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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 - Structure of the research field

In this section the thematic pattern of the ENRR projects is analysed according to major 'areas' of research. These areas have been defined as part of mapping the broad field of VET and HRD (see Areas of European research in VET and HRD). Starting out from this initial map, the following areas have been identified for analysing the ENRR projects (table 3).

Table 3
Areas of research (for analysing ENRR projects)
Educ. Education - Higher education - Adult education - Lifelong learning (each incl. vocational component)
VET Initial/ continuing vocational education
HRD-O Human resource development in organisations (incl. knowledge management; learning organisation; learning region/city)
HRD-LM Human resource development at labour market level (incl. occupation and skills development; qualification of the workforce) 
WRL Work related learning - Worklife learning - ICT and learning (each without specific organisational context)

The areas above have been defined by using English terminology which is common at European or international level. However, two problems in applying this 'transnational' terminology should not be overlooked. 

  • One problem is the - sometimes hardly identifiable - relation to national terms. The corresponding term for research on HRD-LM in Germany, for instance, is 'Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung'; while 'HRD' is only rarely used in this country.
  • The other problem is the specific dominance of individual terms caused by the cultural traditions existing in individual countries. While some Western countries, for example, use VET as an overall term covering most of the other areas as well, some Eastern countries tend to use HRD as an all-embracing term. 
These more subtle aspects of how the R&D field is perceived in the national context cannot be taken up in this project analysis.
In this analysis, for each ENRR project only one area - the most appropriate - has been selected, without taking account of any overlaps with other areas. The outcome of this approach is a thematic pattern with clear focal points. These however need to be seen as part of an overall research field that consists of closely interlinked areas. 
The following figure provides an overview of how the research areas are distributed among the ENRR projects.

Figure 9
Research areas related to ENRR projects
Distribution of ENRR projects (n=221) according to areas of research (see table 3) in percent


The following initial outcomes may be noted:

  • VET is the most important research area. While this outcome may have been predictable, the second major area is worth noting: HRD-LM. If both the HRD related areas are taken together (HRD-O and HRD-LM), the resulting proportion is even higher than the one for VET.
  • Another large research area is 'education', obviously due to the fact that, in many countries, a considerable proportion of vocational education is part of the full-time education provision. Also, lifelong learning (part of 'education') is a common context of addressing issues of vocational education.
  • The area of WRL is represented by a small proportion of projects; issues of WRL are of course also included in the other research areas, particularly VET and HRD-O.
Further evidence on the distribution of research areas across EU countries can be drawn from the preceding analysis of ENRR institutions. In the figure below, the three central areas (VET, HRD-O and HRD-LM) are presented in comparison between ENRR projects and ENRR institutions.

Figure 10
Research areas related to ENRR projects and institutions
Distribution of three selected research areas among ENRR projects (n=221) and ENRR institutions (n=250) in percent


This additional evidence from the analysis of institutions confirms the major proportions between the research areas which have been established for the projects. In the order of frequency, VET is followed by HRD-LM and then HRD-O; in the overall balance, VET is matched by HRD (combining HRD-LM and HRD-O).
This outcome is of course still tentative, in that further studies based on evidence outside the ENRR context may yield different results. Nevertheless, this is the first empirically based presentation of how the HRD/VET research field is structured according to major areas.
To complement this overview, the distribution of research areas is analysed by comparing ENRR projects from the old and the new EU countries (figure 11):

 Figure 11
Research areas related to ENRR projects in old and new countries
Distribution of the research areas in ENRR projects of the old countries (n=141) and the new countries (n=80) in percent

Altogether, the major distribution between the research areas, including the top position of VET, is similar in both groups of countries. There are however certain differences, which point to specific patterns for each group:
While the old countries have high proportions in both VET and HRD-LM, the new countries are particularly concentrated on VET, followed by medium-level proportions of both 'education' and HRD-LM. 
This comparative outcome may just be noted, without any attempt of drawing immediate conclusions. A thorough contextual analysis would be required in order to gain further insight. The same reservation applies to the overview below (table 4), which tries to present a 'group picture' of how the research areas are highlighted by various countries. Starting out from the distribution of projects between the research area (see also figure 9), the overview lists those countries which, for the areas concerned, reach a proportion above the average (within the country concerned). 

Table 4
Research areas of ENRR projects - Overview of selected countries
Distribution of the research areas related to ENRR projects (n=221) in percent; selection of countries with proportions above average in individual areas
(total average)
Old countries (above average)
New countries (above average)

This overview, above all, illustrates the broad spectrum of research found in both old and new countries. However, the national examples selected for each research area are only tentative, in view of the limited data base (average of ten projects per country). Further evidence may easily modify this initial 'group picture'!

Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO