THE MASTER-AFTER-MASTER’S IN BIOETHICS
SET UP ON AN INTERUNIVERSITY BASIS BY THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF LEUVEN (LEAD
INSTITUTION), THE RADBOUD UNIVERSITY OF NIJMEGEN, THE UNIVERSITY OF PADUA AND THE
UNIVERSITY OF BASEL
The master-after-master‟s programme in Bioethics is organised on an interuniversity basis and offered
by the Catholic University of Leuven (which acts as the lead institution) in conjunction with the
Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, the Fondazione Lanza (Padua) and the University of Basel. The
master-after-master‟s is organised as a part-time programme made up of 60 credits, spread over four
one-month residential periods (one per participating institution) over two years. The first two editions
were organised in 2000-2002 and 2002-2004. The third edition started in September 2005.
In September 2005, the European Commission selected this programme as an Erasmus Mundus
programme. This quality label and the accompanying funding are valid for five years.
In the context of this selection, it was decided to start up a simultaneous full-time curriculum as of
2006-2007 (three residential periods spread over the three terms of one academic year). Given
Switzerland‟s position within the E.U., the University of Basel cannot be involved in this programme
in structural terms. The full-time „Erasmus Mundus programme‟ does not differ from the part-time
master-after-master‟s programme in terms of content. The Basel programme components are taught at
the other institutions (with the cooperation of visiting lecturers from Basel).
At the time the committee was visiting the programme (autumn 2006), the second part of the third
edition of the part-time programme was underway and the full-time Erasmus Mundus programme had
just begun. As a clear parallel and interconnection between the two curricula were noted, when
assessing the part-time master-after-master‟s programme in Bioethics the committee also included the
full-time “Erasmus Mundus Master of Bio-ethics” curriculum where relevant. Officially these are two
separate programmes, but there are no differences as regards content, educational guidance and staff.
The committee‟s assessment of the “master-after-master‟s programme in Bioethics” can therefore be
projected to the “Erasmus Mundus Master in Bioethics” (unless otherwise indicated).
The financial, organisational and educational management of the programme (which grew out of
informal consultation between various European knowledge centres in the field of bioethics) was
officially laid down in a Cooperation Agreement. The day-to-day organisation is in the hands of the
Steering Committee, made up of representatives of the institutions involved. Under this Committee,
informal Teaching Commissions (which have now been formalised as such for the full-time
curriculum) operate per location. These Commissions report to the Steering Committee and undertake
the ongoing evaluation of the programme. The central coordination is carried out by the Catholic
University of Leuven.
A course coordinator is appointed for each programme component. Together, they are responsible for
the curriculum which is mainly (80%) taught by visiting lecturers. The first two editions were attended
by 15 and 21 students respectively, there are 20 students on the third edition and the full-time
curriculum began with 29 students.
When assessing the programme, the committee only visited the Leuven site. Thanks to the detailed
descriptions of the other locations in the self-evaluation report, conversations with lecturers and
steering committee members connected to these other locations and conversations with students and
graduates (partly by telephone), during which information about the other locations was checked, the
committee feels that it has obtained sufficient information about the programme components offered
programme report: Bioethics TRANSLATION 1
in Nijmegen, Padua and Basel. This means that the appraisals of the committee apply to all the
programme locations unless specifically stated otherwise.
Subject 1: Study Programme Objectives
In the programme‟s self-evaluation report, the general objective is introduced and worded as follows:
“Health care professionals and others professionally interested in medical ethics find themselves
increasingly confronted with moral questions and dilemmas. Such complex issues challenge the
people who have to deal with them every day. They require careful study and well-considered
judgement, as well as rigorous questioning and thorough debate. Nowadays ethics education has
become part of the curriculum of most European Health Care training programmes. However, in
Europe a concentrated grouping of such initiatives was lacking. With several European universities
and institutions, the Master of Bioethics aims to offer a post-academic, complementary education in
health care ethics with an effective and condensed learning trajectory according to specific objectives.
In formulating the objectives the standards of the concept Guided Independent Learning have been
integrated. Guided Independent Learning focuses its attention on the close relationship between
research and education.”
This general objective, with references to the Dublin descriptors for the third cycle, is further
developed in the self-evaluation report in terms of objectives in the field of knowledge, skills and
attitudes, to which attainment targets – classified in the same three groups – are linked.
The programme expressly adopts a European profile, aiming to offer students an alternative to the
dominant Anglo-Saxon representation of bio-ethical issues: “The Master of Bioethics is different and
unique due to its specific concentration on biomedical and health care issues. It is the only Master of
Bioethics offered on the European continent in English. In the Anglo-Saxon context educational
programmes in bioethics are numerous. But the design of the Master of Bioethics offers a different
approach. This programme specifically pays attention to continental European philosophical and
ethical traditions in health care ethics. It therefore has a wider theoretical perspective than the
analytical approach that is dominant in the Anglo-American atmosphere.”
The international scope of the programme is also incorporated into the profile: “The Master of
Bioethics offers a European education on ethical issues in health care. Both the European integration
and the exchange of experiences from different national realities will be fostered. The Master of
Bioethics wants to promote debate and the exchange of ideas and experiences among the participants
and staff from various countries. The curriculum aims to offer the possibility of developing a network
of contacts, which will comply with this.”
