Archaeology Programmes At Swedish Universities Evaluated

The Swedish Higher Education Authority (Universitetskanslersämbetet) has evaluated our basic university programmes in a long series of subjects. The results for archaeology were published yesterday, based on the status 2012. There were 21 BA (3 yrs), Mag.Phil. (4 yrs) and MA (5 yrs) programmes at the country's archaeology departments. The median grade they've received is "high quality", which translates to a pass here. Let's look at the eleven programmes that flunked or passed with distinction.

  • Gothenburg. Mag.phil. in Mediterranean archaeology. Very high quality.
  • Gothenburg. BA in Mediterranean archaeology. Very high quality.
  • Gothenburg. MA in Scandinavian Prehistory. Insufficient quality.
  • Gothenburg. BA in Scandinavian Prehistory. Insufficient quality.
  • Gothenburg. MA in heritage management. Very high quality.
  • Lund. MA in Mediterranean archaeology. Very high quality.
  • Lund. BA in Mediterranean archaeology. Very high quality.
  • Lund. BA in historical archaeology. Insufficient quality.
  • Stockholm. MA in various archaeological specialities. Insufficient quality.
  • Umeå. Mag.phil. in Scandinavian Prehistory. Insufficient quality.
  • Umeå. Mag.phil. in environmental archaeology. Insufficient quality.

Overall, the places that come out on top here are Gothenburg and Lund, though even they have problems with some of their programmes. Umeå places last, though I hasten to add that they have had at least one incredibly good-looking and keen temp teacher on the Scandy Prehistory programme this academic year, after the one evaluated. One point that makes me sad is that not a single one of the country's programmes in my subject, Scandy Prehistory, passed with distinction. One funny point is that the Mediterranean archaeologists in Gothenburg must now be really smug at the same time as their Scandy prehistorian colleagues are really angry.

Mind you, the evaluation methodology is controversial. A correspondent of mine at one of the evaluated departments writes "It's been a lot of work for an evaluation system that isn't approved by the EU, has no scientific backing and uses evaluation goals that are 30 years out of date".

The last time I looked at results of a similar evaluation in 2009, archaeology at Gotland University College received severe criticism. That entire campus has now become a branch of the University of Uppsala and so hasn't been evaluated separately.

Update 27 December: Ulla Rajala pointed out something important. Formally speaking, the University of Stockholm doesn't offer specialised archaeology programmes like the other universities do. This means that the grade that is differentiated at e.g. Gothenburg is a mashed-up average at Stockholm. When the Stockholm MA programme flunked, there may actually have been an extremely good programme in e.g. osteology hidden behind that grade. It all comes down to the random sample of student papers that the evaluation looked at. It seems to have been proportional to the number of students in each programme.

Thanks to Ing-Marie Back Danielsson for the tip-off.

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Well, let's at least give some credit to Umeå for realising they have a problem and calling in the incredibly good looking cavalry.

By John Massey (not verified) on 20 Dec 2013 #permalink

Actually, MA at Stockholm includes all archaeologies (Nordic, Mediterranean, Laborative, Osteology). And my understanding is that the methodology is indeed slightly warped. It sounds like one easily mixes the quality of teaching to the quality of the students and their coursework... Considering some second-hand comments from the evaluation of a series of randomly chosen dissertations.

By Ulla Rajala (not verified) on 26 Dec 2013 #permalink