Higher Education Profiles: Methodological Innovation or Blind Ally?
The purpose of this study is to introduce Higher Education Institution Profiles (‘HEI profiles’) as a novel method used by an international research team, seeking to establish descriptive-level grounding, prior to engaging their research topic at a higher level of abstraction. This study addresses two key questions: Firstly, what circumstances warrant the consideration and possible use of HEI profiles? Secondly, what are the advantages, disadvantages of this approach? In conclusion, the methodological implications of this approach are discussed. This approach was developed in the study: Changes in Networks, Higher Education and Knowledge Societies (CINHEKS), an international, comparative, mixed-methods study involving six counties on three continents: Europe, The USA and Japan. As a method, an HEI profile template was developed in terms of the CINHEKS research questions. Following a pilot, 4-6 HEI profiles were carried out by each team. The lead team (Open University), then performed a cross-case analysis. The significance of this study focuses on a critically grounded approach to HEIs in comparative studies. The methodological contribution of this approach is a method that provides systematic and critical challenges to assumptions, while establishing a solid empirical basis for developing interpretive-level case study designs.
Germany, Portugal, Finland, UK