With these objectives, the programme targets “mid-career professionals who have a number of years‟
experience in health care and want to enhance their knowledge and skills in dealing with ethical
The objectives, attainment targets and programme profile can be found and freely consulted in the
information brochures and on the websites of the participating institutions. They are also explained to
the students in more detail during the introductory phase.
Appraisals of the assessment committee
Aspect 1.1: Level and Orientation
The committee believes that the general „mission statement‟ and the objectives and attainment targets
regarding knowledge and skills with respect to this programme derived from this, are well thought-out,
specific and clearly formulated, and largely meet the basic requirements as described by the committee
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in its reference framework. The only thing is that the reflection in attitudes could be more clear-cut
and more specific.
The programme aims to achieve a high level and in the view of the committee has found a good
balance between vocational and academic requirements: between teaching the skills needed to
function in ethics committees and teaching scientifically founded knowledge of the ethical traditions
and thought patterns and the skills to continue monitoring these closely and actively contribute to them
on a permanent basis.
The international dimension and orientation of this programme are very exceptional. When preparing
the programme, the institutions and research groups involved clearly spent a great deal of attention to
the profile and to a well-conceived international benchmarking. This gives the programme a
supportive vision that guides the teaching and also impacts positively on most of the aspects
The Erasmus Mundus recognition is clear appreciation of the proven quality and the international level
at which this programme operates.
The committee considers it an interesting challenge for the future to look at how the experiences with
students from the full-time Erasmus Mundus trajectory can be further integrated into the curriculum. It
may be expected that a greater emphasis will be placed on non-Western thought patterns and on a
third-world perspective on ethical problems. This will most probably also have to be reflected further
in the objectives.
Finally, the committee was also able to note that the programme is sufficiently active in making public
its objectives and requirements. Communication with students is clear, and students say that they are
properly informed of what is expected of them and of what they can expect from the programme.
The committee assesses the level and the orientation of the objectives as good.
Aspect 1.2: Domain-specific requirements
The programme is the result of informal consultation between a number of major players in the
international domain of bioethics. With a clear philosophical position (the European perspective with
an emphasis on the continental-philosophical and hermeneutical components of specific bioethical
issues as an alternative to the more unequivocal and reductionist Anglo-Saxon tradition) this
programme has a sharply delineated character of its own and a strong international orientation which
is greatly appreciated by students, graduates and (visiting) lecturers involved.
The objectives are well geared to the requirements of foreign colleagues and the attainment targets are
clearly derived from international scholarly activities. An Advisory Board, consisting of an
international group of leading experts in the field has been set up to assist the programme by providing
advice on further developments.
Moreover, the contribution of many visiting lecturers on the one hand and the outstanding research
results of core lecturers on the other ensure a connection with the vocational field and current
The committee assesses the domain-specific requirements as good.
General conclusion regarding subject 1: Study Programme Objectives
In view of the positive scores allocated to the aspects above, the reasons given and the comments
made, the committee is also able to give a positive appraisal of the subject.
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Subject 2: Curriculum
The programme curriculum can be divided into four thematic blocks: Clinical ethics (CE - 6 credits),
Thematic courses (TmC - 18 credits) Theoretical courses (TrC - 12 credits) and the Research
Component (RC - 24 credits). These blocks refer to the various objectives.
As regards the organisation, the part-time curriculum is spread over four residential periods (one per
participating institution), each lasting one month, during a two-year period, and is as follows:
-Nijmegen (September): „Introduction to Bioethics‟ (TrC); „Human Genetics and Medical Technology‟
(TmC), and „Palliative Care‟ (TmC) three credits each.
The stay in Nijmegen closes with the interuniversity „Interdisciplinary Research in Bioethics: seminar‟
(RC, three credits), attended by all core lecturers.
-Leuven (March): „Ethical Theories and Methods of Ethics (TrC, six credits); „Ethics of Reproductive
Technologies‟ (TmC, three credits).
During the course of the first year, students remain in contact with their personal mentor as part of the
programme component „Interdisciplinary Research in Bioethics: Publishable Paper‟ (RC, six credits).
-Basel (September): „Public Health and Prevention‟, „Treatment Decisions for Vulnerable Groups‟ and
„Choices in Health Care‟ (three TmCs, three credits each)
-Padua (March): „Clinical Bioethics‟ (CE), „Religion and Bioethics‟ (ThC) and „Research Ethics‟
(CE), (three credits each).
During the year, students remain in contact with their personal mentor as part of the „Interdisciplinary
Research in Bioethics: Publishable Paper‟ (RC, 15 credits).
All programme components are mandatory. There are no optional programme components.
The full-time Erasmus Mundus trajectory is similarly structured. Students go through three residential
periods in the course of one year (one per term), and the thematic programme components taught in
Basel for the part-time curriculum are divided among Leuven, Nijmegen and Padua (see introduction).
The content of these programme components remains the same as the Basel lecturers act as visiting
The self-evaluation report states that the programme directors are to look further at how the two
trajectories can be aligned in terms of the timetable so as to promote contacts between the two groups
Appraisals of the assessment committee
Aspect 2.1: Relationship between objectives and content of the curriculum
The programme‟s self-evaluation report looks in detail at the way in which the intended objectives and
attainment targets in the various components of the curriculum are implemented. The committee
appreciates the carefully considered manner in which this has been done. The curriculum has been
devised on the basis of a clear guiding vision, resulting in a sound and well supported structure. The
educational goals set out as regards knowledge, skills and – to a lesser extent – attitudes, are therefore
reflected in the clear, logically structured curriculum. The documents examined and the conversations
with programme directors and members of the Steering Committee also indicate that, partly thanks to
a clever and tailored quality assurance system (see also Subject 5), those involved are constantly
refining the curriculum.
