Α.ΔΙ.Π. EXTERNAL EVALUATION REPORT. DEPARTMENT of Spatial & Urban Planning and Regional Development. UNIVERSITY of THESSALY - PDF

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1 EΛΛΗΝΙΚΗ ΔΗΜΟΚΡΑΤΙΑ Α.ΔΙ.Π. ΑΡΧΗ ΔΙΑΣΦΑΛΙΣΗΣ ΚΑΙ ΠΙΣΤΟΠΟΙΗΣΗΣ ΤΗΣ ΠΟΙΟΤΗΤΑΣ ΣΤΗΝ ΑΝΩΤΑΤΗ ΕΚΠΑΙΔΕΥΣΗ HELLENIC REPUBLIC H.Q.A. HELLENIC QUALITY ASSURANCE AND ACCREDITATION AGENCY EXTERNAL EVALUATION REPORT

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1 EΛΛΗΝΙΚΗ ΔΗΜΟΚΡΑΤΙΑ Α.ΔΙ.Π. ΑΡΧΗ ΔΙΑΣΦΑΛΙΣΗΣ ΚΑΙ ΠΙΣΤΟΠΟΙΗΣΗΣ ΤΗΣ ΠΟΙΟΤΗΤΑΣ ΣΤΗΝ ΑΝΩΤΑΤΗ ΕΚΠΑΙΔΕΥΣΗ HELLENIC REPUBLIC H.Q.A. HELLENIC QUALITY ASSURANCE AND ACCREDITATION AGENCY EXTERNAL EVALUATION REPORT DEPARTMENT of Spatial & Urban Planning and Regional Development UNIVERSITY of THESSALY February 2014 2 TABLE OF CONTENTS The External Evaluation Committee Introduction I. The External Evaluation Procedure Brief account of documents examined, of the Site Visit, meetings and facilities visited. II. The Internal Evaluation Procedure Comments on the quality and completeness of the documentation provided and on the overall acceptance of and participation in the Quality Assurance procedures by the Department. Α. Curriculum APPROACH Goals and objectives of the Curriculum, structure and content, intended learning outcomes. IMPLEMENTATION Rationality, functionality, effectiveness of the Curriculum. RESULTS Maximizing success and dealing with potential inhibiting factors. IMPROVEMENT Planned improvements. B. Teaching APPROACH: Pedagogic policy and methodology, means and resources. IMPLEMENTATION Quality and evaluation of teaching procedures, teaching materials and resources, mobility. RESULTS Efficacy of teaching, understanding of positive or negative results. IMPROVEMENT Proposed methods for improvement. C. Research APPROACH Research policy and main objectives. IMPLEMENTATION Research promotion and assessment, quality of support and infrastructure. RESULTS Research projects and collaborations, scientific publications and applied results. IMPROVEMENT Proposed initiatives aiming at improvement. D. All Other Services APPROACH Quality and effectiveness of services provided by the Department. IMPLEMENTATION Organization and infrastructure of the Department s administration (e.g. secretariat of the Department). RESULTS Adequateness and functionality of administrative and other services. IMPROVEMENTS Proposed initiatives aiming at improvement. Collaboration with social, cultural and production organizations E. Strategic Planning, Perspectives for Improvement and Dealing with Potential Inhibiting Factors Short-, medium- and long-term goals and plans of action proposed by the Department. F. Final Conclusions and recommendations of the EEC on: The development and present situation of the Department, good practices and weaknesses identified through the External Evaluation process, recommendations for improvement. 3 External Evaluation Committee The Committee responsible for the External Evaluation of the Department of Spatial & Urban Planning and Regional Development (DPRD) of the University of Thessaly consisted of the following five (5) expert evaluators drawn from the Registry constituted by the HQAA in accordance with Law 3374/2005 : 1. Professor Alkis Tsolakis (Coordinator) Dean of the LSU College of Art & Design, School of Architecture, Louisiana State University, USA. 2. Professor Michel Dimou UFR Sciences of Economics, Université du Sud Toulon-Var, France. 3. Professor Panos Prevedouros Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Hawaii, USA. 4. Professor Alex Anas Department of Economics, State University of New York at Buffalo, New York, USA. 5. Mrs. Anna Gianniou Vice President of Association of Greek Engineers for Urban & Spatial Planning and Regional Development of the Regional Department of Thessaly, Engineer of Planning and Regional Development, M.Sc., Larisa, Greece. 4 Introduction I. The External Evaluation Procedure The on site visit started on February 17 and lasted until February 19, The committee wrote the report upon return to Athens from the 20 th the 21 st. The committee met with the president and three vice presidents of the University of Thessaly, the dean of the Polytechnic School, the president of the department, the faculty, the administrative and research support staff. We met formally in the context of group meetings, research units, studio classrooms as well as individually and informally. The faculty and staff had prepared a rigorous visit program with presentations and discussions. They were flexible in adjusting the program to better accommodate the efficiency of the visit. They were open to discussion and eager to answer questions and show us both the strengths and the weaknesses of the programs. List of Reports, documents, other data examined by the Committee. The internal evaluation report. Additional documentation in PowerPoint presentations. Other literature produced by the department s research units. Groups of teaching and administrative staff and students interviewed The EEC interviewed all full time faculty, all administrative/research