Higher vocational education in the age of neoliberal conversion
University of Borås, Sweden
What is indicative of current developments in higher education institutions (HEI) is how the terms of knowledge that make up neoliberal rationalities and entrepreneurial practices are gaining influence at the expense of academic traditions. The logic behind these HEIs’ practices can be seen as the ambition to offer ’products’ in an educational ‘market’. Higher vocational education are especially exposed to these changes, in terms of how the selection and organisation of knowledge is closely related to local conditions of assigned relevance and the practical orientation of learning. In Basil Bernstein’s terms, ‘a horizontal knowledge orientation’ is prevailing. This on-going research project investigates current trends in Swedish HEIs. After the 2011 implementation of institutional autonomy reform in Sweden, HEIs have increasingly transformed into new public management-inspired organisations, where adjustments for employability and economic benefits have gained significance at the expense of academic and pedagogic values. The Swedish higher education sector as a whole, however, is characterised by diversity. The current project aims to examine which governing mechanisms and forms of autonomy are apparent in three cases of higher vocational education. The project design aims to uncover analytical distinctions of different actors' perceptions and objectives within the institutional conditions that form the meaning and objectives of education through interviews with academic professionals and decision makers in HEI. The initial results expose the intrinsic relationships among forms of collegiality, professional autonomy and management ideals in how frictions between academic integrity and adaptability to entrepreneurial practices are handled.
Keywords: Higher vocational education, neoliberalism, academic autonomy, professions
A Social Network Analysis of Comenius multilateral partnerships under the Lifelong Learning Programme
University of Ioannina, Greece
This paper deals with European Education policies as implemented in the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP) by Comenius multilateral school partnerships. The study is based on a collection of data collected from the European Shared Treasure. The above data was grouped by country, recording the number of partnerships each country formed with other countries. Then the data was processed in accordance with the Social Network Analysis (SNA) theory. The use of SNA gave a new perspective and richer understanding at partnership structures. Calculations such as shortest path, betweenness centrality, closeness centrality were used to analyse the data.
The objective of the analysis was to understand how schools from different countries connected to each other and the relations and patterns they formed. A further aim was to clarify why these patterns occur and what their consequences are. In addition, the analysis was used to identify the countries whose schools played a central role in Comenius partnerships.
The main results of the analysis showed that the Comenius partnerships help the participants establish strong ties among them. However, the countries with the highest participation in partnerships are stronger networked and are more likely to collaborate with others. Additionally, the analysis revealed the central role schools from countries like Italy and Germany seem to play in partnerships. Specifically, only six countries handle the connection among the 33 countries which only two are distinguished. Finally, Italy and Spain played a central role in partnerships and are more likely to collaborate with other countries.
The National Education Plan and the Challenge of Educational Inequalities in Brazil
1Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul; 2Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul
This empirical research analyzes the transformation and expansion of secondary and higher education in Brazil over the last decades, considering the National Education Plan and the challenge of educational inequalities. Despite the rapid growth in the rate of enrollment observed after 2005, factors such as income, cultural capital, ethnicity, gender, and urban-rural areas - are still strongly related to educational inequity process. Also in relation to the labor market, the Brazilian secondary education system appears to be extremely selective, with a low percentage of student workers accessing and remaining at that level of education. Instead, it is necessary to consider the endogenous problems of the system itself: inadequate teacher training, large numbers of students per class, low pay, among others. Another point to consider is the poor quality of education offered (as indicated by several national and international systems of evaluation), and the crucial difference between public and private institutions. In conclusion, the research highlights the existence of a "perverse educational pyramid" in the country that, despite the policies and programs implemented in recent years, persists and reduces the social role of education, shaping a strong reproductive educational system.
Changing Patterns of Governance in Education Today - What Changes? The Case of Greece – An Exploration
Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Greece
Many social scientists argue that the recent education reforms following the Bologna Process and other European Union treaties on education aim at improving education. Other scientists, on the contrary, maintain that education is being commodified and inequalities have increased instead of decreased.
In Greece, the major educational measures under conditions of crisis (2009-14), dealt with budgetary cuts and altering management structures. The budgetary cuts affected the provision of education services to several categories of pupils, as for example, preschool, compensatory or special education. At the same time, instead of finding funds for the aforementioned provisions, education policy focused among other things on changing patterns of governance, especially in tertiary education.
At closer look, the changed patterns and structures in the management of education are based on a kind of logic called “formal rationality", according to Weber. New management positions, both academic and non academic were created (e.g., faculty dean, and institution council). Additionally measures were introduced that affected the way work is being controlled, such as evaluation of work performance both at individual and collective level.
The questions I pose in this paper are, What kind of changes are introduced by the recent educational reforms in the structure of governance and what are the consequences?
The answer to the questions above is based on research material from Greece. The theoretical framework draws on the classical theories of Durkheim, and Weber, and on more recent approaches on governance.
The results show that due to the introduced changed, institutional relations of power tend to become more complex and opaque. Educators and students participate in a system that becomes more abstract and depersonalised. Do all these improve quality of education?