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The profile sketched out in the objectives is also adequately achieved in the curriculum. The
multidisciplinary approach and the European angle are incorporated into the various programme
components (such as the interdisciplinary seminar, the „ethical theories‟ and the „introduction to
bioethics‟). According to the course descriptions, these bear the intended hermeneutic-continental
Thanks to the international organisation, the international student group and the involvement of
renowned visiting lecturers, the international dimension of the study programme may be considered
excellent. Experiences with the Erasmus Mundus programme, in which a larger proportion of non-
Western students may be expected, will most probably improve this still further. The committee
supports the plans to align the two trajectories more closely to one another.
The level of the curriculum corresponds to the target group of „mid-career professionals‟ without the
need for any adjustment, and both students and graduates spoke in glowing terms of the curriculum.
The implementation of the „Guided Independent Learning‟ educational concept is mainly adopted by
the Leuven and the Nijmegen departments and perhaps guides the concept less clearly at the other
programme locations. However, the fact that students get to know various educational cultures is
highly appreciated, and is also seen by the committee as a strong point of the programme. The
committee believes that the organisation of the programme (short, intensive residential periods,
alternating with individual self-study) is in itself an expression of the concept.
The committee assesses the relationship between the objectives and the content of the curriculum as
Aspect 2.2: Requirements of vocational and academic orientation
The committee believes that a thorough development of knowledge is assured in the theoretical
courses, where students are given a broad overview of the main thought patterns and traditions in the
field of health ethics. This is supplemented by thematic programme components in which specific and
recurrent topics from the field are examined in greater detail.
The link between research and (vocational) practice is established in both types of programme
component, with theory being confronted with the practical problems and cases that the students bring
with them from their various professional backgrounds. The students and alumni describe the periods
of intensive contact as intellectually very challenging, stimulating them to learn from one another as
well. Thanks to the outstanding achievements in the field of research and the input from the many
visiting lecturers, who are often major players in their field, feedback from the very latest research
developments to the course is further guaranteed.
These same channels mean that the curriculum also fits in well with practical vocational work. The
committee appreciates the input from an external Advisory Board, an advisory body made up of an
international selection of specialists or representatives of networks in the field involved in further
refining and updating the curriculum.
It is clear from the master‟s papers examined by the committee that the success as regards the research
skills taught in the first two editions varied owing to a lack of focused guidance in this area (see aspect
2.8). For the third edition, clear measures were taken that are reflected in the curriculum described
above. A new seminar has been created on research methodology, and a document has been produced
containing guidelines on developing a research plan. The need for better guidance for independent
research has been met by appointing a „personal mentor‟. The committee also feels it is a good idea to
make more room in the curriculum for teaching the formal guidelines and applicable rules and
standards of the subject field as regards writing (and having published) a „publishable paper‟. The
results of this intervention for the master‟s paper are still awaited, but in any case the committee is
satisfied with the energy with which this problem area is being tackled.
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The committee assesses the vocational and academic orientation of the curriculum as good.
Aspect 2.3: Coherence of the curriculum
As has already been said under aspect 2.1, the committee appreciates the consideration put into
devising the curriculum. The block structure is clear and is obviously based on a guiding vision. Face-
to-face instruction is limited and, according to the students and graduates, very intensive (they are
given a great deal to process in a short period), but nevertheless logical and sequential. Alumni and
students said both during the conversations and in the surveys conducted that the various programme
components do not overlap and in general they appreciate the good planning of the curriculum. The
quality assurance system is also organised in such a way (see also aspect 5.1) that if necessary any
problems that might occur can be dealt with efficiently.
The committee very much appreciates the fact that, despite transnational cooperation between
different universities with different cultures, which cannot be taken for granted, a clear unity and
coherence is maintained throughout the curriculum. By means of a written covenant, structured
consultation bodies and the appointment of course coordinators, the programme directors adopt a
proactive approach to content management, something which is also necessary given the large
proportion of visiting lecturers. The committee also supports the continued search for possible positive
mutual impacts between both options.
The full-time option is basically structured in line with the same principles and the same logic. The
curriculum is concentrated in three successive terms. Writing the master‟s paper will probably be a
major challenge here.
One possible approach for the future could be to develop more personal trajectories. In the light of the
differentiation among the entrants, who include both doctors and non-doctors, the idea of competence-
based individual pathways could be considered, for example (see also aspect 2.9).
The committee assesses the coherence of the curriculum as good.
Aspect 2.4: Size of the curriculum
The curriculum of 60 credits satisfies the requirements regarding the scope of the studies determined
Aspect 2.5: Study load
As with all the programmes covered by this assessment, the study load in this master-after-master‟s
programme is also a focus of attention. The committee refers here first of all to what it stated on this
matter in the preamble to the appraisals.
