Interview with Focus Group participant Joan-Ramon Borrell

January 01, 1970

Joan-Ramon Borrell from the University of Barcelona shares his experience as Focus Group participant.

Can you explain how you heard of the FG meeting and why you decided to join?

I received an email, and I quickly realized that the project tackled questions that are at the heart of my yearly challenge of getting the master admissions right. During my five year experience as program acting director, I know that attracting the students that truly have the right expectations, competences and promising abilities to develop a professional and/or academic career in the field of the master is the key for a mutually beneficial matching between faculty and students.

What was for you the most characteristic thing in the Focus Group meeting, the thing you remember best?

I felt, as it has been the case only occasionally in years, that my trial by error, experimentation and innovation in the process of admission made fully sense in the new trend of focusing on skills, competences and abilities when assessing applications, rather than relying in indirect ways of assessing previous degrees, previous knowledge, and GPA of students.

Managing applications is more related to offering clear methods of assessments of competences and abilities, signaling what are those that make candidates matching what the program is offering, and establishing a bidirectional communication and engaging relationship with prospect students.  Other acting directors faced the same common problems, and I offered my experience and received interesting new insights and tools for improving the way to manage admissions.

What would you tell (or what did you tell) colleagues at your university about the Focus Group meeting?

UB Economics, the area of the Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Barcelona (UB) in which graduate programs and research in the field of Economics is coordinated and promoted, is organizing a joint venture to participate actively in this and any other project to share and improve the admissions procedures at the graduate level in the following programs: MSc in Economics, PhD in Economics and, MA in Economic History, PhD in Economic History , and MSc/MA in Economics, Regulation and Competition in Public Services.

All these programs are internationally oriented and have been developing tools for a more engaging admission process with the aim of enlarging and improving the match between prospect students and graduate programs in the Economics field at UB.

This joint project is reinvigorated and it has received a very encouraging backup by participating in projects such as Mastermind Europe that show that we are on track on the process of improving our admissions procedures.

Mastermind Europe develops Tools and Guides to help people like you improve master’s admission and in this way get a more international, more diverse classroom. How useful did you find these Tools & Guides and the underlying concepts. What was your experience in testing these tools?

I had the opportunity to check whether the way we are managing admissions was in line with the tools and guides developed by Mastermind Europe. I found the guides and tools very inspiring as they were reflecting on issues that had been at the core of our discussions on how to reform our admissions processes, and we had developed by our own many procedures, rules, norms, attitudes and decision mechanisms that were aligned with those guides and tools developed by Mastermind Europe.

Additionally, knowing about those guides and tools helped us to double check whether our new admissions processes were working well towards a more competence base admission processes, and I found in the guides and tools very interesting and relevant complementary ideas, proposals, practical admissions managing procedures and initiatives that would surely improve our admissions processes in the near future.

Anything else that you would want to share with us on the Focus Group meeting or the Mastermind Europe project?

I truly think that Mastermind Europe is a project that should continue in the future not only as a project to reflect on graduate admissions processes, and to propose new guides and tools, but also as a project that offers an external anchor and traction to the initiatives that bottom up from the graduate program directors are trying to change the way universities in Europe manage admission procedures, a key ingredient in the improving in quality and reputation of graduate education in Europe.

In many countries, it seems as if all the new initiatives have a very difficult time to be encouraged by the top management at the universities and government agencies which seem too rigid and not interested in welcoming and encouraging the change. So, innovation is going bottom up and Mastermind Europe, an external and very reputed agent, may lead the change by offering accreditations, visibility and momentum to the innovation and reform that it is badly needed in graduate admissions in Europe.

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