support staff and a representative group of under-graduate, graduate and Ph.D. students. Facilities visited by the External Evaluation Committee. The committee had a thorough tour of the facility, including faculty and administrative offices, classrooms, studios, research units and labs, the main amphitheatre and the public spaces and recreation spaces. The building has been well maintained over the last 13 years. II. The Internal Evaluation Procedure Appropriateness of sources and documentation used The internal evaluation report was a complete and well documented response to the demands of the ministry. The committee found the report too lengthy and lacking prioritization. It also lacked essential components such as a mission and goals statement, a discussion of strategic planning, and a clear description of the administrative structure and decision making processes of the Department and its institutional context. The committee found the information provided by the faculty during the formal presentations to be a lot more useful in organizing and furthering discussions not only about the past achievements but also about the future of the department. Quality and completeness of evidence reviewed and provided. Please see response above. To what extent have the objectives of the internal evaluation process been met by 5 the Department? The EEC found that the Department fulfilled the objectives of the external evaluation following the HQA specifications. It would be useful for HQA to revise its specifications towards a more flexible and future/innovation oriented model. 6 Α. Curriculum The Department of Spatial & Urban Planning and Regional Development, offers an Undergraduate curriculum leading to a diploma of Planning and Regional Development and five postgraduate programmes. UNDERGRADUATE PROGRAMME APPROACH AND IMPLEMENTATION The goals and objectives of the curriculum of undergraduate programme are to cover all thematic units and the plan for achieving them is by providing 54 courses on three basic thematic units (spatial planning, urban planning and regional development). In addition, there are core courses and foreign languages. Total ECTS of undergraduate programme are 300 credits. The course objectives are decided by the professors who take into account the requirements of society and are consistent to the goals of the curriculum. The unit set a procedure for the revision of the curriculum as needed. This procedure happens every two years. In this revised procedure, only professors of the Department and one representative of the students participate. It would be important that a representative of the Association of Greek Engineers for Spatial Planning and Regional Development be included to better represent the requirements of the profession and the labor market. The structure of the curriculum is rational and coherent. It is divided in two sections. The lower section (1st-4th semester) includes core courses on sociology, computing, geography, math, etc, which are necessary for the upper section (5th-9th semester). Registration in the 5th semester requires completion of at least sixteen of the twenty-one courses of the lower section. According to the students with whom the EEC held a discussion, the curriculum is viewed positively regarding its thematic range that, although broad, still provides a wide range of flexible skills to assist them in their careers. In addition, the offer of many elective courses (there are 32 offered from which 13 are foreign languages), support the students to personalize their curriculum. Students say that the program is not evenly distributed during the week and they have large workload some days, because the majority of courses take place in the middle of the week, to accommodate the commuting requirements of some professors. The program of studies is intensive and rigorous. The Department introduced this year the requirement that each professor should advise 4-5 students from their first year until the end of their studies. The DPRD has established practical training which lasts two months in order to provide 7 students with knowledge about the real needs and problems of their area of specialization. The practical training is mandatory and is held at various public or private agencies. EEC's opinion is that this practical training is very helpful for the students. During the last or 10 th semester of studies, students must prepare their diploma thesis. This work is individual or in groups of up to two people. The content and format of the thesis must be professionally prepared and its defense is a major graduation milestone. The EEC was shown a comprehensive list of diploma theses and has the opinion that the subjects are wide reaching and appropriate for the subject matter. RESULTS AND IMPROVEMENT The predefined goals are achieved to a satisfactory level. The objectives and goals would be achieved better if courses on urban regeneration and transportation were included in the curriculum. The Department understands the importance of urban regeneration