As regards the part-time option, the situation is acceptable. However, the self-evaluation report does
indicate that here, too, the actual study time turns out to be too little (It is worth mentioning here that
the study time is constantly monitored by means of study time measurements). The objective
conclusion is therefore that the study load is too low. However, this is placed into perspective by a
number of contextual factors.
Students and alumni emphatically disagree with this finding. In their experience, the programme
demands a great deal of input, which can also be seen in the reasons for the (limited) dropout rate,
which is attributed first and foremost to the study load (see also aspect 6.2). According to them,
account should be taken of the organisation of their studies against the background of their
professional activities. This is confirmed by the programme directors, who also point out that a
different study method is used in this curriculum: partly because, owing to their profile, the students
process the material more rapidly and more efficiently than „regular‟ master‟s students, and partly due
to the organisation of the examinations directly after each residential period, study time is distorted: it
is shorter, but more intensive. The committee also noted that the master‟s paper, which is actually
spread over two years, is in fact very well feasible. The quality is unequal (due mainly to a lack of
guidance), but ten students have already succeeded in publishing works in peer review magazines.
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In addition, the results of the study time measurements are not yet complete – only two residential
periods have been covered – and consequently may be further distorted. In any case, the committee is
pleased to note that the measurements are being continued and closely monitored and that they are also
to be compared with the results of the full-time curriculum.
This full-time curriculum, in which the actual duration of the „course‟ is substantially shortened,
displays more similarities with other one-year programmes involved in this assessment process. The
feasibility of the master‟s paper could well be a major challenge here. This pathway (unlike the
comparable one-year master-after-master‟s programmes) however is followed by full-time residential
and mostly subsidised students, and the measures that have already been taken to anticipate this
possible problem area should be noted (see also aspects 2.2 and 2.8). The Steering Committee and the
Teaching Commissions confirmed that they are keeping a very close eye on this possible problem and
the committee would certainly like to encourage them further in this.
Given these findings and a reference to the good quality circle already mentioned, the committee
members believe that generally speaking, they can have confidence in this aspect and therefore be
The committee assesses the study load of the curriculum as satisfactory.
Aspect 2.6: Alignment between form and content
The committee is particularly satisfied with the way in which the objectives are developed in
educational terms in the work forms and in the general organisation of the curriculum. The
contribution of the visionary guidance by the programme directors in this respect has already been
praised several times. According to the committee, an exemplary balance has been achieved between
maintaining the individuality of each participating institution on the one hand and implementing a
binding view of the way the curriculum is developed on the other. Basic educational principles are
discussed and worked out in the steering group and in consultation with the course coordinators, who
in turn inform the visiting lecturers. The circle is completed by the weekly hearings at which any
problem areas are discussed and resolved efficiently and if possible immediately.
The committee believes that the curriculum offers a wealth of forms of education which are also
tailored to the curriculum contents. The conversations held and the documents submitted by the
programme indicate that basic texts and theoretical concepts are processed at home through self-study,
and discussed and tested against the varying backgrounds of the students during the intensive
residential periods. The quality of the study material submitted is high and this material reflects the
current international state of affairs in the area. During classes, the students are stimulated to take an
active part by (visiting) lecturers who are often renowned specialists in the field and can therefore
constantly refer back to recent international developments. The contexts acquired are further tested
against the practice of ethical committees through role plays. In group discussions and case
presentations, the principle of „problem solved learning‟ is applied, whereby specific cases are
analysed and discussed by the students themselves and in which awareness of possible standpoints and
of one‟s own perspective plays an important role. During each stay, excursions are also organised, for
instance to fertility and drug prevention centres. The third edition of the curriculum is experimenting
with the possibilities offered by the Leuven e-learning platform „Toledo‟. The committee encourages
the further use of this platform (see also aspect 4.1).
During the discussions, students and alumni said that the programme is a very enriching and
stimulating experience both intellectually and as regards personal development. Lecturers, for their
part, also said that they had great pleasure in being involved in this programme and found it enriching.
Both groups say they learn from one another.
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In the view of the committee, such a combination of enthusiastic, educational guidance that results in
the exemplary balance referred to above, the thorough monitoring, the creative organisational and
didactic development and the international background against which the curriculum is taught can
serve as an example for other programmes.
The committee assesses the alignment between form and content of the curriculum as excellent.
Aspect 2.7: Assessment and testing
In the part-time curriculum, the examinations are organised at the end of each residential period. In the
full-time option, this is done at the end of each term. The evaluation formats vary in line with the
traditions of the participating institutions. However, minimum requirements have been laid down in
the Cooperation Agreement and criteria, examination formats and standards have been set out for each
programme component and passed on to the students in writing and orally. The committee appreciates
the fact that there are clear guidelines and instructions for the take-home assignments, the clinical case
presentations, the literature reviews, the research plan, the presentation of research results and the
publishable paper. Students and alumni said they were satisfied with the information provided and the
communication on the evaluation.
In the view of the committee, coherence in the assessment is adequately monitored by standard
evaluation forms for each of the evaluation formats referred to above. Besides this, one of the
programme directors is present at each case presentation and both the evaluation during oral
examinations and the assessment of papers is undertaken by more than one lecturer. The course
coordinators communicate with one another on the content of the examinations and mutual exchanges
are also held on the distribution of the marks. Finally, an examination board, operating separately,
determines the final result for each student. If there are any complaints, the students can contact the
central coordinator and the ombudsperson appointed for each university.
The committee is therefore very satisfied with the transparency and quality assurance of the test
Judging by the sample questions examined, the committee believes that knowledge and insight are
clearly tested and in addition the various integrating test formats also indicate that the evaluation is
linked to the objectives set. Students and graduates confirm this finding. Finally, the questions
correspond to the expected level.
The committee assesses the testing and evaluation as good.
Aspect 2.8: Master’s paper
The master‟s paper („publishable paper‟) accounts for 21 credits out of a total of 60 credits and
therefore fulfils the requirements laid down by decree.
The objective of the paper is rightly described in the self-evaluation report as “a written report of the
student‟s personal work (…) aimed at developing independent and scientific thoughts and
applications. The aim to write a publishable article wants to focus on the importance of the scientific
pole in the curriculum”. Account is taken of the relevance of the work in the bio-ethical debate, the
structure of the argument, the use of recent literature and an adequate methodology.
As indicated earlier in this report (see aspect 2.2), the level of the master's papers from the first two
editions examined by the committee appeared to vary. A number of master‟s papers did not achieve
the expected level, while others clearly showed evidence of the analytical and independent problem-
solving capability of the student. Ten master‟s papers led to publications in peer review magazines.
Questions about the cause of this imbalance asked during conversations with alumni and study
programme directors revealed that there appeared to be mainly a lack of adequate (methodological)
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This has apparently now been dealt with by organising a seminar dealing, amongst other things, with
looking for and processing sources, developing a research plan and drawing up a bibliographical list.
A personal mentor is also appointed for each student, who supervises and guides the various stages in
the production of the paper. The committee repeats its recommendation about making room in the
curriculum for teaching the formal guidelines and applicable rules and standards in the field of study
as regards writing (and possibly publishing) a „publishable paper‟.
After the seminar, the students are expected, in conjunction with their mentor, to choose a subject and
then draw up a research plan that is assessed separately. After this, two „take-home assignments‟ are
carried out – preliminary studies in the form of short articles – which in turn are assessed against a
fixed standard announced in advance. After this, the students can begin working on their publishable
paper. The self-evaluation report states that guidance in this phase is made more difficult by the fact
that students are in their home countries when this task is carried out. Contact takes place by e-mail
and through written feedback. Experiments are being conducted with multimedia applications such as
Flashmeeting and Skype. The committee certainly encourages further initiatives in this direction.
The process ends with a presentation of the work during an open session and the evaluation of the
paper, a process which also involves a second member of staff who acts as a reviewer.
Bearing in mind the above observations and suggestions, the committee is satisfied with the way in
which the preparation, guidance and assessment are dealt with and appreciates the development of
standards and guidelines for the various phases in this process. Improvement courses have been set up
and seem convincing. The Steering Committee also said that this will continue to be a primary focus
of attention. Of course, the results still have to be awaited.
The same applies for the full-time curriculum. This was started up with the same new measures. As
has already been said (see aspect 2.5), the shorter time span available may be expected to be offset by
the fact that the full-time students are also full-time residents. Given the guidance and the attention
paid to this possible problem area (including study time measurements and regular hearings), the
committee is confident that here, too, a basic quality level will be achieved.
The committee assesses the master’s paper aspect as satisfactory.
Aspect 2.9: Entrance conditions
The study programme directors say that they are aiming for a clear target public in the form of „mid-
career professionals‟, which the committee sees as very positive. An extensive selection process at the
outset is therefore applied.
- Only holders of a master‟s degree are admitted. To this end, the programme cooperates with the
„Office for International Students and Scholars‟.
- Candidate students should have a good knowledge of spoken and written English, and this is checked
by means of the customary TOEFL or IELTS tests.
- A detailed application dossier should be compiled, containing academic, vocational and financial
information and a covering letter, amongst other things.
A selection committee then draws up a ranking, on the basis of which potential candidates are invited
for an interview (by telephone or organised via the Internet). On the basis of this, a further ranking is
drawn up, taking account of study results, the number of years of academic education, knowledge of
English, vocational experience, any publications, specific ethical activities and motivation.
The part-time curriculum is self-supporting, which means that students have to look for funds.
However, the programme helps with this search as much as possible. If an insufficient number of
suitable candidates are found, then the curriculum cannot be arranged (as was the case in 2004-2006).
The Erasmus Mundus grants are available for the full-time curriculum.
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The committee considers this procedure transparent and objective. It also appreciates the efforts
which, according to conversations with programme directors, are being made to ensure that candidate
students are clearly informed of expectations in advance and to help them find funding.
The committee also believes that thanks to the good provision of information and the stringent
selection process, the curriculum is geared well to the qualifications of the incoming students. The
committee assesses the way the curriculum is organised (see also aspects 2.3 and 2.6) as very positive.
Under aspect 2.3, reference is made to a possible line of thinking for the future, with a view to
developing more individual pathways. The programme already has the information needed to achieve
this through the intake conversations.
The committee assesses the admission requirements aspect as good.
General conclusion regarding subject 2: Curriculum
In view of the positive scores allocated to each aspect above and the reasons given, the committee is
also able to give a positive appraisal of the subject.
