02 SES 09 A, Pathways into VET and beyond
The need to develop new linkages between vocational education and training (VET) and higher education (HE) in order to facilitate lifelong learning, has evolved into an increasingly important political issue. Both European states and the EU have pushed for the dismantling of boundaries between upper secondary and higher education (Graf 2013). In Norway candidates from VET in general are denied access to higher education, this denial produces an institutional divide between VET and higher education (Baethge 2006). The paper traces the background for this, asking how the divide between VET and higher education historically have been constructed.
Starting in the 1960s, the education system in Norway has been through a number of structural reforms, many of them, with an overall aim to establish homogeneous education levels, both for higher and for upper secondary education. Earlier, mainly sectoral based regulations have been replaced by one law for each educational level, in order to regulate the organisation, activities, responsibilities, and admission criteria independently of sector. As a rule, only general education at the upper secondary level gives admission to higher education, while vocational education and training do not. There are, however, small, but significant signs of a weakening of this hitherto rigid divide between HE and VET, as broader admission criteria have been introduced in some HE institutions and in some educational fields.
Prior to the processes of standardisation and the contemporary regulations of the levels of education, the relations between different types of education and the vertical educational tracks, were organised in different ways, according to specific sectorial rules and practices. The empirical basis of this paper is to focus on how the process of institutionalizing education levels took place in two different sectors historically, the cases will be the areas of health care and technology respectively. It investigates how borders, admission rules and practices between VET at upper secondary level and higher education have evolved in these areas.
The analytical framework is historical institutionalism (Streeck and Thelen 2004, Thelen 2004). We suggest that institutional change gradually takes place, and that institutional forms are typically a result of social and political controversies and struggles, not only at the national, but also at a sectoral level. In addition, we will apply organisational institutionalism (DiMaggio and Powell 1991), and hereby suggest that there exists a potential for change of institutions, when and if actors, with the necessary power resources in the individual institutions, see possibilities for change. Due to a variety of factors like changes in the student composition, funding regulations, older divides, legitimation practices, rules and actor constellations both in education and the labour market, HE institutions may be challenged by newer forms of legitimation, rules and practices. In areas like technology and health care, we expect to find that professions play a crucial, but different role in mediating between HE institutions and the labour market actors, and in maintaining or modifying borders between HE institutions and VET.
Baetghe, M. (2006): Das Deutsche Bildungs-Schisma: Welche Probleme ein vorindustrielles Bildungssystem in einer nachindustriellen Gesellschaft hat. SOFI-Mitteilungen No. 34. Soziologisches Forschungsinstitut an der Universität Göttingen, 13-27. Graf, L. (2013): The Hybridization of Vocational Training and Higher Education in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Opladen, Berlin & Toronto. Budrich UniPress Ltd. Mahoney, J. (2004): Comparative-Historical Methodology. Annual Review of Sociology, 30: 81-101 Powell, W.W., and P. J DiMaggio (1991): The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. Streeck, W. and K. Thelen (2004): Beyond Continuity. Institutional Change in Advanced Political Economies. Oxford. Oxford University Press. Thelen, K. (2004): How institutions evolve. The Political Economy of Skills in Germany, Britain, The United States, and Japan. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.
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