Degree programs to clarify what undergraduate students are expected to learn

York is one step closer to implementing a new quality assurance requirement for degrees following a forum, titled "The Academic Forum on Implementing University Undergraduate Degree Level Expectations", held on April 30 and May 1 at York.

University Undergraduate Degree Level Expectations (UUDLEs – pronounced "oodles") is a Canada-wide initiative, spearheaded by the Ontario Council of Academic Vice-Presidents (OCAV). The initiative provides a quality assurance framework which outlines the subject-specific as well as generic (or transferable) knowledge and skills that graduates of Ontario degree programs will be expected to have achieved upon earning their bachelor degree.

Through a series of intensive workshops, facilitated by internationally-renowned educational developers David Baume of the UK and Cleo Boyd, director of the Bob Gillespie Academic Skills Centre at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, over 100 York academic leaders and faculty were given a thorough grounding in how to bring this framework to life in the context of their own undergraduate programs.

Left: Rod Webb

The forum workshops brought home the fundamentals of why universities in Canada need to move to a quality assurance framework, the principles of expected learning outcomes and the logic of alignment – a concept that has driven quality enhancement in higher education in Europe, Australia and the Pacific Rim for the last 25 years. The session also demonstrated how to achieve alignment within courses and the importance of aligning courses within programs to ensure student’s capabilities to achieve the academic goals of the program are developed progressively and consistently.

The forum was organized by Rod Webb, York associate vice-president academic, in collaboration with the Centre for the Support of Teaching. Attending York faculty gave positive feedback about the value of the sessions and some programs are already working on follow up with the centre.

York is currently leading the implementation of this Ontario initiative. The forum also attracted senior academic administrators from several other Ontario universities. As Webb pointed out in his introduction, UUDLEs benefit everyone. Students will know what they can expect to achieve from a degree program and will be able to make informed choices among programs; faculty will be better equipped to gauge what students taking their courses should already know; and employers and the public will have reassurance that universities are paying close attention to enhancing the quality and effectiveness of their educational mission.

In addition, UUDLEs are a key step toward ensuring York degrees retain international recognition and standing as other countries harmonize degree standards.