Tools and Reports



Below you can find the most current versions of the  Guiding Tools, the Reports and the Manual and Approach document, which are the most tangible and publicly accessible outputs of the project.

A good starting point is either the “Mastermind Europe Approach” document, or the Mastermind Manual which both give you a brief presentation about the project background, research and the resulting outcomes and publications. The Manual was designed to provide hands-on guidance for Master’s coordinators to conceptualise new and improve existing Master’s admission processes. 

For more in-depth information on a coherent admission approach for a diverse international classroom, the Guiding Tools give an overview of both practice and research on the various aspects: Subject knowledge, Academic competencies, Personal competencies, Language requirements, Admission management, and Coherent admission in general. The core Guiding Tools that focus on one category of admissions criteria present a conceptual framework, an overview of existing mechanisms to test for them, an assessment of pros and cons and further literature.

You can find more information on the literature and other sources that we used in the Repository.

The Mastermind Europe project yielded three reports strengthening the evidence base of the increasing diversity of Master’s applicants and the needs and opportunities to adapt admission accordingly.

The first one is an overview and analysis of the various developments in higher education and in the world at large, which explain the increasing diversity in students and programmes and explain why society and the economy need our Master’s classes to be diverse and international and why our admission needs to depart from the recognition paradigm.

The second one, the Evidence Report  is based on survey input from more than 350 Master’s coordinators as well as more than 2,200 international Master’s students and informs about facts on Master’s admission as well as perceptions among key stakeholders.

The third report focuses on – perceived – legal and regulatory obstacles to adapt admission to an approach based on the assessment of competencies rather than equivalence of diplomas

In the context of the 2016 Wageningen Competence Conference Mastermind Europe experts produced 4 coherent ‘Wageningen articles sketching the progress of the project up to Mid 2016’.

For more information about the Guiding Tools and Reports, please use the tabs above.

Guiding Tools

The Mastermind Europe project team is currently finalising the five Guiding Tools and two introductory notes. First drafts were developed with the input of numerous Focus Group Meetings with universities across Europe in 2015/16. In the upcoming months, the guiding tools are tested in pilot projects in Ljubjana, Milan, Graz, Munich and Barcelona for further input and refinements.

The Mastermind Europe Manual provides step-by-step guidance through the Key Forms and Guiding Tools, explaining and giving examples of how they can be used.

Guiding Tool 0 covers the paradigm shift in admission. The report analyses the distinct approaches of competency-assessment and diploma-recognition in more detail and it situates the new approach in the context of the last 3 decades of developments to improve recognition and adapt it to the increasing and ever faster changing diversity of HE programs, HE students and the world of work after graduation. Furthermore, it looks at Tuning, Degree Profiles, Qualification Frameworks and Automatic recognition as efforts to make stakeholders agree on the outcomes of HE programs and shows the Mastermind Europe project as an effort to create a common terminology to identify diverse, but transparent and understandable admission standards. It gives a categorization of relevant sorts of competencies and lists the key questions that rule a sound admission procedure.

Guiding Tools 1a and Guiding Tool 1b look at admission criteria and procedures from a holistic perspective and provide assistance in creating a Coherent Admission Framework in terms of both internal and external coherence.

For internal coherence, it aims to assist the academic master’s directors in identify the key questions in deciding to admit or admit specific applicants – in view of the programme, the ensuing work, and the mix in class. It offers some guidance on striking the balance between measurable and qualitative elements in an admission procedure and stresses the importance of transparency – for students from other countries and education systems – and of validity – organizing admission in such a way that the predictive value of the criteria and norms can be monitored.

For external coherence, it helps master’s coordinators to fulfil basic conditions of transparency and validity and to embed the master’s admission a) in the general framework of the master’s programme and b) in the student’s experience at the university from first contact to alumn.

Guiding Tools Two, Three and Four then focus on each of the categories of admissions requirements that we have identified.

Guiding Tool Two delves into the key domain of Substance-Related Knowledge and Skills. What do admitted students have to know and be able to do – in the subject of the programme – on the first lecture day? How does one handle this question for master’s programs that consciously look for a mixed student background, e.g. because it is a multidisciplinary master’s? How does one identify key knowledge if it can’t be done in terms of undergraduate courses of the master’s’ university? Which books, key articles together constitute the essential core knowledge for the programme? How can one organize the process to make these decisions? By logical deduction backwards from the objective and the designated learning outcomes of the master’s programme? Or by asking a few of the most experienced professors? These and other issues are analysed and structured to help the users make their own path for change.

Guiding Tool Three addresses the key domain of “General Academic Competencies”. It identifies the most common ways in literature and in practice to categorize the key elements of general academic competence – or intellectual potential – or ability for critical thinking. It shows which standardized tests are available and how these are used in practice. It looks at commonly used indicators and proxies for general academic competence at the level of individual applicant students and at the level of their previous university.