Subject 3: Deployment of staff
Aspect 3.1: Quality of staff
The programme is supported by the „Steering Committee‟ (which consists of representatives of the
participating institutions and which is responsible for the academic level and the organisation of the
curriculum) and the „course coordinators‟ (who are in charge of the programme components given and
of bringing in visiting lecturers). There is also one local coordinator per location who, together with
two programme managers (one from Nijmegen and one from Leuven) takes care of the administrative
and organisational aspects of the programme. The staff regulations and provisions on appointment,
promotion, professionalisation and quality assurance of the institutions at which they are appointed
apply for these people. The staffing is de facto the same for the two options. As has already been said,
the Basel lecturers are deployed in the full-time curriculum as visiting lecturers.
Visiting lecturers, who give 80% of the courses, are invited on the basis of educational qualities and
academic or vocational merits in the field.
On the basis of the courses examined and the teaching material, the curricula vitae submitted and
discussions with the staff, the students and the alumni, the committee is very satisfied with the
expertise of the staff involved in terms of specialist knowledge and educational, didactic and
organisational skills. As stated under aspects 2.3 and 2.6, the committee particularly appreciates the
educational guidance of the programme and the attention paid to content management. The good
organisation of the internal quality assurance is also a positive point in this respect.
The students and graduates were also full of praise for the staff. Their openness, personal enthusiasm
and flexibility were mentioned several times and considered a decisive element in the stimulating and
intensive learning environment. This enthusiasm was also reflected in the conversations with the
lecturers, who clearly display an affective involvement in this programme.
The committee assesses the staff quality aspect as good.
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Aspect 3.2: Requirements of vocational and academic orientation
The capital in terms of research expertise and vocational experience brought in to this programme via
the core lecturers and the visiting lecturers is exceptional. Judging by the list of visiting lecturers, these
are often internationally renowned specialists, while the list of publications submitted indicates that
the core lecturers from the participating institutions are also particularly active on the international
scene. The range of topics and specialisations offered spans the entire field covered by the objectives
of the programme. As part of the expected greater emphasis on the non-Western perspective (see
aspect 1.1) , further diversification of the teaching staff is to be recommended.
The committee considers the expertise of both the core and the visiting lecturers to be excellent,
guaranteeing that the curriculum is firmly embedded in the international field of study. Students come
into contact with absolute leading figures in the field.
The committee assesses the vocational and the academic orientation of the staff as excellent.
Aspect 3.3: Quantity of staff
According to the information in the self-evaluation report, the core group – the members most
intensively involved in the curriculum – consists of six people from Leuven, five from Nijmegen, four
from Padua and three from Basel. These people fulfil various functions, acting amongst other things as
members of the Steering Committee, Course Coordinators (who also officially form a Teaching
Commission for the full-time curriculum per location), members of the examining board, local
coordinators or curriculum managers. The non-exhaustive list of visiting lecturers involved during the
first two editions contains around a hundred names. The self-evaluation report mentions the strikingly
small number of female lecturers in the programme. More attention will be paid to this in the future.
Funding is provided for the (self-supporting) part-time option by students‟ fees and for the full-time
Erasmus Mundus curriculum option via the European Commission. This means that the staffing is de
facto the same, but officially different for the two curricula. Thanks to the strong financial support for
the Erasmus Mundus pathway, the level of professionalism can be further improved, and this also
benefits the part-time option: recent achievements in the context of the full-time curriculum (for
instance the appointment of a full-time curriculum manager and the introduction of separate Teaching
Commissions) are also used for the part-time option. Additional funding for staff deployment is
further borne by the institutions involved.
Given the number of students (15, 21 and 20 in the three respective part-time editions and 29 in the
first full-time course), the observations made above and the impression gained by the committee
during the conversations that the distribution is arranged to everyone‟s satisfaction in accordance with
the existing covenant, the committee is satisfied with this aspect.
The committee assesses the quantity of staff aspect as satisfactory.
General conclusion regarding subject 3: Deployment of staff
In view of the positive scores allocated to the respective aspects and the reasons given, the committee
is also able to give a positive appraisal of the subject.
Subject 4: Facilities
Aspect 4.1: Material facilities
The committee only visited the Leuven facilities when assessing this programme. However, the
committee members received sufficient information on the facilities (guest rooms, computer facilities,
programme report: Bioethics TRANSLATION 11
libraries, seminar rooms, classrooms) in Nijmegen, Padua and Basel by means of a detailed
PowerPoint presentation submitted before the visit. This information was supplemented by
information from the self-evaluation report which was further checked during the various
conversations. The committee considers this a sufficient basis for its appraisal.
The local coordinator arranges accommodation where the students can stay together for the students
on the part-time option. Arrangements are made for suitable classrooms, shared meals (often with
lecturers) and guest rooms. At the start of each stay, an introductory meeting is also organised, at
which students are shown their way around the institution and the town. Surveys among alumni
indicate a high level of satisfaction with the accommodation. The pictures shown to the committee and
conversations with the students also demonstrate that well cared-for premises which are adequately
equipped to accommodate this group of students are available at all the participating institutions. A
few minor problems relating to the organisation of meal times in Basel and a couple of
misunderstandings during the stay in Padua have since been put right.
For the students on the full-time option, accommodation is arranged by the accommodation services at
the various participating institutions. The initial signs here, too, indicate that there are no problems.
All the students are given an e-mail address for the entire duration of the programme. This is used to
communicate with the staff, the administrative services or fellow students. An Internet connection is
also provided in the accommodation.
