the major contributions of Tuning in different regions and countries has been the development of Degree Profiles with three main characteristics: social relevance, quality and transparency and its capacity for being recognised. Tuning began shortly after the Bologna Declaration eleven years ago in Europe, spread to the rest of the world (Latin America, Africa, Russia, Central Asia, Thailand, USA, Canada, Australia and soon China) and is now going to return to Europe. The Tuning approach stands out by not being invasive - it does not require universities to harmonise entire curricula but obliges them to find a common language, not only among each other but also with their surrounding community. It touches upon major issues in higher education such as employability, skills, generic and subject-specific competences, credit accumulation and transfer, approaches to learning, teaching and assessment, and the role of quality enhancement in the educational process. Tuning is also feeding the internationalisation of higher education and policy dialogue.
In addition to providing a wide range of stakeholders information on the different Tuning initiatives in course, the Conference also enabled academics from different regions of the world to note the similarities but also the differences in the degree profiles that they are currently developing, differences principally linked to their local or regional context. It was however clear from the debates that the method is understood and shared by all and that there is an increasing effort to deepen the relevance of study programmes so that graduates acquire the right set of skills for their future.
The Commissioner underlined when closing the Conference that whilst Tuning started as an attempt to solve a strictly European problem, it has become a methodology that can be adapted to different higher education structures in very different cultural contexts and that the commitment of the universities, the associations and the national authorities involved is the key to the continuing success of this initiative.