Author(s):Ute Hippach-Schneider (presenting)

Conference:ECER 2017

Network:02. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)


Session Information

02 SES 04 A, Improving Teacher Training and Professional Development

Paper Session



Chair:Lázaro Moreno Herrera


Work-based Learning In Tertiary Education - Role And Function

The tertiary education sector has been developing comparatively dynamically in recent years (OECD 2008; Cedefop 2011; OECD 2012). Numerous countries are introducing or expanding educational programmes that contain both vocational and academic elements. A wide range of models has evolved from the desire to create stronger links between academic and professional/practice-related learning, increase permeability and make the pathway of vocational education more attractive. The momentum in the changes in the tertiary education and training sector is evident e.g. in the introduction of the so-called Degree Apprenticeships in the United Kingdom at the end of 2014, the growth of dual study programmes in Germany as well as the introduction of the so-called short-cycle level in the ISCED 2011 classification (level 5).

Furthermore for a total of around 15 years, an academic debate on the issue of a higher-level education and training in the form of work-based learning has been taking place in the Anglo-Saxon area, in particular in Australia and England. The issue of ´vocationalism´ or ´professionalism` as trends or mega-trends have been described and analysed in various studies and publications (Grubb and Lazerson 1974, Boud and Solomon eds. 2001, Tynjälä, Välimaa, and Boulton-Lewis 2006, Taylor, Ferreira, de Lourdes Machado, and Santiago 2008, Delplace 2014).

Nevertheless the vocational elements in tertiary education, often equated with higher or even university education, remain prevalently unnoticed and hidden behind a debate on “academisation” and the discussion surrounding the strengths and weaknesses of work-based learning models in most European countries remains focussed on the secondary sector, which can also be observed with the new OECD activity “Work-based learning in vocational education and training” (2015).

The project that forms basis for this conference input may contribute to a changed and updated perception of vocational education and training by revealing work-based learning models as a parameter of innovation in tertiary education. It analyses and compares models and functions of work-based learning programmes in the tertiary education sector of selected European countries. It´s a research project of the German Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) that started in 2014 (

The challenge but at the same time the strength of the project in terms of content is its cross-sector approach taken in relation to education and training. No other study is known which investigates and compares formats of training programmes both from the higher education area as well as the higher level vocational education and training area. Other studies focus either on “higher vocational education and training” or on higher education sector programmes.


The research project is designed as a qualitative, exploratory study, including six country specific case studies conducted in 2015/16 (Austria, England, France, Ireland, Norway and Poland) capturing the views of five groups of stakeholders i.e. learners and companies, education institutions as well as researchers and policy representatives. The outcomes and analysis of the qualitative interviews will form the basis for the conference contribution.
The theoretical approach builds on Trow (1973; 2000; 2005) regarding the development of higher education systems and their influences on education and training content, as well as on Teichler's structuring approaches for the international comparative analysis of higher education systems (Teichler 2014).

Expected Outcomes

The conference contribution will show how practice-orientation and practice-integration have in fact become an increasingly important element in higher education programmes, how higher education is taking over and incorporating core elements of vocational education in order to provide high-esteem education with a specific linkage to economy - though only partially visible in international education statistics. It is even changing governance structures by the involvement of trade and industry in the development of curricula and as partners of the education institutions and the learners. Regarding to Trow, this is an indication that there has been a new phase of higher education arising, further diversifying mass higher education and making it more vocationally-oriented, opening academic institutions and higher qualification levels to practice- related learning. The contribution will present opinions and views on tertiary level work-based learning programmes from the political level in the sample countries.


Boud, D. and N. Solomon (2001). Work-based learning : a new higher education? Buckingham, The Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press: 234 p.

Cedefop (2011). Vocational education and training at higher qualifications level. Research Paper. Cedefop. Luxembourg.

Delplace, S. (2014). A look at Professional Higher Education in Europe. Gleichartig - aber anderswertig? Zur künfigen Rolle der (Fach-)Hochschulen im deutschen Hochschulsystem. B.-W. S. gGmbH. Bielefeld, wbv: 33-50.

Grubb, W. N. and M. Lazerson (1974). American Education and Vocationalism: A documentary history 1870-1970. Columbia University New York, Teachers College Press

OECD (2008). Tertiary Education for the Knowledge Society. OECD.

OECD (2012). Post-secondary Vocational Education and Training: Pathways and Partnerships. Higher Education in regional and City Development. J. Puukka, OECD.

Taylor, J. S., J. B. Ferreira, et al. (2008). Non-University Higher Education in Europe. Netherlands: 264.

Teichler, U. (2014). Hochschulsysteme und quantitativ-strukturelle Hochschulpolitik. Münster, New York, Waxmann.

Trow, M. (1973). Problems in the transition from elite to mass higher education. Berkeley, Carnegie Commission on Higher Education; Berleley, California: 1-55.

Trow, M. (2000). From mass higher education to universal access: The American advantage. Research and occasional paper series: CSHE. Berkeley, California, University of California: 1-16.

Trow, M. (2005). Reflections on the transition from elite to mass to universal access: forms and phrases of higher education in modern societies since WW II. Working Papers. Berkeley, California, Institute of Governmental Studies, UC Berkeley: 1-66.

Tynjälä, P., J. Välimaa, et al. (2006). Higher education and working life : collaborations, confrontations and challenges. Advances in learning and instruction. Amsterdam (etc.): Elsevier 276 p.

Author Information

Ute Hippach-Schneider (presenting)