September 2013

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Quality assurance of higher studies in the arts

Núria Comet Seńal - Project manager and head of internal quality assurance

Ensenyaments artístics superiorsWhen referring to programmes leading to awards in the Arts in the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), one should bear in mind that these are divided into two main groups, university degree courses and non-university higher studies in the Arts.

University degree courses in the Arts are offered mainly in faculties of Fine Arts, Communication Studies or Schools of Architecture. These courses include, for example, Bachelor programmes leading to degrees in Design, Preservation and Restoration of the Cultural Heritage, and Performing Arts, as well as Master's and doctorate degrees. At university level, a wide variety of courses in Master's and doctorate degrees are available.

Non-university higher studies in the Arts come under what are referred to as specialized courses and are offered at Schools and Conservatories. These studies, which lead to an award that is equivalent to a Bachelor's degree, include programmes in Music, Dance, Dramatic Arts, Restoration and Preservation of Cultural Heritage, Design and Visual Arts; at postgraduate level, they are called Master of Arts, with doctoral/PhD studies in these subjects that are run through agreements with the universities.

Awards offered in these non-university Schools and Conservatories are equivalent to university awards and form part of the European Higher Education Area. The most important differences in relation to university awards is that they are subject to the eligibility requirements of teaching staff, the admission requirements and regulations concerning progression and continuation, and the autonomy of the university and its faculties.

Models in Europe

Courses and awards in the Arts are dealt with in different ways in Europe and come under three main areas of influence according to the tradition in each country, namely Latin language-based, English-speaking or German-Austrian.

In the Latin language-based area of influence, institutions offering courses and awards in the Arts do not fall within the scope of the university system and are covered by a specific regulatory framework dealing with the different courses in the Arts. Programmes lead to awards that are of an equivalent level to university studies, and the institutions themselves either come under the jurisdiction of the education authorities or are run by private entities or foundations.

Higher studies in the Arts in the English-speaking area of influence are offered in both the universities and in non-university institutions. Non-university institutions, which are run jointly by the institutions themselves and the corresponding education authorities, are mostly private and receive substantial funding to offset the high cost of these studies. Degrees issued by non-university institutions can be either unique to the institution or body awarding the degree (non-recognised) or recognised awards, which are issued through agreements established with a university; curricula are highly varied and the institutions themselves are free to design pathways with the direct participation of the regional education authority. Different examples within this area are the United Kingdom, where courses are decentralised, and Denmark, where degree courses in the Arts come under the central government's administration, which defines the organisation and objectives of university-equivalent courses in the Arts.

Higher studies in the Arts in the German-Austrian area of influence are offered in both the universities and in non-university institutions. The running of these courses is decentralised according to regions although state legislation on education is applicable, and institutions of this type are mostly public with a level of autonomy that is appropriate to the level of courses offered, with programmes leading to higher awards that are of university level.

Historical background

In Catalonia, there is a long tradition of courses in the Arts that goes back to the early nineteenth century.

The Liceu foundation was set up in 1837 and was legally connected to the Gran Teatre del Liceu (Opera House) until they were separated in 1854. In 1913 the Liceu and the Provincial Government (Diputació) for Barcelona jointly created the Escola Catalana d'Art Dramàtic (School for Dramatic Art) as a section of the Liceu, which was the forerunner of today's Institut del Teatre.

In Spain, the first free school of drawing was the Escuela Gratuita de Dibujo in Bilbao, set up in 1774, and a few months later in 1775 another was established in Barcelona in the Casa de la Llotja del Mar. The enactment of a Royal Decree, 4 January 1900, saw the setting up in Spain of the Escuelas de Artes e Industrias (schools of art and technical skills), and in 1910 the courses and institutions offering these courses were reorganised, with the schools of art and artisanship being separated from schools teaching more technical subjects.

The School of Restoration and Preservation of Cultural Heritage dates back to Decree 2415, 16 November 1961. Programmes and courses in these subjects were established as higher studies pursuant to national legislation in Spain (LOGSE) in 1990.

Current situation

Ensenyaments artístics superiorsPursuant to Royal Decree 1614, which was published in 2009, concerning the academic governance of higher studies in the Arts governed by Organic Law 2/2006, recognition was given to Bachelor's (grado, a term which was subsequently changed pursuant to a ruling by the Spanish High Court/Tribunal Superior in 2012 in order to distinguish between university and non-university awards, when they became known as títulos superiores, or "higher awards"), Master's and doctorate degrees run under arrangements with the universities and taught in the Conservatories of Dance and Music and Schools of Dramatic Art, Design, Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage, and Visual Arts. As a result, programmes in these subjects subsequently came under the EHEA.

The fact that these studies now formed part of the EHEA led to a simultaneous three-fold structural change:

  • flexibility in course organisation,
  • new teaching methodologies
  • institutional autonomy

Royal Decree 1614/2009 laid down the main features of programmes in the Arts and established that the running and specific organisation of non-university institutions offering programmes leading to higher awards in the Arts are the responsibility of the regional Autonomous Communities, who must:

  • Establish the regulations and define the procedures for applying the system for the recognition and transferability of credits, as well as the European Diploma Supplement (art. 18).
  • Define the conditions and establish the procedures for postgraduate courses that are offered (art. 7.1. and art. 10).
  • Introduce the new systems for admission and define the corresponding conditions and procedures, and define and establish information and student orientation systems for new students (art. 12.2).
  • Define and establish the systems, procedures and plans for the quality assurance of undergraduate and postgraduate teaching in a way that is comparable and compatible with European QA management systems (art. 19).

Regulations and guidelines stemming from Royal Decrees 630-635/2010 subsequently established the basic contents (competences, subjects, etc.) for higher studies in the Arts within the framework of the prerequisites of the EHEA, such as the establishment of ECTS credits as the unit of academic measurement, the guarantee of student mobility through the European Diploma Supplement, the provision of postgraduate awards, research in institutions offering and teaching programmes leading to higher awards in the Arts and the regular QA review of these courses.

The regulations and guidelines stemming from the Spanish legislation (LOGSE) in 1990 enabled higher institutions for the Arts to be established that were more in line with the concept of commitment to excellence although these institutions continued to be run and organised in the same way as secondary education institutions. Different administrative initiatives attempted to mitigate and overcome this contradiction, and legislation was passed at regional level in several Autonomous Communities with regulations and guidelines to establish a legal and administrative structure specific to higher studies in the Arts.

In 2003, legislation published in the Official Journal of Aragón (Law 17/2003, 24 March) dealt with the organisation of programmes leading to higher awards in the Arts within the scope of jurisdiction of the Autonomous Community of Aragón. The Instituto Aragonés de Enseñanzas Artísticas Superiores (IAEAS) was set up under this act.

In 2007, the Autonomous Government of Valencia (Generalitat de València) enacted Law 8/2007, 2 March, which dealt with the governance of institutions offering and teaching programmes leading to higher awards in the Arts and under which the Institut Superior d'Ensenyaments Artístics de la Comunitat Valenciana (ISEACV) was set up.

Towards the end of 2007 the Parliament in Andalusia passed Law 17/2007, 10 December, which dealt with education in Andalusia and under which the Consejo Andaluz de Enseñanzas Artísticas Superiores was set up.

Quality assurance

In 2012 AQU Catalunya and the Catalan Ministry of Education pledged their commitment to the validation, monitoring and accreditation of programmes leading to higher awards in the Arts at non-university institutions of higher education according to the same criteria used for university undergraduate degrees. Catalonia is the only place in Spain where this has occurred, and as such it shows the eagerness of non-university institutions, the Catalan Ministry of Education and AQU to promote regular quality assurance according to European standards.

In accordance with the Framework for the validation, monitoring, modification and accreditation of recognised degree programmes (VSMA Framework), in June 2012 all non-university institutions submitted validation reports according to the nine points stipulated in the Guide to the formulation and validation of proposals for recognised Bachelor and Master's degree programmes.

The reports were assessed by the special Arts and Humanities review panel. Due to the fact that various studies in the Arts, for example music and dance, are not taught in universities because of their particular characteristics, external specialists in these studies were brought in as members of the review panel.

The review process was completed favourably for all the study programmes leading to the following awards (see below) in June 2013:

  • Bachelor of Dance, Institut del Teatre
  • Bachelor of Dramatic Art, Institut del Teatre
  • Bachelor of Dramatic Art, Escola Superior d'Art Dramàtic Eòlia
  • Bachelor in Restoration and Preservation of Cultural Heritage, Escola Superior de Conservació i Restauració de Béns Culturals
  • Bachelor of Design, Escola Superior de Disseny i Arts Plàstiques de Catalunya
  • Bachelor of Design, Escola Superior Felicidad Duce
  • Bachelor of Design, Escola Superior IED
  • Bachelor of Music, Escola Superior de Musica de Catalunya
  • Bachelor of Music, Conservatori del Liceu
  • Bachelor of Music, Taller de Músics

These institutions then immediately started the monitoring stage, the main objective of which is to serve as a tool for managing the running of the institutions through the quality assurance of programme delivery using data and indicator analysis, and to produce enhancement proposals for the correction of deviations between the original programme design and regular programme delivery.

With regard to Master's programmes in the Arts, AQU carried out a favourable evaluation of the first Master's programme in the Arts in Catalonia, which was submitted during the 2012-2013 academic year by the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya (ESMUC, Catalan School of Music).

Bibliographic references: Informe Anual sobre el estado y situación de las Enseñanzas Artísticas – edición 2011, Consejo Superior de Enseñanzas Artísticas. 


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