and transportation and they want to expand their coverage in the curriculum. It was mentioned that they have already added lectures on urban regeneration (4th, 9th & 10th semester) and on transportation (in cooperation with the department of civil engineering). It is also important to consider the reintroduction of technical drawing courses and perhaps a support course on land surveying. In conclusion, the curriculum trains students who are familiar with analytical methodologies and an ability of synthetic approaches to tackle spatial problems and overcome environmental and development challenges. POSTGRADUATE PROGRAMME APPROACH AND IMPLEMENTATION The Department offers five postgraduate programmes: In Greek, since 2009: 1. Urban Planning and Spatial Planning and 2. Spatial Analysis and Environmental Management. In English, since 2009: 3.European Studies in Regional Development. In Greek and French two programmes, since 2005: 4. Population, Development, Foresight (PODEPRO) and since 2004: 5. Spatial Dynamics and Spatial Planning (DYNTAR). Each graduate programme has 60 ECTS. During the first semester, it is very positive that all students of the graduate programmes have the opportunity to attend 13 lectures given by scientists from Greece and abroad who conduct lectures on topics related to the objects of the courses of the graduate programme. Each graduate programme has different goals and objectives but in general we can say that the common goal is to offer a further expertise to each of them and help students who want to improve both their professional skills and research knowledge. In addition, the admission of students to the postgraduate programmes relies upon several objective criteria such as interview, exams in English, CV, etc. which are applied 8 competitively. PH.D. PROGRAMME APPROACH There is no set curriculum for the Ph.D. program. All coursework is taken at lower levels and the Ph.D. study is purely focused on research and dissertation preparation and defense. RESULTS The Department produces a large number of competent dissertations every year all of which generate scientific publications and presentations. The department has several successful Ph.D. recipients of the program which attest to the quality and timeliness of their research. IMPROVEMENT Ph.D. students identified a need for improvement in research methodology instruction. An advanced course on generic research methods should be developed at the Polytechnic School, if not available. Ph.D. students should have more seminars and sessions where they can present their work in public. This provides both exposure and experience at a minimal cost. When fiscal conditions improve Ph.D. student funding for travel to conferences must be reinstated. 9 B. Teaching APPROACH AND IMPLEMENTATION Teaching content and delivery Concerning teaching delivery, the Department uses both lecturing and lab lessons ( studio lessons). The latter usually take place with more than one professor in the classroom and aims in leading students to apply theoretical knowledge on real life experiences. There are systematic attempts for clustering studio lessons in a single semester in order to combine different theoretical approaches and methodological tools in a single case study. All courses benefit from an e-class platform to provide students with teaching material. Overall, students seem to be very positive about the Department s teaching delivery. The Department is well equipped with modern techniques for teaching purposes (every conference room is equipped with a projector that allows for the use of electronic presentations; labs are equipped with specific instruments for urban design sessions). Concerning landscape studies technology, the Department is using recent GIS and CAD software. All instructors recommend three textbooks for their courses. Textbooks are distributed to students using the Evdoxos system. Moreover, the Department provides a series of working papers, mainly delivered from its members that are available for postgraduate students. The Department s library has almost 4500 books; this is a rather outstanding feature for a unit of a regional university. Finally the Department is connected to the Greek Universities online data and documents exchange system Pytheas. The Department tries to bring outside speakers mainly instructors from other universities and policy makers to help bridge the gap between the University and the real world. This should be expanded also to people from the business community. The Department makes an effort to involve undergraduate and postgraduate students in research by presenting their own research in courses, by assigning projects and by using students in their research projects. The Department s organization in several research units ( ) greatly helps in involving students in research activities. Each lab has highquality technical staff (half of them have a Ph.D. in Urban Planning or Regional Science, all have a Master degree), so the students can benefit from research assistance, gain valuable experience and have a better appreciation of the purpose and value of research. This procedure should be strongly encouraged and expanded both in terms of the numbers of students involved and in terms of the depth of the involvement. Relations between faculty and the student body appear to be very good. Faculty members are approachable and the teaching staff is often available for meeting students. Finally, concerning Ph.D. students, some improvements are required: the students demand methodological seminars and sessions where they can present their work in public. This is an interesting and costless alternative to the participation in conferences, at least for students that begin their Ph.D. research. 