Guiding Tools

The Mastermind Europe project has resulted in six Guiding Tools – alongside three Reports and two introductory papers. The draft Guiding tools were tested in eight Focus Group meetings as well as in pilot sessions in Vilnius, Milan, Amsterdam (3), Graz (2) and Barcelona (2).

The use of the Guiding Tools is explained in more detail in two documents, which basically tell the same story in two different ways: the Mastermind Europe Manual and the Mastermind Europe Approach. These two documents are available in one cover here: Mastermind Europe Manual & Approach.

Guiding Tool One looks at admission criteria and procedures from a holistic perspective and assists 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 identifying the critical questions in deciding to admit or admit specific applicants – given the programme, the ensuing work, and the mix in class. It offers some guidance on striking a 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 – organising 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 underlying 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 the first contact to alumni.

Guiding Tools Two, Three, Four and Five 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 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 quickly 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, 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 initially chose for a particular test, and specific level still serves its purpose.

Guiding Tool Six focuses on how to manage the admission process. It contains practical observations and suggestions on an integrated approach to recruitment, applications, selection, and the use of digital systems.