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Subject Comparing national systems of HRD (Peter Kuchinke)
Context System differences in the preparation of HRD professionals in the US and the UK
Summary This research is part of a larger agenda, that is to describe what I call national systems of HRD, with the assumption that nations differ in those system areas in which HRD is conducted. Structural differences in the countries would be worth while investigating as we are building what we call international or perhaps comparative HRD research.
I spent a few days in Germany. One of the lead articles in the national newspapers talked about the lack of innovativeness and creativity in Germany. The statement was made that German workers are among the best skilled and most highly motivated in the world, and yet the structural barriers are preventing innovation. This is to show that the institutional factors do matter. My assessment is that in the literature we have not taken account of these institutional forces to the degree we should have as a profession. 
The purpose of the HRD master's level or postgraduate programmes comes from the realisation that universities are an important part of subsistence of HRD. It's there that practitioners get their training and future leaders are being trained. The following points are raised in the system comparison of postgraduate degree programmes in the UK and US:
  • Looking at the economic history it seems that the two streams of development of the two countries are characterised by movements between nationalisation and privatisation of major industries, regulation and deregulation, and the impact of competition in technology. The US certainly has been much more decentralised and deregulated and laissez-fair than what appears to be the UK context.
  • HRD begins to appear in the US scene as a major public policy debate, with a massive level of criticism of the public school sector saying that the public schools are poor in preparing young children for a productive and competitive economic life in the workforce. The US does not have a system of educational qualifications to the degree that is present in the UK.
  • A key difference between the two countries is the role and extent to which the accreditation is concerned. The impact the CAT is to have in the UK, both on academic programmes and on professionals, is far greater than what exists in the US.
  • Another fundamental difference is the role and function of professional associations. The Academy of HRD has a personal-level membership, while the University Forum of HRD has an institutional membership. This plays a great role in the impact that each organisation is to have. Where we have a personal-level membership there is no coordination at least at institutional level, there is no mechanism in place to compare curricula and areas of research to a degree that we have with institutional membership.
  • If we look at how the field is defined, in prominent literature and textbooks, the emphasis of HRD definition in the UK tends to be more strategic, long-term organic and focused on change, than in the US. 
  • Courses in the UK are primarily about HRM, with a minority having HRD in the title; the programmes are provided almost without exception in schools of business. In the US HRD programmes are defined in terms of education; more is happening in schools of education.
  • Looking at the curriculum there are interesting findings. The most critically taught subject areas in the US HRD programmes are structure and design, programme development and delivery, programme evaluation, adult learning theories, needs and policy analysis, history and philosophy of HRD. So there is a focus on education, training and development among US programmes. In the UK virtually all programmes are for subject matter in HRM, in particular courses on organisational behaviour, strategic HRD, organisational development and change, international and comparative HRM. The absence in both countries are post-modern courses in HRD, critical approaches, critical theories of HRD, at least from a view of titles and course curricula. Also absent is a focus on population, corporate stake holders, disadvantaged population, union-based organisations.
Where does this lead us? Two countries with a similar economic tradition and comparable system have very different types of academic preparation of HRD practitioners. These differences matter if we begin to describe international differences in HRD. Similar research needs to happen at practitioner level, about the scope, the role and the impact of HRD in different countries not so much to find out one best way, but to describe and circumscribe the range of variation towards a better understanding of the choices we can make. 
Key terms HRD professionals; postgraduate degree programmes in the UK and US; professional associations; HRM and HRD; 
Source Recording of the presentation by Peter Kuchinke on 'Comparing national systems of human resource development: Content and structure of postgraduate HRD courses of study in the UK and US' at the HRD Conference in Edinburgh, 2002. Further reading: Kuchinke 2000; Kuchinke 2001.
Descriptors D-HRD  EP00         R05 
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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO