Study Programme Competencies (Programme-specific Learning Outcomes - OLR)

The following Education Tip provides inspiration for the chapter 'Study Programme Competencies (Programme-specific Learning Outcomes - OLRs)' in the Education Monitor. Separate suggestions are given for the PLAN and the DO sections, if applicable.


What are study programme competencies or study programme-specific learning outcomes?

At Ghent University the terms 'study programme competencies' or 'study programme-specific learning outcomes (OLR)' are used interchangeably. Both terms identify observable and measurable knowledge, skills, and attitudes that students have obtained by the end of a study programme. The study programme competencies/learning outcomes are an operationalisation of the study programme’s vision/mission, strategic choices, profile and characterisation. 

Ghent University’s competency-based approach emphasises 'the integration of knowledge, skills, and attitudes in mainly complex theoretical and/or specific situations' within its study programmes. 

Competencies are also formulated at the level of individual course units. Within the context of Ghent University, these are called (course-specific) ‘final competencies’. The link between programme-specific competencies and course-specific competencies is covered under 1.2.1.

Which standards should study programme competencies (OLR) meet? 

Study programme competencies must be in accordance with a number of guidelines and constraints:

  • the Dublin descriptors
  • requirements set by the Higher Education Codex Art.II.141
  • the European Framework for Lifelong Learning (EQF) 
  • the Flemish Qualifications Framework (FQF)
  • the domain-specific reference framework (DLR) of the study programme

More information on the first 4 frameworks mentioned above can be found via the Ghent University Competency Model, which contains guidelines for study programmes when writing appropriate study programme competencies (OLR). 

Most of the university’s study programmes follow the Ghent University Competency Model. Some study programmes, however, have valid reasons for not doing so (existing European reference frameworks, opting for roles-based frameworks such as e.g. CanMEDS, etc…). Nevertheless, every study programme must check their competency model with the UGent competency model in Oasis. 

More information can be found in the Oasis manual (in Dutch), or from a quality assurance staff member. This Oasis manual contains all the information on how to set up and manage study programme competencies and course competencies in Oasis.

The programme-specific competencies (learning outcomes/Dutch: opleidingsleerresultaten-OLR) must be in accordance with the domain-specific learning outcomes (Dutch: domeinspecifieke leerresultaten-DLR). The DLR are a generic set of learning outcomes formulated by the different providers of a certain study programme and laid down at the Flemish level. A set of DLR, in other words, provides a framework for all the study programmes within a specific domain. In the translation from DLR to OLR, different providers (i.e. universities) of the same study programme can emphasize their own (research) strengths and focusses. It also allows them to profile themselves in relation to each other. The domain-specific learning results of specific study programmes are freely accessible here


What are characteristics of study programme competencies (OLR)?

When study programmes make specific vision-related choices, it is strongly recommended that those choices are translated into the study programme competencies (e.g. minors or majors, focus on (a) specific topic(s), etc…). When drawing up/revising its competencies, the study programme must always consider its differences and similarities compared to similar study programmes. 

Study programme competencies usually remain stable for a long time. However, they should always be topical. Curricular revisions or new developments in the field may lead to an adjustment of the competencies. Various study programmes may share a common core of competencies, for instance when different study programmes share the same truncus communis. 

External perspective

All stakeholders are involved in drawing up the study programme competencies. If applicable, professional profiles are taken into account. In addition, it is recommended that study programme competencies be regularly assessed by work field representatives and/or academic peers from other universities. Ideally, this particular instance of embedding the external perspective is part of a broader set of (work field) initiatives. 


The Programme Committee sees to it that the study programme competencies (OLR) form a clear, logical, and topical whole, and that they are endorsed by all the stakeholders.

A broad dissemination of the study programme competencies by means of attractive illustrative aids is essential. Students can be informed through information and introduction days, posters on notice-boards, introductory lectures. Lecturers can be informed through newsletters. The professional field can be reached through alumni events, further training, … . 

In any case, the most obvious and appropriate way for the dissemination of the programme competencies, is to strongly embed them in the study programme’s daily functioning. This can be done, for instance, by systematically linking the programme competencies (and/or the competency matrix) to traditional/fixed points on the Programme Committee agenda. A number of examples: internship, active learning, assessment, … . Vis-à-vis students, it is recommended to (1) systematically and explicitly refer to the programme competencies during moments of feedback and/or reflection, and (2) to explicate the link between the programme competencies and assessment criteria.  


For more information about and/or support in drawing up/revising programme competencies, apply to the Education Department – Quality Assurance Office (DOWA – afdeling Onderwijskwaliteitszorg).


Last modified Oct. 25, 2023, 10:56 a.m.