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Session Overview
RN10_05c_IC: Higher Education in Society
Thursday, 31/Aug/2017:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Adriana Aubert Simon, University of Barcelona
Location: Intercontinental - Athenaeum CC III
Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel Syngrou Avenue 89-93 Athens, Greece Floor: Lobby Level

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Evaluation and accountability in education: a lever for school improvement or a source intensifying social inequalities?

Mauro Palumbo, Valeria Pandolfini

University of Genoa, Italy

The paper focuses on the educational system governance issues, reflecting on the effects of school evaluation and accountability in terms of school improvement. It explores the complex relationships between evaluation and improvement, starting from the critical interpretation of the Italian National Evaluation System and examining different aspects interesting the majority of education systems worldwide. Firstly, by analysing if the publication of students achievements in standardized tests could stimulate the school improvement or, instead, could produce unforeseen and undesired effects. Secondly, by observing the consequences of a quasi-market system in education field in terms of competition among schools and of choice processes by families, resulting from neo-liberal politics. Lastly, by reflecting on the role of school operators, which would need an adequate training permitting evaluation to become a lever for improvement.

The aim is to explore whether and under what conditions school evaluation and accountability systems could increase social equity and reduce social inequalities or could reproduce or even intensify them.

The authors outline some unintended effects linked to such systems, in particular related to the typically bureaucratic formal adaptation to the assessment requirements by teachers and headmasters and to the risks that testing becomes synonymous with accountability, which becomes synonymous with education quality, impacting school family choices and increasing social inequalities. On the other hand, the use of the evaluation as a leverage for improving the active participation of school stakeholders could pave the way that leads from school evaluation to school improvement.

“Quality” versus “equality” in European higher education policies



In the past, in many European countries, the fundamental aims of social policy (social justice / cohesion) - in higher education - were expressed through “equality of educational opportunities”. Expansion and massification, along with generous state funding, were governments’ efforts for social justice.

However, since the 1990s, emphasis has been less on “equity” and more on “quality” and “effectiveness”. Economic “efficiency” dominates in the era of globalisation and there are pressures for the creation of the “market-driven” university, which promotes the “knowledge society” and is associated with the individualisation of the responsibility for learning. At the same time, for “quality assurance”, evaluation mechanisms mean that the state exerts control from a distance (through “intermediary bodies”) with reference to the performance criteria of university institutions. Privatisation trends are an expected outcome of these policies, which are related with the reduction of public funding, in the framework of the withdrawal of welfare states, especially in times of economic crisis.

The paper argues that the aforementioned policies are also promoted by the Bologna Process and mostly by the Lisbon Strategy, which refer to issues such as: a) mobility, attractiveness and internationalisation of universities, b) promotion of lifelong learning and policies of accreditation through the generalisation of the ECTS and the introduction of the EQF, c) quality assurance and accountability, d) promotion of “new public management”, e) linking education and research with the labour market, f) promotion of interdisciplinarity, innovation and excellence, g) reduction of state funding in relation to the outcome of evaluation.

Mass participation in Higher education and the emergence of Private Universities in Cyprus

Marios Vryonides

European University Cyprus, Cyprus

The widening participation in higher education has been a major component of education policy in Europe since the 1990s. In Cyprus there is relatively high access to higher education. Specifically, 8 out of 10 secondary school students pursue higher education within or outside Cyprus. The emergence and growth of a private university sector in Cyprus in the past decade (2007-2017) met no resistance on ideological or political grounds but was rather actively promoted by left and right wing governments alike. A key driver for this expansion has been to meet a rising demand not met by traditional choices (i.e. public universities, Greece, UK).

This paper will examine how access to public and private universities in Cyprus has developed in the past decade, with a focus on access and equity issues. We will show that the expansion of higher education was primarily driven at a micro level by the ambitions and aspirations of lower social class families to build high value cultural capital and at a macro level by a rhetoric which saw higher education expansion as a field of economic growth. This expansion, however, was not accompanied by more equal access to elite destinations. We will explore the intersection between stratified social backgrounds and the stratifying structures of higher education destinations which include public/private distinctions, different fields of study and the perceived hierarchies of institutions and qualifications gained. As always, larger social inequalities set limits on what education can achieve in terms of producing social equity of outcomes.

Passing and Getting a Licence Degree. Working-Class French Students in the French University


1CENS (CNRS/Université de Nantes), France; 2Lise-Ceet,(CNRS/CNAM), France; 3Cresppa-CSU (CNRS/Université Paris Lumière), France

In Europe, many quantitative articles have led the investigation of inequalities in degree completion in higher education. However, in France, research has recently concentrated on dropout and course choices within university and has more focused on working-class students’ difficulties. Using the national longitudinal survey of pupils entering secondary education in 1995, and followed during their school careers, this paper aims at analysing both the access to higher education and completion in taking into account of the social backgrounds, the immigration of their parents and the school trajectories of these students. We focus on college graduates to show the influence of both social and ethnic origins background and academic success over getting the degree of “Licence” (Baccalaureate + 3 years).

What kind of social background and schools pathways currently lead to university in France? What differentiates students who pass and get a licence from others? And finally, is there just one way to succeed in French university?

Findings suggest that after baccalaureate (the French High school diploma), social inequalities are still important. But they are also deeply dependent on primary and secondary school path. While North-African second generation students are more likely to access to University than those of French origins with similar social background, they less complete their degree. Our paper although identifies five process types among college graduates. Well known are the “inheritors” and the part of working-class students’ having strong difficulties to get a degree. However our results show that three other types exist: especially, students with honourable academic success, general baccalaureate and rarely concerned with student jobs.

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