New Perspective for Learning - Briefing Paper 24

Vocational education and training - European Research

Context of the Research

Related to the concept of a knowledge based or learning society, education and training has gained increased importance in European policies in recent years. Vocational education and training (VET) in the European Union is influenced by the traditional values of European societies embodied in the diversity of traditions, institutions, legislation and cultures. This needs to be recognised and the values embraced when EU and national policy issues in vocational education and training are analysed.

The “Forum for European Research into Vocational Education and Training” was established as a network of research institutions to seek a new approach to transnational research in vocational education and training and to offer systematically rigorous definitions of different approaches to assist researchers in the pursuit of knowledge. The FORUM sought to develop a research methodology, which relies less on comparison and more on a collaborative approach to research.

Fourteen countries were represented in the Forum and its members included respected researchers both nationally and internationally.

The project partners were senior academics in institutions responsible for training VET professionals and had links with policy makers both at regional and national levels. In addition, FORUM was committed to integrating the coaching and development of young researchers into the work of the network.  The involvement of young researchers in the network was designed to ensure that FORUM would make a lasting contribution to the research and development community, on a European scale, that out lives the timescale of the project.

Purpose of the Research

The main aim of the thematic network was the establishment of the European dimension - in terms of contents and methodologies - within the sphere of vocational education and training (VET). The European dimension needs to embrace the traditional values of European societies embodied in the diversity of traditions, institutions, legislation and cultures that influence vocational education and training in the European Union. Common economic pressures may result in divergent responses of various European VET systems to economic, political and social pressures. The project aimed to produce analysis with a high degree of relevance on important EU and national policy issues in the field of VET.

The network set out to analyse how VET systems across Europe are expanding to common pressures, enabling the development of European policy, as opposed to national policy scenarios.

The work content focused on the exploration of the European dimension for research into the capacity for change and adaptation of educational systems as a common thread. It was recognised by members of FORUM that an interdisciplinary approach was vital for success in its work and this was reflected in the characteristics of the network and the tasks allocated to members.

FORUM work aimed to identify and examine national case studies of best practice, undertake literature reviews, prepare detailed research proposals and present findings to relevant conferences, symposia and journals. The major outcome was to make recommendations to policy makers, researchers and practitioners in the field of vocational education and training. The project established five Thematic Groups devoted to the following research and policy topics: -

·        Learning in organisations

·        VET and the labour market

·        Changing institutions

·        Changing identities

·        Culture, values and meanings


Summaries of these five topics with policy recommendations can be found in the final report of this thematic network and in the individual papers presented at the FORUM workshops

Key Recommendations

The following key recommendations were made: -

1.    A regular system of surveying graduate employment and work is needed. This should be 4 years after graduation, involve 3,000 graduates per country and be conducted every 3-5 years.

2.   A European-wide conference on higher education and graduate employment in Europe should take place in order to stimulate a Europe-wide dialogue on the policy implications.

Further Information

Full title of project - “Forum for European Research in Vocational Education and Training (Forum)” (January 2002)

Full report, Abstract, Summary, Partner details, Project Website

Contact Person

Dr. Michael Kuhn
Universität Bremen, SFG BFER
Enrique Schmidt Strabe 7
Bremen, D-28359, Germany

Tel. +49 421 218 42 80
Fax. +49 421-218 48 96

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Published by pjb Associates

Last updated 28 June 2007