One possible improvement measure (mainly for the part-time curriculum), in the view of the
committee, would be to look into the possibilities offered by an electronic learning environment for
this aspect, as well, so that a „virtual space‟ in which the various applications can be centralised is
available during the periods when the students are at home.
The committee thinks that the class rooms used at the four participating institutions are adequately
equipped with comparable audiovisual aids that can provide sufficient support for the course.
All students are given access to the various university libraries during their stay. The committee
believes that one major improvement has been made in this respect by providing electronic access to
the Leuven library, which is very easily accessible and contains the necessary material, throughout the
entire curriculum, so that this can also be consulted from the students‟ homes. However, due to
technical difficulties, only limited use has been made of this as yet, but the programme directors said
during the conversations that these problems have since been resolved and that the students are now
given more targeted information about the possibilities of this tool.
The committee believes that the material facilities available to this programme are comparable with
those of other programmes visited and therefore assesses these as satisfactory.
Aspect 4.2: Student guidance
Potential entrants obtain their information mainly via the websites of the institutions concerned and
from the brochures. During the extensive selection procedure, candidate students find out more about
the requirements of the programme and get to know the lecturers. The first contacts on site are mainly
followed up by the local coordinator. A reader containing practical information is provided in advance
and the students are told more about the way the programme is organised during an information
session. The committee appreciates the fact that the programme also organises informal events
(dinners, outings) to promote group cohesion. It encourages the programme to do this for the full-time
students as well as far as is possible.
The close and intensive contact during their stay means that in fact the students receive personal
guidance from various members of staff during the course. In the context of the full-time course that
has just started up, a full-time staff member has been appointed to take care of non-academic
assistance. This person is also available to students on the part-time course. As regards academic
matters, all the information about the objectives, course contents, and formats and standards of
programme report: Bioethics TRANSLATION 12
evaluation are set out in clear documents (see also aspects 2.7 and 2.8). In addition, there are also
personal contacts with motivated and involved coordinators and lecturers that are greatly appreciated
by the graduates and students.
The committee also greatly appreciates the regular feedback times organised during each residential
period (see also aspect 5.1), when any needs in terms of study guidance or information can be dealt
The committee considers all aspects of the support and guidance to be excellent, although the guidance
for the master‟s paper from the first two courses, which was less well organised, should also be taken
into account here.
The committee assesses all aspects of the student support and guidance as good.
General conclusion regarding subject 4: Facilities
In view of the positive scores allocated to the respective aspects above, the reasons given and the
comments made, the committee is also able to give a positive appraisal of the subject.
Subject 5: Internal Quality Assurance
Aspect 5.1: Evaluation of the results
The „Cooperation Agreement‟ signed by the participating institutions states that the internal quality
assurance of the programme is in the hands of the Steering Committee: “As far as the M.i.B. [Master
in Bioethics] degree course is concerned, an Internal Quality Assurance Protocol is operating, in care
of the M.i.B. Steering Committee, based on student evaluations (both single course unit and overall
degree-course evaluations) and on permanent revisiting, updating and improvement of the
With the implementation of the Erasmus Mundus pathway, in addition to the Steering Committee a
Teaching Commission has been officially set up in each location to monitor the educational aspects of
the curriculum. These committees report to one another and to the Steering Committee. A similar body
is now being set up for the part-time option, where an informal counterpart of this structure already
The committee is also pleased to note that the educational support service in Leuven is closely
involved in the quality assurance of the programme. It assisted, amongst other things, with preparing
the students and alumni surveys and arranging and monitoring the study time measurements.
The committee therefore believes that the structural conditions are in place for a good quality
In the view of the committee, the policy adopted by these structures demonstrates a professional
approach tailored to this programme. As has already been said, there is a broadly held vision among
the lecturers involved, as well as a good curriculum content management, which works proactively as
regards possible problem areas in terms of content or smooth adaptation to international developments.
In addition, each course week is assessed separately. At the start of the week students are given
evaluation forms for each programme component (on the level and relevance of the courses, the study
load, the study material, the learning activities, etc.) and a collective hearing is organised at the end of
the week. Any smaller problems can be resolved during the course itself. A report is drawn up on the
forms and the hearings and this is discussed by the Steering Committee. The results of all these
surveys indicate that there is a high level of satisfaction with the programme.
In addition, an alumni survey was conducted among graduates from the first two courses, focusing
mainly on the effect of the diploma on their careers. According to the programme directors, a similar
survey is planned after the third edition and at the end of the full-time curriculum.
programme report: Bioethics TRANSLATION 13
The committee is also satisfied with the self-evaluation report, which is critical and contains sufficient
detail. Along with the conversations, it gave the committee a clear picture of the personal enthusiasm
and dedication of those involved, who can also be approached directly by the students should any
bottlenecks arise. Students and graduates said that they are able to communicate in an open and
The committee assesses the evaluation of the results as good.
Aspect 5.2: Improvement measures
The committee believes that the results of the evaluation mechanisms referred to above form the basis
for various improvement measures that can be demonstrated. The consultancy bodies constantly
monitor the organisation and content of the programme and make corrective adjustments where
necessary. A fast and efficient approach to any temporary practical problems is assured during the
study course itself thanks to the very short lines (weekly hearings). Students and alumni gave various
examples of this during the conversations.
