FINHEEC conducts three principal types of evaluations:
- Audits of quality systems of higher education institutions (universities and universities of applied sciences)
- Centres of Excellence in Education evaluations
- Thematic evaluations and programme/field-specific evaluations
Audits are evaluations of higher education institutions' quality systems. In other words, the processes and procedures that the institution uses to maintain, develop and enhance the quality of its education and other activities.
Centres of Excellence in Education are selected separately for the university and universities of applied sciences sectors. FINHEEC proposes Centres of Excellence to the Ministry of Education and Culture, which grants performance-based funding to the selected units.
As regards the thematic evaluations and programme/field-specific evaluations, FINHEEC applies the following criteria in choosing the evaluation targets: the field or theme must be significant with regard to education and society, rapidly growing and developing or problematic. FINHEEC may also undertake evaluation projects under a mandate from the Ministry of Education and Culture, as is the case with the selection of Centres of Excellence in Education.
Moreover, FINHEEC conducts evaluations as contract work commissioned by HEIs and the Ministry of Education and Culture, provided that the evaluations fit thematically into FINHEEC's strategy. In practice, contracted evaluations have so far only concerned higher education institutions that are not administered by the Ministry of Education and Culture.
As far as evaluation processes are concerned, FINHEEC does not have a rigid, predetermined evaluation pattern that is applied in every project. The methods used in evaluations can vary according to the evaluation target and the phrasing of the evaluation questions.
At the beginning of each project, the objectives and implementation practices of the evaluation are defined. The perspective and suitable evaluation methods for the project are also specified at this stage. When deciding on the process and methods, FINHEEC actively strives to take the special characteristics of the evaluation target into consideration. The aim is to achieve a coherent evaluation scheme that corresponds to the evaluation needs in the best possible way. This includes analysing the perspectives of the higher education units under review. The following outline, however, acts as a basic pattern that most evaluation projects follow:
1. The Council makes a decision on an evaluation and appoints a steering committee.
2. The steering committee makes a proposal to the Council about the composition of an external evaluation team as well as drafts both a review and a project plan.
3. The Council appoints the external evaluation team and approves the project plan.
4. The HEIs under review compile self-evaluation reports for the external evaluation team.
5. The external evaluation team visits the higher education institutions involved and writes a report on the evaluation.
6. The evaluation report is published.