10 Teaching evaluation The Department has been implementing a comprehensive student evaluation system for several years. The student evaluations of the Department as presented in the internal evaluation report give a very good overall picture of teaching quality, over the last years. Students and resources There is a steady increase in the undergraduate student numbers since 2008 but a slight decrease in post-graduate students. In 2012/2013 there were 404 undergraduate students as compared to 338 in 2008/09, which represents a change of 19.5%. During the same period, there is a decrease from 123 to 108 (-12%) for post-graduate students and an increase from 92 to 107 (15%) for Ph.D. students. The Department s IER reports a student to teacher ratio of 67:1 for It has increased over the last years as a result of cuts in teaching staff (most particularly in the non-permanent 407/80 teachers category). This ratio is extremely high by any standard (the national average is 26:1 and the EU-27 average is 16:1. This ratio gets extremely high (up to 192:1 in some courses or studios. Student ratios of these levels severely inhibit the learning process. It is important to remind the fact that the Department has made an important effort to hire a high-quality technical and administrative staff, who participate in teaching and student assistance. There are also 2 Assistant Professor and 1 Associate Professor positions available. An early hiring is necessary to insure a continuing high teaching quality within the Department. Concerning Ph.D. students the ratio of full time professors to students is also quite high (10:1). Student evaluation The Department has made important steps towards moving away from the traditional system of evaluating students with a single end-of-year exam. More than half the courses allow students to do a project that typically counts for 50% of the grade. This is an effective way of encouraging student participation and enhancing the learning process. Although some students find that the amount of work in studios seems sometimes disproportionate compared to the other courses, the Committee strongly supports the Department s decision in favor of multiple and continuous assessments in all courses. Mobility The Department has an impressive outward orientation and is well connected with the European research scene. There are many professors or researchers coming from European Universities for short-teaching trips and some Department members have taken a sabbatical for a visiting professor position abroad in previous years. Concerning the students, the Department offers the possibility to follow three international Masters. Two of them are in French, co-delivered with the Universities of Bordeaux IV and Clermont-Ferrand; the third one is in English. The first two masters train many foreign students, but not the third one. For undergraduate students, both inward and outward mobility is limited, although the Erasmus program allows many opportunities. Between and 2013, only 38 Greek students went abroad for a teaching semester while 35 foreign students came to Volos. There is a significant scope for expanding student exchanges, since the benefits of student exposure to other cultures, languages and educational systems are immeasurable. RESULTS AND IMPROVEMENT Overall, the quality of the Department s teaching seems to be very good. Teaching procedures are appropriate and the EEC s impression is that they are properly implemented. This is corroborated by students who did not identify any major problems in this respect. All Department members are active researchers, which helps keep them informed of developments in their field. Average time to graduation is about 5 to 6 years. This is a very noteworthy achievement since other Greek faculties and departments feature severe problems with many eternal students. For Ph.D. students, this is a bit more problematic, since almost 25% of the total Ph.D. student population discontinues the program every year, often because they have found a job or because there is no funding to continue for the Ph.D. Despite all this, a high number of students are willing to apply to the Ph.D. program in the Department. This is probably due to the high quality of research and the reputation of the Department. Nevertheless, when
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