Recognising the changing inter-relationship of higher education and the world of work is the starting point of this paper, which intends to contribute to the understanding of these changes throughout a comparative analysis of the situation in two European countries: Finland and Portugal. The changing inter-relationship of higher education and the world of work is approached from three different levels: society, institutions and individuals.
At the societal level, it must be signalled that society and working life have become more uncertain and complex in European societies in recent years implying that individuals have to make choices concerning transitions between education and work under increasingly uncertain and unpredictable conditions. Being so, the concept of ‘transition regimes’ proposed by Walther (Walther, 2006; Walther et al., 2006) refers to different national and local configurations of the regulation of transitions, stressing European diversity. Nevertheless, within previous joint research (Alves & Korhonen, 2016) we concluded that significant similarities are also identifiable regarding higher education graduates’ transitions between education and work in Finland and Portugal. Namely, the general ideas about transition patterns becoming increasingly complex and trends of working while studying for a master’s degree being significant are supported by the data previously analysed, as well as the intention to continue studying in higher education after concluding a master’s degree must also be marked in groups of graduates from both countries (Alves & Korhonen, 2016).
When looking more closely at the institutional level and drawing on the conceptualisation by Leuze (2010) there are special features to be contemplated related to the labour market segmentation in each country, institutional reputation for employment of concrete universities and occupational specificity of higher education degrees as important factors to be considered in comparative studies of transitions. These factors appear to be linked to differences within transitions between higher education and the world of work experienced by groups of graduates in Finland and Portugal, as well as other variables (such as gender, age and socioeconomic position) might also affect the individuals’ transitions in various ways (Alves & Korhonen, 2016). Overall, a theoretical framework that comprises the mentioned societal factors, local constellations of institutional systems (in higher education and in the world of work) and individual agency is outlined in the paper in order to guide the analysis.
Evans and Heinz (1994) introduced the concept of transition pattern in a European comparative framework and it has been used as modelling the transition between higher education and work (e.g. Kivinen & Nurmi, 2003; Lindberg, 2007; 2008). According to Plug and du Bois-Reymond (2006) transition patterns result from the interplay between the structural dimension of different trajectories and the agency dimension of different transition strategies what individuals apply. By following these definitions, we defined the non-problematic, fluid pattern as “smooth” pattern and the other alternative patterns further as “uncertain” and “prolonged” patterns in our previous research (Alves & Korhonen, 2016).
Within this framework, this paper’s overall aim is to further develop a comparative approach focusing Finland and Portugal enabling both to enrich the understanding of the changing nature of the relationship between higher education and the world of work and to deepen the knowledge about the situation in both countries. The research assembles available data-sets (like Eurostat, OECD report) regarding national trends in each country, as well as data from the employability surveys of a Finnish and a Portuguese universities. Thus, the analysis will allow us to characterise the transitions of higher education graduates in different national contexts, aiming at illustrating the European diversity and promoting the reflection upon societal, institutional and individual factors and variables that also frame transitions.
Alves, M.G. & Korhonen, V. 2016. Transitions and trajectories from higher education to work and back – A comparison between Finnish and Portuguese graduates. European Educational Research Journal, DOI: 10.1177/1474904116661200. Evans, K. & Heinz, W.R. (eds.) 1994. Becoming Adults in England and Germany. London: Anglo-German Foundation. Kivinen, O. & Nurmi, J. 2003. Unifying higher education for different kinds of Europeans. Higher education and work: A comparison of ten countries. Comparative Education 39(1): 83–103. Leuze, K. 2010. Smooth Path or Long and Winding Road? How Institutions Shape the Transition from Higher Education to Work. Leverkusen Obladen: Budrich Unipress Ltd. Available at: www.pedocs.de/voll-texte/2011/3558/pdf/Leuze_Smooth_Path_2010_D_A.pdf (accessed 3 March 2016). Lindberg, M. 2007. Connections between the segmentation of participation and the distribution of occupational status – Comparison of higher education participation and graduate employment in nine European countries. In: Rinne R, Heikkinen A and Salo P (eds) Adult Education – Liberty, Fraternity, Equality? Jyväskylä: Finnish Educational Research Association, 275–296. Lindberg, M. 2008. Diverse routes from school, via higher education, to employment. A comparison of nine European countries. Research Unit for the Sociology of Education. Report 70. University of Turku. Plug, W. & du Bois-Reymond, M. 2006. Transition patterns between structure and agency. In: Walther A, du Bois-Reymond M and Biggart A (eds) Participation in Transition. Motivation of Young Adults in Europe for Learning and Working. Berlin: Peter Lang, 107–125. Walther, A. 2006. Regimes of youth transitions: Choice, flexibility and security in young people’s experiences across different European contexts. Young 14(2): 119–139. Walther, A. & Pohl, A. 2005. Thematic Study on Policy Measures concerning Disadvantaged Youth. Final Report. Volume 1. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/social_inclusion/docs/youth_ study_en.pdf (accessed 9 January 2014). Walther A, du Bois-Reymond M. & Biggart, A. (eds) 2006. Participation in Transition. Motivation of Young Adults in Europe for Learning and Working. Berlin: Peter Lang.
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