Programme director's handbook

Curriculum design practices at Aalto University

An aim of curriculum design is a programme that helps students acquire the competence they will need in their field in the future and to acquire it within the target time frame. On this page, you can acquaint yourself with the Aalto University practices, processes, actors and roles involved in curriculum design.

What do we improve when developing the curriculum?

Curriculum decisions are made not only in designing the two-year curriculum, but also when developing the school portfolio and the selection of teaching offered. School portfolio development means developing the university’s degree programmes and doctoral programmes. Developing the teaching offered means improving courses and their implementations within the framework of the curriculum that is currently in force.

An aim of curriculum design is to produce a future-oriented and learning-centric curriculum. The foundation of curriculum design includes learning-centric teaching, improvement grounded in continual assessment, and intended learning outcomes that are continually developed and formulated to be clearly consistent with the programme’s purpose. The two-year curriculum period gives programmes time to carry out major revisions, should they or the school identify a need to so do.

The curriculum design practices, instructions, guidelines and support are developed according to model of continual development. 

What happens in curriculum design? 

Curriculum design consists of four processes:

  • Developing a programme curriculum: The aim of the process is a programme that helps students acquire meaningful learning for the future and to do so within the target time frame.
  • Managing the work of curriculum design at the university and school levels: The aim of this process is to ensure a  well-functioning foundation for developing the curriculum. Such a foundation is made up of the principles and goals that guide the work, a functioning process, support to meet the needs of academic staff, and a continual improvement process.
  • Decision-making and drawing up the curriculum: The aim of this process is to produce an approved curriculum, publish it, and ensure that it fulfils the criteria set for it.
  • Planning the educational selection: The aim of this process is to plan the course implementations, including the timing of courses, so that they are in alignment and promote student capabilities to graduate within the target time frame. 

What are the curriculum design goals and methods based on? 

The university’s curriculum design is guided by the university’s strategy, national statutes, and European acts and enactments. Curriculum design is also guided by other Aalto regulations, such as the Aalto University General Regulations on Teaching and Studying (OOS) and other relevant decisions and guidelines.

Regulations, policies and guidelines for curriculum design at Aalto University
The university strategy and the strategy implementation plan
The Degree Regulations and the General Regulations on Teaching and Studying
Decisions affecting the curriculum: Decision concerning the two-year curriculum, decision on delegating curriculum decisions

University Academic Affairs Committee guidelines on preparation of programmes and curricula:

Meeting 16 May 2017

Meeting 10 December 2013

Meeting 20 November 2012

Meeting 30 August 2011

Meeting 11 May 2010

Aalto University Language Guidelines
Curriculum policies
Curriculum information for approval concerning programmes and study modules,courses, teaching periods, making changes to currently valid curriculum and the curriculum preparation timetable

How is a curriculum prepared and approved?

Preparation of curricula follows the aims set at the university, school and programme level. These aims are based on the university strategy. The Learning Steering Group (LeSG) under the leadership of the vice president provides guidelines containing the agreed goals of the university for each curriculum period.

The school academic affairs committee and vice dean for education guide the work on the programmes in the schools. If desired, the school academic affairs committee and the vice dean for education may give school-specific guidelines and instructions to support the preparation of the curricula.

The programmes are responsible for setting the development targets in line with the guidelines of the university and the school and with the needs identified in the programme assessments. The development work is performed in the programmes and the departments. The director of the degree programme is in charge of the development work, which usually includes participation by the programme teachers, students and stakeholders. The drafts and preliminary information resulting from the development work is distributed within the university, so that interdependencies may be noted in the planning before the decision-making.

The curriculum is also an administrative decision, the preparation of which proceeds according to the university’s joint timetable. Learning Services (LES) supports the programmes in ensuring that the curricula include descriptions of all the necessary information about the programmes, study modules and courses. Before the finishing changes and decision-making are applied to the documents, the matters agreed to at the university and school level are reviewed, based on the preliminary information, drafts and summaries.

The school’s academic committee or the University Academic Affairs Committee formally approves the curricula before their publication. In the fields of art and technology, curricula are approved in the degree programme committees before the decision-making meeting of the school’s academic committee. The processes of supporting the preparation work and the review stages ensure that the curriculum submitted for approval corresponds with the aims and guidelines.

Changes to a currently valid curriculum

Curricula are valid for a period of two academic years. They are not meant to be changed during the two-year period. Students have a right to assume that the information in a curriculum is reliable, that for example the course assessment criteria, the course’s place in the timetable or selection of courses offered, and the studies required for a degree will remain unchanged during the time the curriculum is in force.

As a rule, no changes may be made to a curriculum during the two-year period when it is valid. These include changes to the intended learning outcomes and degree requirements of the programmes and study modules, as well as changes to the course descriptions. At times, changes are unavoidable and justified. This section discusses what kinds of changes are possible and how the matter is decided.

Other instructions related to this topic

Kirjahyllyjä ja kirjoja lukusalissa.

Curriculum design glossary

Below you will find definitions of the terms used in these curriculum design instructions.

Programme director's handbook

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Curriculum design at Aalto University

Aalto University’s curriculum design guidelines and schedule aims at supporting sustainable, future led degree programmes.

Programme director's handbook
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