Guiding Tool Four focuses on the area of personal and interpersonal competencies. Although no academic would argue that these play no role at all – and employers call for these personal/interpersonal competencies ever more loudly – this area is much less well developed in university education, as learning outcome, curriculum element or admission criteria. But like with General Academic Competencies, a critical look at both literature and practice wuickly leads to a limited number of fairly similar categorizations of the key elements of personal/interpersonal competencies. The Guiding Tool is designed to help academic master’s directors to articulate which (if any) personal or interpersonal competence they see as relevant in admission. It also helps to distinguish between the closely related concepts of competencies and personality traits.

Guiding Tool Five focuses on language requirements and language tests. The desire (and need) of graduate programmes in Europe to also attract participants from outside their own university, and from outside their own country, has – in all European countries other than the UK – called for the development of programmes in another language than their own native language. With a limited number of exceptions that will be outside of this guiding tool’s scope, this has led to the development of programmes in English as the medium for instruction.

This Guiding Tool provides an overview of language tests used in admission processes. It also compares the different tests available, in order to support Master’s coordinators to decide whether (and if so, how) to incorporate them into their own (University’s) admissions process.

For Master coordinators who have already been using specific language tests as part of their admission process this guiding tool may serve as a means to check whether the originally made choice for a specific test and/or specific level still serves its purpose.

Evidence reports

In March 2015, the Mastermind Europe project has started a survey among stakeholders in Master’s programs in Europe on various aspects related to master’s admission: collecting actual facts on restricted access for “outsiders” as compared to insiders, on the criteria, indicators and procedural elements used in master’s admission, on legal and regulatory obstacles to a competency-based admission and – later in the project – on perceptions among the stakeholders themselves.

Evidence Report: Admissions to English-Taught Programs (ETPs) at Master’s level in Europe

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The Mastermind Europe Approach

This document is a written representation of the Powerpoint presentation used in the Mastermind Europe Focus Group meeting in Vilnius, May 12-13, 2016. It gives a brief presentation about the project background, research and the resulting outcomes and publications of the Mastermind Read more »

Mastermind Europe Manual

In the Mastermind Europe project, we have developed Guiding Tools and Key Forms to help academic Master’s coordinators to see if and how they can improve their admission criteria and procedures to enhance the international and diverse nature of their Read more »

Guiding tool
Guiding Tool 0: Paradigm Shift

September 23, 2015 Changing paradigms in admission to master’s programmes in Europe The transition from bachelor’s to master’s in Europe is changing from a one-on-one transfer from a bachelor’s programme to a master’s programme into a many-to-many transition.

Guiding tool
Guiding Tool 1a: Internally Coherent Admission Framework

November 21, 2016 The paradigm shift described in the report Changing paradigms in admission to master’s programmes in Europe refers to the evolvement of admission based on the “recognition of diplomas” to admission based on “assessment of competencies”. This shift Read more »

Guiding tool
Guiding Tool 1b: Contextually Coherent Admission Framework

November 21, 2016 This Guiding Tool 1b “Contextually Coherent Admission Framework” focuses on two elements of the external context. One consists of the whole chain of contacts and relations between students from first contact through to Alumns relations. The second Read more »

Guiding tool
Guiding Tool 2: Subject-related knowledge and skills

April 25, 2016 This report describes the trend that more and more Master’s programmes get applications from students with diverse background in terms of their knowledge and related skills. It sketches reasons why more Master’s programmes indeed value this diversity. It Read more »

Guiding tool
Guiding Tool 3: Academic competence and potential

November 29, 2016 This Guiding Tool describes and analyses the categorisations of general academic competence and potential most commonly used in the admissions process of graduate students to Master’s programmes. It provides an overview of the tests used in admission Read more »

Guiding tool
Guiding Tool 4: (Inter)personal traits & competences

November 21, 2016 As described in the first chapter “Paradigm shift”, descriptions of degrees and graduate programmes focus increasingly on non-cognitive skills and attitudes besides the academic content and subject specific knowledge. If you move forward from focusing merely on Read more »

Guiding tool
Guiding Tool 5: Language Requirements

April 25, 2016 The desire (and need) of graduate programmes in Europe to also attract participants from outside their own university, and from outside their own country, has – in all European countries other than the UK – called for Read more »

Guiding tool
Legal obstacles on Master’s admission in Europe

The present report addresses one of the main problems affecting admissions in Europe nowadays: the perception by Master’s programme coordinators and admission staff that some important admission requirements restrincting a diverse international classroom are set by national laws. It tries Read more »

Evidence Report
Evidence Report: Admissions to English-Taught Master’s in Europe

The role of the present report, is to test the basic hypothesis of the project, i.e. to see if there is empirical evidence that external applicants are at a disadvantage in the admission process compared to internal applicants, and if Read more »

Evidence Report

Recent updates

Testimonial of Dr Nancy Campbell

From the report on the Mastermind Europe pilot in Graz, by Dr Nancy Campbell:... Read more »

Pilot in Vilnius

On October 20, 2016, the first Mastermind Europe pilot was conducted at Vilnius University,... Read more »