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Research on VET and HRD in Europe
Mapping HRD and VET research across Europe
Thematic patterns derived from a project analysis
Sabine Manning - April 2007

[Start> Introduction] [Section 1] [Section 2] [Section 3] [Main outcomes] [Abbreviations] [Descriptors] [Research areas

 
Section 2 - Thematic aspects of research

Following the analysis of individual topics in the section above, the next step is to adopt a more general approach by looking at major thematic aspects of R&D addressed in ENRR projects. This is facilitated by grouping the topics as demonstrated in the figure below. The tools for this analysis can be looked up in the overview of descriptors and related categories (see Descriptors of VET and HRD research).

Figure 5
Thematic aspects addressed by ENRR projects
Relation between groups of topics (figure 5a/ copy of figure 2) and thematic aspects (figure 5b) indicated by identical colours
ENRR projects (n=221) as percentage of total descriptors (n=502)

5a - Groups of topics (corresponding in colour to the thematic aspects presented in figure 5b)

5b - Thematic aspects (corresponding in colour to the topic groups presented in figure 5a)


 

The presentation of thematic aspects (figure 5b) shows that ENRR projects are most frequently concerned with 'processes', while the aspect of 'framework' is of medium frequency, next to the 'system' aspect. This overview of thematic aspects puts the evidence on ENRR projects in a new perspective, by emphasising that

  • the process of HRD/VET, including competence development, training and learning, has priority, while 
  • the framework of HRD/VET, including the most highly addressed topic 'economy', is of medium importance.
Before offering any interpretation of this outcome, the thematic aspects of ENRR projects will be compared with those identified for ENRR institutions (figure 6), and for both EU projects and ECER papers (figure 7).

Figure 6
Thematic aspects of R&D carried out by institutions related to HRD/VET
Distribution of thematic categories (groups of descriptors) related to ENRR institutions (n=250) as percentage of total descriptors (n=906)

NOTE: The ENRR projects are presented in the same colours as in figure 5.

The comparison of thematic aspects addressed by ENRR projects and by ENRR institutions shows the following:

  • The 'process' aspect, which marks a peak for the projects, is also important for the institutions, even if only second in order;
  • the 'framework' aspect is of medium importance for both groups;
  • the 'system' aspect, which is of medium relevance among projects, has the top position among institutions.
Most significant is the large degree of correspondence between projects and institutions which is evident from the comparison. This is of course not surprising since the ENRR projects are indirectly related to the research pattern of the ENRR institutions, although each analysis is based on a completely independent set of data. The differences observed in the comparison above suggest that institutions put most emphasis on the 'system' aspect, while projects mostly favour the 'process' aspect. 
Altogether, the distribution of thematic aspects among ENRR projects and ENRR institutions can be viewed as a 'group picture', reflecting a predominantly national orientation of HRD/VET research. 
The following comparison brings in the European dimension, by including data on both the EU projects and the ECER papers. The thematic pattern of these two, as established by a previous study (see table 2 - Introduction), showed a high degree of resemblance. This was partly explained by the fact that a large proportion of ECER papers arose from research in EU projects. 
In the following figure, these thematic aspects of ENRR projects are compared with those of EU projects and ECER papers.

Figure 7
Thematic aspects of ENRR projects in comparison with EU projects and ECER papers
Distribution of thematic categories (groups of descriptors) related to ENRR projects (n=221), EU projects (n=30) and ECER papers (n=131) as percentage of total descriptors (n=502; n=143; n=1083)

NOTE: The ENRR projects are presented in the same colours as in figure 5.

The overall thematic pattern, and also the order of frequency with which the aspects are addressed, is largely similar for each of the three groups. In particular, the 'process' aspect has clear priority in all cases.
The following differences, however, are worth noting:

  • ENRR projects place greater emphasis on the 'framework' aspect than both the EU projects and the ECER papers do. This confirms the result of the topic analysis (figure 3) which stressed the special position of the 'economy' topic among ENRR projects.
  • With regard to the leading role of 'process' aspect, both the EU projects and the ECER papers exceed the ENRR projects. This outcome is mainly determined by the much higher importance given to the topic of 'learning' in both EU projects and ECER papers. 
These differences may be connected, on the one hand, with the specific impact of the national context (ENRR projects) versus the European context (EU projects, ECER papers). This would link up with earlier observations about contrasts in addressing individual topics.
On the other hand, the type of research carried out may also play a part: While the ENRR projects cover a broad range of R&D, often guided by strong policy objectives, the EU projects in this sample can be categorised as mainly (applied) research, and the ECER papers even include a large proportion of academic (mostly educational) research. This difference in the type of research may explain, in particular, the varying degree of emphasis placed on the 'process' aspect. Above all, the attraction of learning as an issue of research in both EU projects and ECER papers can hardly be overlooked!
Finally, the thematic aspects addressed by ENRR projects are analysed in comparison between old and new EU countries (figure 8).

Figure 8
Thematic aspects of ENRR projects in comparison between old and new EU countries
Distribution of thematic categories (groups of descriptors) related to ENRR projects of old and new countries (projects: old=n=141; new=n=80; descriptors: old=n=325; new=n=177)

NOTE: The ENRR projects are presented in same the colours as in figure 5.

ENRR projects in old and new countries appear to address the five thematic aspects in a similar order of priority, but the resulting thematic patterns show considerable differences:

  • The 'process' aspect is most prominent among the old countries, while the 'system' aspect is more important for the new countries. 
  • The 'framework' aspect has medium importance for both groups, though slightly more so for the new than the old countries.
In other words, contrasting the two country patterns: ENRR projects of the old countries focus on the 'process' aspect, thereby resembling the EU projects and ECER papers, while the ENRR projects of the new countries are unique in emphasising both the 'process' and the 'system' aspects. 
 
Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO