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Artesnet in Porto (2)

13 May 2010

Peer Power! The future of Higher Arts Education in Europe
ESMAE, Porto, 7-8 May 2010


Day 3 Saturday 8 May

The second day of the meeting started bright and early with an introduction to the Portuguese experience by Alberto Amaral as an expert in Quality Assurance. Though specifically Portuguese I think the experience would be recognized in many places around – a massive and largely uncoordinated expansion of HE followed by frantic attempts to put in place some measure of quality control. The expansion began in the 80's, for the most part in private provision, but has continued in the 00's with available programmes rising from 3k to 5k in the last four years. Between '95 and '05 three different agencies tried to monitor quality in this extra provision but without successfully closing a single programme. These agencies have now been replaced by a single national agency and demonstrates a shift from quality improvement toward public accountability in what was described as 'a loss of trust' and 'new public management'. Recognising that the six-year cycle required for any full implementation of a new QA method is too long Institutions are asked for a self-declaration of ability to properly support the new programmes. As if by magic the level of provision has already dropped from 5k to 4k through this new computer-based self monitoring! But be warned … though such policies can only ever be 'soft law' ie no enforceable Euro-legislation, quality assurance through the likes of the AHELO project (Assessment of HE by Learning Outcomes) means 'ranking' is surely on its way!

The morning progressed with a continuation of the previous day's breakout sessions. This time it was introduced by reference to the EU Green Paper and in particular the quote
A more intensive, systematic, and wide-ranging collaboration between the arts, academic and scientific institutions should be promoted, as well as private-public initiatives to support artist-led experimentation

with the emphasis here on 'artist-led experimentation'. The short morning's discussion picked up on the creation of critical agencies and communities – across national boundaries and disciplines, the relationship between evaluation and justification and the feedback loop between experimentation and education. Beyond that it was a reporting session on the outcomes on this strand of Artesnet, namely the establishment of EUFRAD and the DEEP consultation. Details can be found on the Artesnet site so I won't go into those here.

As ever with these things, they run a little late, and so did lunch. It was supposed to be set-up as a 'speed-dating' exercise where delegates could get to meet Artesnet's trained experts to ask those niggling little questions that are not appropriate in a full-blown session. Perhaps it is an indication of the excellent opportunity for informal networking that there was virtually no take-up of the dating offers! Instead lunch continued in the fluid social mode of the entire event.

Lars, in particular, was pleasantly surprised to find almost the entire delegation stayed on for the afternoon's final plenary, the last public session before the Artesnet team set about writing up the project and preparing for publication later in the year. The session combined short presentations from the individual strand leaders, where we are and where we still have to go, and feedback from the external observers from the Culture Executive Agency. Without going into any detail, it's a very fine job well done! But its really only the start, as they say, every end is a new beginning.

Right now the most pressing issue is something else and we must turn our attention to that turbulent sky – Porto airport has been closed down due to the ash cloud and 85 delegates need to find a way home - good luck !!

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