32 SES 08, Diversity Development in/of Higher Education Organizations
The opening of higher education (HE) to so-called non-traditional students is an aim that HE organizations must increasingly address. Not only at the national, but also at the European level for example in the Bologna process, this goal is repeatedly stated. Permeability in the education system is one precondition that non-traditional students have the opportunity to participate in higher education (HE). Since only if there are links between the diverse educational areas, it is possible to prevent dead-end situations and to allow participation in education and thus also in the HE system. However, permeability does not only mean creating access, enabling validation and recognition of prior learning, or linking different educational areas. Permeability also means building structures in educational organizations that make successful learning possible by taking into account the diverse needs of learners. In the HE system, the aim would thus not only be to receive a heterogeneous student body representing all strata of the society, but also their successful inclusion.
In this contribution, permeability for the vocationally qualified, as one group of non-traditional students, is paramount. It answers the following question: to what extent have institutional structures in dealing with the diverse needs of the vocationally qualified in HE organizations changed in the years from 1990 to 2012 in Germany and France.
The comparison of the institutional developments in Germany and France follows the logic of difference, as both countries are characterized by different educational ideas and institutional arrangements, which are also reflected in the relationship between HE and vocational education and training (VET). Traditionally, the German organizational fields of HE and VET are divided, making transitions between the educational sectors difficult (Powell & Solga, 2011). In the French system, such a strict division is not existent. However, the problem of permeability between VET and HE in France results in systematically lower chances of graduating in HE of students who enter the French HE system with vocational baccalaureate compared to students with a general or technical baccalaureate. The French case thus shows that structures, which allow access, are not sufficient for successfully including new groups of students.
In the analysis of the institutional evolution, I refer to Scott’s (2008) definition of institutions by distinguishing regulative, normative, and cultural-cognitive institutional dimensions. That means that I am interested in both legally anchored changes but also changes in the knowledge structure, the norms, and ideas regarding the question of dealing with the diverse needs of the vocationally qualified at HE organizations. The normative and cultural-cognitive dimensions are analyzed in connection with the Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse (Keller 2011) at the level of discursive practices of social actors.
According to neo-institutional approaches, institutions are regarded as an essential context of action that determines organizational development. Changes in regulations, as well as norms and ideas, point to the changing societal demands towards HE organizations in the organizational environment, to which organizations need to react to continue to be legitimate (Meyer & Rowan 1977; DiMaggio & Powell 1983). This paper thus contributes to the analysis of the change in the environmental requirements for higher education organizations in Germany and France concerning the inclusion of the non-traditional student group of the vocationally qualified.
Methodologically, a mixed-methods approach is used to portray the institutional developments between 1990 and 2012 adequately. At the center of the empirical analysis is the discourse analysis (see Keller 2011) of 256 documents with references to the permeability problematic between HE and VET in which the positions of the leading actors of the two organizational fields of HE and VET in Germany and France are expressed. The actors include the ministries of education, employer associations, trade unions, and associations of higher education institutions. Since in Germany the federal states are mainly responsible for governing the HE policy, I also selected position papers of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder. For the analysis of the regulative dimension, laws and regulative amendments were examined.
In both countries, vocationally qualified people are increasingly perceived as legitimate students. With this development the question of how to deal with the needs of already vocationally qualified students is also becoming increasingly important after 2000: New legal regulations came into existence, and in the discourse on permeability, the handling of heterogeneity has played an ever more significant role. Similarly, in both countries, there is an increased focus on information and advice before enrollment for the group of vocationally qualified persons. However, there is much more discussion in France about how this group can be advised either to guide them to a supposedly compatible study program, mainly the vocationally-oriented short study programs at the STS, or to guide them to the job market. In Germany, the focus is more on general information about study opportunities in the higher education system. But also other differences can be identified: In Germany, for example, the question of financing is discussed much more intensively and the Aufstiegsstipendium, a scholarship for high-performing, professionally qualified students, was introduced. In France, on the other hand, teaching is much more in focus. How does university teaching have to change to teach the new group of students successfully? Questions of didactics or the organization of teaching, on the other hand, are hardly discussed in Germany. Finally, this contribution cannot show what is happening in the organizations but how the environmental expectations change over time.
DiMaggio, P. J., & Powell, W. W. (1983). The Iron Cage Revisited: Institutional Isomorphism and Collective Rationality in Organizational Fields. In P. J. DiMaggio & W. W. Powell (Eds.), The New Institutionalism in Organizational Analysis (pp. 63-83). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Keller, R. (2011). The Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse (SKAD). Human Studies, 34(1), 43-65. Meyer, J., & Rowan, B. (1977). Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony. American Journal of Sociology, 83(2), 340-363. Powell, J. J. W. & Solga, H. (2011). Why are Participation Rates in Higher Education in Germany so Low? Institutional Barriers to Higher Education Expansion. Journal of Education and Work. 24 (1-2): 49-68. Scott, W. Richard (2008). Institutions and Organizations: Ideas and Interests. (3. Edition). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications
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