Focus Groups as Qualitative Research
The mastermind Europe project is developing and testing a toolkit for master’s programmes which want to change their admission of outside applicants: from a process of recognition as comparable with the preceding bachelor’s from the same university, to a process of assessment of the required competencies in terms of knowledge, skills and other characteristics deemed relevant for that master’s programme. Specific tools are being developed to assist master’s programmes to define:
- which subject specific knowledge and skills are required at entrance
- which generic academic levels of competence are required
- which additional personal characteristics
- additional criteria, such as language requirements
- which testing mechanisms are available to be used and/or adapted to the context of specific programmes.
To test these tools and their use in practice, mastermind Europe will organise so-called Focus Group meetings in Barcelona, Helsinki, Amsterdam and Milano with academic master’s directors who see the need to change towards competency-based admission and are interested to consult with peers and mastermind Europe experts on how to design and implement the change process for their own programme.
The Focus Group meetings will last one evening-plus-day: from 6 pm till 6 pm. In the coming months, the following Focus Group Meetings will be organised:
The Focus Group Meetings will be coordinated by Kees Kouwenaar and Alicia Betts. Kees Kouwenaar is senior advisor international strategy at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and initiator/coordinator of mastermind Europe. He was one of the key experts for the Lisbon Recognition convention. Alicia Betts is Project Manager at the ACUP since 2009. She works directly for two of the policy areas in which the Association is active: International Relations and University-Business collaboration.
The overall objectives are:
a) To test the format of an intensive workshop as a tool to assist master’s coordinators in reshaping their admission; this means that we do aim for the participants to have concrete and valuable take-home outcomes of the workshop, but that participants need to be aware of the testing character of the event, and
b) to provide input for the development of the tools and reports, to tailor these to the needs of the wider target group of master’s coordinators and directors.
In the Focus Group meeting, the participating master’s coordinators will draft and discuss an action plan to adapt the admissions process for their master’s programme, based on a Master’s Admission Adaptation Plan” format, treating issues like rationale and deconstruction towards specific criteria (in terms of content, academic competence, personal characteristics, language), minimal benchmarks for the chosen criteria and methods to assess individual applicants’ level. It will deal with administrative process, stakeholder engagement, and legal/regulatory obstacles.
Participants will receive draft versions of the tools in preparing for the Focus Group meetings. Key components of the Focus Group meeting will treat key questions on a) admission criteria, b) assessment mechanisms, c) procedures and transparency, and d) predictive value.
The Focus Group meeting will consist of a balance of (short) presentations, individual & group assignments and group & plenary discussions.