Round table: International comparative analysis of HRD Masters programmes

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HRD related Masters programmes in Europe

Sabine Manning

Presentation at the round table of the HRD Conference in Limerick, 27 May 2004 (see proceedings)

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The question is: where do we find Masters programmes in Europe, particularly in the domain we are interested in? Masters programmes are a new phenomenon for many European countries; and those programmes related to the field of HRD may be called quite differently from country to country. An initial overview of Masters programmes related to HRD in Europe has been prepared in the EHRD Base [Overview] - this is the starting point for my contribution today  [Figure 1].
    You are probably familiar with recent debates in the European Union on the Bologna process. In 1999, Ministers responsible for higher education agreed on important joint objectives for the development of a coherent and cohesive European Higher Education Area by 2010 [Figure 2]. These include efforts 

  • to promote effective quality assurance systems; 
  • to step up the effective use of the system based on two cycles (undergraduate and graduate), which means to establish Bachelor and Masters programmes in all European countries involved; 
  • to improve the recognition system of degrees and periods of studies.
This is a very ambitious agenda, if you think of how slowly educational systems tend to move and how diverse the traditions are in Europe.
    Let us first look at the progress made in establishing Masters programmes in general, quite apart from our special area of interest [Figure 3]. According to the reports of the latest Bologna conference, held in Berlin in September 2003, we can distinguish roughly between four groups of countries. 
First, there are countries which have already got Masters programmes for a longer time, that is, prior to the Bologna agreement. The UK is obvious, so is Ireland. Less expected might be the other four countries: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Sweden (the latter, however, with a more specific structure). 
    The second group includes countries where the first Masters programmes have just been introduced, and a full-scale introduction is planned, namely Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland.
    A few countries, forming the third group, have got definite plans for the introduction of Masters programmes; these are Finland, Hungary and Romania.
    The last group consists of countries which envisage the introduction of Masters programmes, without giving dates; this applies to Denmark, Poland and Spain. There are, in fact, already examples of Spanish Masters programmes in our overview.
We now turn to the development of Masters programmes in our domain: HRD. How can we define this field in Europe? You may remember the map we created for describing the broad field of HRD for our resource base [Figure 4]. This map covers several subject areas like HRD/ HRM (in a specific sense), competence development, continuing vocational training, knowledge management, learning in organisations, and work based learning. We have agreed on this spectrum of HRD related activities in Europe in the context of research.
    However, in trying to find Masters programmes, those subject areas have turned out to be less useful. This is because teaching has got a different logic, by being tied to national systems of higher education. We therefore had to find a somewhat different approach. Starting out again from a broad context we adopted a functional approach. Joseph Kessels provided a very useful working definition for our domain: 
    "higher education programmes that deal with learning, development and education in a corporate setting" [Figure 5].

By virtue of this definition we could free ourselves from the specific terminology of 'human resource development' that might not be applicable throughout European countries. The subsequent mapping of Masters programmes, in fact, produced a great variety of terms. These are associated with different traditions of language and culture in the countries concerned. To demonstrate this situation let me select some simple examples [Figure 6]: 

'Human resource development' - this is an obvious term used for Masters programmes in the UK, in Ireland, also in the Netherlands and some other countries with English programmes. 
    When turning to France, you might find a programme title which reads fairly similar: 'developpement des ressources humaines'. However, as we just learned from an intervention by Jean Woodall, there are different connotations even with this kind of concept in France; and there is not a clear-cut concept of HRD as such; there is quite a variety of other issues that are addressed in France. 
    Finally, in German speaking countries, you might find it very difficult to make yourself understood if you talk about 'human resource development', let alone 'HRD'. Instead, you can find the term 'Personalentwicklung' (personnel development), which is quite common, but not the same as HRD.
This set of examples leaves out the much more diversified region of Central and Eastern Europe. As we heard from Devi Jankowicz about the situation in Poland, for instance, there is no research area of 'HRD', but research concerned with labour market questions, skill development and societal approaches.
    Now, returning to our functional definition, we can identify quite a range of Masters programmes across Europe - about 80 in the initial overview. These have been compiled according to both nationality and subject matter. As an interim outcome, let me present a rough mapping of fields of study which turn up in the collection of Masters programmes [Figure 7]. The terms presented here are exclusively in English, either original terms or translations from other languages.
To start with the central term 'HRD', only very few programmes carry this title. Even in the UK, as already observed by Peter Kuchinke in a recent study[*], there are rather programmes of HRM, including HRD, than specific HRD programmes. In the rest of Europe there is hardly any evidence, except for the Twente programme of HRD chaired by Joseph Kessels.
    As already indicated, a lot of programmes are concerned with HRM or strategic human resources, often including HRD. Further programmes are offered in business studies or management, with an element of HRM or HRD included. These are quite common throughout Europe, also in the related programme type of 'Masters in Business Administration' (MBA). This broad subject field of business and management may be regarded as fairly established and traditional.
    On the other hand, there are lots of programmes in quite different subject fields. Fairly close to HRD you can find programmes related to organisational behaviour or entrepreneurship, for instance 'organisational behaviour' in the UK and Switzerland, 'leadership and organisational development' in Germany, 'leadership and organisational psychology' in Norway, 'entrepreneurship in dynamic business contexts' in Sweden.
    A further subject area of HRD related programmes focuses on learning, knowledge and intelligence, partly in connection with management. Examples are 'adult learning and professional development' in the UK, 'competence management' in France, 'knowledge management' in Sweden, 'management of people, projects and processes' in Germany. 
    You can also find those concepts of learning and knowledge as part of broader programmes in business and human resources. It is worth while looking at the individual components of such a course or at the structure of its syllabus. Behind a general programme title, such as 'strategic human resources', you may discover a diversity of subject components, mandatory or optional. Examples include 'innovation and knowledge' in an Austrian programme, 'learning company' in an Irish programme, 'work and learning', 'fostering learning' and 'learning in practice' in Swedish programmes. 
To conclude this brief overview, you may be aware of the variety of programmes confronting us. The broad subject field of HRD, as we define it in functional terms, is very much interlinked with the field of vocational education in Europe. A lot more analytical work needs to be done, of course, for building the resource base on Masters programmes in our domain. But this first glance may help us set the scene and broaden our view on what we can expect. 

[*]  Kuchinke, K.P. (2003). Comparing national systems of human resource development: Role and function of post-baccalaureate HRD courses of study in the UK and US. In Human Resource Development International. Vol. 6, No 3, pp. 285-299.

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Author: Sabine Manning  © WIFO