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Track 7: Designing Innovative Curricula

With track chairs Elke Gornik & Elisabeth Hovdhaugen

Globalisation, digitisation, individualisation, permeability, and lifelong learning are some of the central topics for developers/designers of innovative higher education study and continuing education programmes. This sometimes leads to mutual ambivalence and challenge in the design of teaching and learning offerings.  At the same time, the target groups of higher education institutions (HEIs) are changing — students are becoming more heterogeneous and therefore the design of target group-oriented formats will be increasingly central to higher education strategies in the future. Especially the focus on professionally experienced students requires an orientation of curricula towards employability and a focus on skills, which besides the content also aims at future skills.


This track will address responses to the following topics:

  • Curriculum design at HEIs needs to take greater account of graduate employability, future skills, differing sets of student expectations as well as of changes in the student population. By which measures can employability be ensured in curriculum development? What role do "key stakeholders", students, companies, employees as a target group, play in curricular development?

  • What experiences have been encountered with new "study formats" and especially with micro-credentials, i.e., competencies that are taught in smaller learning units? What are the advantages and disadvantages, or areas of tension, for HEIs and their previous traditional study formats?

  • Which competencies, complementary to the subject-specific content, have to be considered in the development of study programmes? What concrete measures and experiences are there to consider "interdisciplinary" future skills at an early stage in the study programme?


Procedures and findings for the recognition, validation of informal and non-formal knowledge


The validation of non-formal knowledge and informal competencies poses major challenges for HEIs. There is a need for appropriate systems and rules for the recognition and validation of prior learning acquired in different settings. In this context, the following questions arise in the area of curriculum development, such as:

  • What procedures have HEIs developed to recognise and accredit different prior experiences in a fair and understandable way?

  • To what extent do they play a role in curriculum development?

  • Is there evidence on the success of study and continuing education programmes with appropriate validation and recognition?


Opening up HEIs and permeability of vocational and higher education training and continuing education

One of the most important goals is to open HEIs even further and to make higher and continuing education available to new target groups (such as non-traditional students). Issues of social mix, equality for underrepresented groups, and good preparation are key requirements. Looking at the further development of study and continuing education programmes, these considerations give rise to questions such as:

  • How should curricula be designed to allow for greater permeability and provide advancement opportunities for non-traditional students?

  • What supporting measures will be taken to ensure that all students can successfully complete their studies at the same level of competency?

  • How can different educational backgrounds be included in the study process?

This track is chaired by:



Elke Gornik

University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria




Elisabeth Hovdhaugen

Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education, Oslo (NIFU)

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