As regards the more structural points of concern, a dynamic approach has been adopted to the master‟s
paper (seminar, improved guidance – see also aspects 2.2 and 2.8) and a careful eye is kept on study
time by means of the measurements taken (see also aspect 2.5). Other examples that point to a
professional approach are the various protocols and guidelines that have been drawn up to guarantee
the quality of the evaluation and assessment (see also aspect 2.6).
The committee believes that work on the programme is undertaken with dynamism and
professionalism by a team of dedicated people who also have a clear vision of further developments.
The committee assesses the measures for improvement taken as good.
Aspect 5.3: Involvement of staff, students, alumni and the vocational field
As can be seen from the reasons given regarding the two aspects discussed above, the programme
takes very good care to involve various players. Staff members (from core lecturers to visiting
lecturers) are clearly involved in the policy, both formally and informally, the Leuven educational
service helps with the development of quality assurance tools, students and alumni are heard on a very
regular basis through hearings, surveys and informal contacts, and finally, via the visiting lecturers and
the Advisory Board (an advisory body made up of an international selection of specialists or
representatives of networks in the field), the vocational field and various specialists in the subject are
also involved in further refining and updating the curriculum.
The international character of the programme makes it more difficult to organise separate alumni
activities in line with the programme. However, the committee noted for instance that contact is
maintained by inviting alumni to congresses organised by the programme. They are also thinking
about setting up an alumni portal on the website.
As the programme is spread over time, it is understandable that structural student representation in the
decision-making bodies is difficult to arrange. In the full-time curriculum, there is a representative on
the Steering Committee and on the Teaching Commission, and this is sure to have positive
consequences for the part-time course as well.
The committee assesses the involvement of the various sections in the internal quality assurance as
General conclusion regarding subject 5: Internal quality assurance
In view of the positive scores allocated to the aspects above, the reasons given and the comments
made, the committee is able to give a positive appraisal of the subject.
programme report: Bioethics TRANSLATION 14
Subject 6: Results
Aspect 6.1: Level achieved
Apart from the varying quality level of the master‟s papers noted (see aspect 2.8), the committee is
very satisfied with the extent to which the objectives are achieved. Partly thanks to the stringent
selection at the outset, a high level is attained. Surveys among alumni and students indicate a high
degree of satisfaction here, too. The curriculum is said to be enriching not only in professional terms
(most graduates have been able to take further steps in their careers thanks to the curriculum), but also
in terms of personal development and deepening of the knowledge, skills and attitudes covered by the
The achievements recorded in the field of internationalisation, as regards both students and lecturers,
are excellent, because they are inherent in the organisation and objectives of the programme. The
Erasmus Mundus label is clearly a consequence of this. The full-time option organised in this context
is sure to contribute further to this in the future.
Another sign of the good level attained is the fact that this programme also has a demonstrable impact
in the field: via new forms of cooperation between (visiting) lecturers developed further to this
curriculum, the European perspective of bio-ethical issues is being spread further.
The attention being paid to better guidance of the master‟s paper is sure to benefit the level further.
The committee assesses the level achieved in the programme as good
Aspect 6.2: Educational yield
Thanks partly to the stringent selection of entrants, the educational yield if fairly high. No express
targets are set. The programme directors aim for the best possible yield. Of the 36 students registered,
three have left the curriculum without a diploma. The average duration of the first two editions was
2.1 and 2.05 years. The main reason for the (limited) dropout rate or longer study period is the
difficulty of combining work, family and studies. For instance, one of the students who dropped out
chose a different career during the course of the studies.
The committee is very satisfied with this result.
The committee therefore assesses the educational yield of the programme as good.
General conclusion regarding subject 6: Results
In view of the positive scores attributed to the various aspects above, the reasons given and the
comments made, the committee is able to give a positive appraisal of the subject.
Final assessment of the assessment committee
Given the positive conclusions reached on the six subjects, the assessment committee believes
that the master-after-master’s in Bioethics (including the full-time Erasmus Mundus option
‘Master in Bio-ethics’) is sufficient to assure generic quality, and therefore comes to a positive
final conclusion regarding the programme.
With a view to improvement, the assessment committee also makes the following additional
The objectives could be reflected in the attitudes more clearly and more practically.
programme report: Bioethics TRANSLATION 15
An interesting challenge for the future (in the context of the further link between the full-time
Erasmus Mundus option and the part-time course) is the inclusion of non-Western
perspectives on ethical debates in the programme objectives.
In this case it will probably also be necessary to examine the advisability of a structural
implementation of these non-Western perspectives in the curriculum.
One possible approach for the future is the development of more personal trajectories. In the
light of the differentiation among the entrants, who include both doctors and non-doctors, it
would be worth considering, for instance, competence-based individual pathways.
The issue of the study load should continue to be closely monitored for both options.
With a view to further improving the master‟s paper, room should be made in the curriculum
for teaching formal guidelines and the rules and standards applicable in the field of study as
regards writing (and having published) „publishable papers‟.
In the context of the implementation of the non-Western perspective, steps could be taken
further to diversify the teaching staff.
Facilities and provisions:
The possibilities of a more thorough use of an electronic (teaching) platform should be further
As far as possible, the programme should also organise activities to promote group cohesion
for the full-time students as well.
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