on HRD research and practice across Europe
Trends in participation,
community development and thematic profile
first five years in retrospect (2000 to 2004)
to the final session of the sixth international conference on HRD research
and practice across Europe, held at Leeds Metropolitan University, 25-27
Sabine Manning, Research
Forum WIFO Berlin
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the close of this conference, I would like to present a brief review of
the five preceding events. European conferences on research and practice
in HRD have been held since 2000. Let us look at some trends in participation
and thematic profile during this period. These are initial results of a
study I have been doing in collaboration with the University Forum for
HRD and CEDEFOP.
questions will be addressed, concerning trends in participation, community
development and thematic profile.
has participation in the conference developed?
it still UK based or has it acquired international diversity?
This section has been updated to include latest statistics from the Leeds
conference 2005 (Figures 1a/ 1b).
1a: Number of participants by region
can see the rise in the total number of participants (from about 30 to
250), starting with researchers from the UK and other European countries
at the first conference (Kingston 2000) and, from the next conference (Twente
2001) onwards, continuing with a growing third strand of participants from
outside Europe, especially the US. The present conference in Leeds is marked
by a strong UK attendance. Altogether there has been an increase in all
three regional strands over the period, adding to the international diversity
1b: Participants from new EU countries
what extent are the new EU countries from Middle and Eastern Europe involved
in the HRD conferences? There has been a clear rise, even if in modest
proportions (under ten per cent of all European participants). Mostly these
are researchers from Poland, Romania and Hungary. More participants from
the new EU countries would be welcome!
has the community of conference participants developed?
this community getting bigger or stronger? Is it expanding or re-enforcing
its structure? Does participation extend or intensify relations within
the one hand, there has been expansion, as you have seen in the first
figure on total participation. A better indicator of straightforward expansion
is the number of participants who just attended one single conference in
the period concerned.
2a: 'Once only' participants
proportion of these 'once-only' participants is fairly substantial (around
50%), showing a rising trend (which is of course partly due to the nature
of this indicator: especially some of the more recent new participants
may turn up again at future events).
interesting is the proportion of 'once-only' participants from the host
countries, an indicator of the local attraction of conferences. While this
proportion was fairly big at the conferences in the UK and the Netherlands
(between two and three thirds of the 'once-only' participants), it was
much smaller at the conferences in France and Ireland (about one fifth).
I shall leave the further interpretation of these phenomena to you!
the other hand, there are participants who return to successive conferences,
thereby re-enforcing the community. Among them is a small group of about
30 persons who attended at least three out of five conferences.
2b: Frequent participants and board members
this figure you can see this core group of frequent participants in the
middle column. Also visible, in the other two columns, is the major context
of their attendance. About two thirds of the frequent participants (middle
column) are board members of the related professional organisations: the
University Forum of HRD (left column) and the Academy of HRD (right column).
It is of course not surprising that these representatives are most active
in attending the conferences - nearly all members of the UFHRD Board and
a about a quarter of the AHRD Board are frequent participants. The remaining
section of the core group includes other members of these associations
and several researchers involved in European activities and partnerships.
This interrelation between network membership and conference participation
is essential for community building.
has the thematic profile of conference papers developed?
there an HRD focus or a broad spectrum? Is the thematic approach national
3a: Thematic fields of papers
figure presents three fairly equally spread thematic strands (viewed from
bottom to top):
themes, like for instance 'HRD at the cross-roads';
broader themes, including learning in organisations, competence development
in organisations, knowledge management;
themes, like learning in the workplace, which are mostly shared with vocational
education and training (VET).
3b: Thematic fields of papers by region
can find the same spread of themes (in fairly equal proportions) if you
compare papers on the UK, other European countries and non-European countries,
throughout the five conferences. This outcome is quite surprising, if you
consider the different role and profile of HRD vis-à-vis VET research
in these regions. A possible reason for the similarity between presentations
by region is the distinctive thematic profile of the conferences, with
major themes being put forward for the calls for proposals and the conference
3c: Major themes of papers by descriptor
you can look more closely at themes addressed by the papers presented at
any of the five conferences. This time they are analysed by descriptors,
which means selected key words (see list of descriptors).
The major thematic aspects turning up, apart from HRD in the specific sense,
are: learning, enterprise/ organisation, worker/ personnel, work/ career.
Clearly, most of these aspects are shared with VET research.
3d: Transnational presentations and teams
final point of this thematic review is transnationality, referring to the
coverage of two or more countries in a presentation. Two indicators are
presented: on the left, the proportion of papers with transnational themes
- 5% of all papers; on the right, the proportion of conference participants
who have been involved in any transnational presentation - 17% of all participants.
I think you agree that there is still room for growth in this respect!