proceedings of discussion (round tables in Tilburg and Geneva) in PDF
is an open discussion that begins with a number of very short comments
by people on the issue of mapping HRD and VET research across Europe. The
question posed is: what is the relationship between VET and HRD in a European
context? This is a Cedefop driven project in many respects. From the outset
it has to be said that it is part of the European Union agenda, so there
is a vested interest in promoting a European concept of HRD, linked to
a European concept of VET. In the European Union context, and Cedefop is
involved in that, the task is to construct a European project, creating
European meanings. It’s about creating shared meanings about the way we
live, the way we sustain our economy, the way we sustain our society. There
are lots of debates about a deeper or enlarged Europe, but the context
is about building European values around HRD and VET, even if they are
being debated on a daily basis. European values are about combining social
inclusion with competitiveness.
When we look at HRD and VET we see that, while they have very different
origins, the picture today is a picture of overlap, and some people use
the terms interchangeably. Other people are very specific about VET and
there are lots of theories about HRD. Here we are interested not so much
in the theory of HRD and the theory of VET, but what are the practices,
how are people living the HRD tradition, and how are people living the
VET tradition. In the work that Sabine Manning is undertaking you see there
are lots of disciplines, lots of values, lots of different perspectives
shaping VET and HRD. VET and HRD are multidisciplinary subjects, they are
not like other disciplines such as economics or law, but they are shaped
by lots of different disciplines, and also shaped by the country context.
So that's the purpose of this round table, to discuss these issues and
to see where we are going. Is it a good idea to talk about a European context
In the next few minutes, I will talk a bit about the origin of the two
traditions. Generally speaking, the VET tradition, which is much older
than HRD, focuses on workers. One of the driving forces behind the formation
of Cedefop were the European trade unions. There is a focus on workers,
on intermediate and lower level skills; VET is traditionally about socio-political
systems, about participation in working life and industrial democracy;
improving the lot of the ordinary workforce through education and training,
improving the quality of life and contributing to a more effective and
economically prosperous society. The main focus of HRD, and certainly in
its origin, is more about the performance of business and a focus on management.
But these boundaries are shifting enormously. There is a total overlap
now, and maybe a certain degree of confusion and lack of clarity, but some
of the debates I participated in have been about theory, and that doesn't
often help us. It's much better to focus on the practice, what are people
teaching and learning in the HRD curriculum, what are people teaching and
learning in VET. For example in Germany, VET is more of an academic subject,
there are faculties of VET teaching, which is very different maybe to the
UK, to Ireland and other countries. But what's going on in these faculties,
what are the values underlying their studies, what are their traditions?
Just to continue on the comparison of VET with HRD – origins of traditions
[see PPT presentation, pp 3 to 5], this is
an elaboration of what I said earlier about VET on the one hand where the
focus is on professional identity, and HRD where the focus is on organisational
identity. In its origin certainly, and in many practices today, there are
two distinct orientations. For instance in Ireland, where I come from,
VET is not an academic subject at all, it is hardly in universities; if
you look at the Master's degree in an educational faculty, it is very unusual
to find VET topics. It is largely concerned with general education. HRD
is growing in importance in Ireland, but it is very much influenced by
American, as distinct from European continental or Nordic thinking, social
Finally, the strength and weaknesses of VET and HRD. One of the great strengths
of HRD is that it brings organisational development into focus. VET on
the other hand is very individually orientated, focusing on technology.
Whereas VET is operating in the socio-political domain, it has lots of
weaknesses in terms of a lack of modernisation, and innovative concepts.
HRD doesn't often concern itself at the issues of the workers, and is promoting
stressful high-performance work practices that are not contributing to
quality of work for employees.
discussion about VET and HRD in relationship in research and this new analysis
on institutions is very interesting. I started wondering about this on
my own, with the paper I wrote for the Limerick Conference in 2004, but
I was looking at it in a more theoretical sense. My background is in adult
education, in Finland in the department of education and in Norway in the
research institute in adult education, so it's VET basically, but not in
practice. Then I joined a working life research institute, and I'm looking
at all of that from the point of view of learning and education. .
The HRD approach also comes into the picture. The paper I mentioned was
titled "Reconciling learning, HRD and well-being in the workplace". I come
from the Nordic countries, so this well-being is very important. As I see
it, there is not only the difference between vocational education and training
and HRD, but separate from this, there is work-place learning, which is
the learning taking place for example in small companies. They don't really
have this HRD discussion or HRD departments, they don't have professionals
in that area, but they do develop their employers too. There is learning
and learning promotion taking place. In the research field, there are researchers
who don't define themselves as researchers within HRD either, but they
are very much focused on work-placed learning, like Stephen Billett from
HRD seems to be more about an issue of bigger companies, really the large
companies,. But also in terms of research, it's more connected with organisations,
it's not that individual. Work-place learning has both an individual and
a collective focus, but HRD brings in a different context, and VET is very
institutional, it's very formal, and there is a struggle within VET people
how to match the reality at the moment. So in my opinion there are actually
these three: HRD, VET and work-place learning. All this is about the knowledge
and skills, we call it confidence in the Nordic countries. I know that
British people are very uneasy about confidence, but it is a very broad
concept for us. This work-place knowledge, this confidence, is also very
much about the relationship of practical and theoretical. And the questions
is how we grasp this from different disciplinary backgrounds.
The discussion on working life in Norway is very similar to the rest of
Europe, but the corresponding institutional response to that doesn't exist.
So who are the winners: the consultants! It is true, if the companies need
help they get it from the consultants. Research receives very little public
funding for this area, and in the higher education system there is not
a single professorship in adult education, whereas Finland has seven and
Sweden has about two.
In the discussion we are trying to look for synergies, how to make sense
out of these fragmented fields. But they have different disciplinary background:
VET comes from an educational background, the adult education people are
behind that; HRD is more related to economics and business and organisational
studies etc. Both make valuable contributions, but probably it doesn't
make sense, it's a lot of wasted energy and scarce resources in research,
when it comes to participation in meetings and conferences etc, but that's
a problem for academia rather than research I think. It reflects this division,
the increasing complexity of work-related knowledge.
is a personal view, not an official opinion. A few words about the general
picture of research in Hungary. There are serious regional inequalities,
as higher education and most of the research is concentrated on Budapest.
More than 40 % of research and development institutions are located in
Budapest. Nearly two thirds of those who are employed in the research and
development sector are working in the capital.
Another point is the prestige of VET and HRD research in the country. There
are differences between VET and HRD research. The prestige of VET is very
low, it lags behind the prestige of every other scientific subject.; While
HRD is an academic subject, VET is not an academic subject. And this influences
the connection between these two fields very much. Why is the prestige
of VET research so low? This originates from the fact that education is
not connected institutionally to the framework of the Hungarian Academy
of Sciences. There was a very good, high quality pedagogical institute
which was closed down in 1981. Since that time, VET is somehow missing
a strong professional background. Also, the connection and cooperation
between VET and HRD research is not very deep.
Now I'd like to make some comments on the theses of Sabine. I found
approximately 25 institutions in Hungary which are dealing with VET and/or
HRD research. Research is combined with teaching in the case of the universities
and colleges, about 50% of the institutions belong to this group. The combination
of research and development has a much higher role among our institutions,
I would estimate two thirds of the institutions. Probably the reason for
this is money; development is something that has existed for a long time.
Fewer institutes are dealing with research and consulting, a much lower
number than the European average. I found only one or two institutions
where research is the only activity.
The connection of research and other fields of sciences: ‘education’ is
the strongest; I assume that ‘psychology’ is involved here. ‘Sociology’
is much stronger than ‘economics’. ‘Work related studies’ have a very low
contribution. HRD/VET research on its own is only carried out in two or
three big institutes. According to my experience, the embeddedness in other
fields of sciences makes HRD/VET research more prosperous, but I have to
stress that many research topics are missing.
The proportion of VET specific research institutions is higher than the
European average (according to the searched sample), maybe two thirds of
the institutions belong here. The HRD specific research activity of institutions
is lower in my country.
research is mostly focused on the labour market and employment patterns.
There is not however too much emphasis on education and training unfortunately.
HRD research is not about organisations. Before the 1990s many HRD research
projects were based on research in organisations, in companies. Unfortunately
nowadays it is nearly impossible to visit a company, we are not able to
carry out research because they do not allow us to go into a company. This
is the case especially in the multinational companies. So this has an important
influence on research topics.
I would be glad to see more balanced research activity in Hungary, dealing
with a much broader field of relevant topics. Some spheres of research
are still missing, for example some theoretical subjects in VET. HRD research
is much more academic, so the problems are mostly related to VET research,
not to HRD.
These categories (framework, environment, system, process, actor) are coming
together, should work together and support each other. Sometimes there
are no links between the research topics and the real demands. E.g. methodological
issues are important, but cannot be utilised on a higher level without
the precise knowledge of the framework, the environment, the contextual
background is that I got into VET and HRD relatively late in life. For
the last six years I've worked at the Catholic University of Lille. I became
involved in a project launched in the North East of England to send a set
of British apprentices through the French apprenticeship system. This came
about because the group of business men and local authorities were disillusioned
with the Modern Apprenticeship Scheme. In the first stage we were looking
at the response of the British system to a demand for a Europeanisation
or internationalisation, and later we were looking at the part of the French
VET system through which they passed - the wonderful world of the French
compagnonage. They are the oldest worker organisation in Europe, having
been doing VET for 600 years, and also one of the largest VET providers
In the first instance we looked at the lack of response with regard to
a European perspective. I would first suggest before we have a European
perspective we need an international one. We found that it was very difficult
to get any type of response out of the British VET system to a demand like
this; there is no demand for internationalisation, there is no demand for
Europeanisation. There are up to 40 different agencies in the British VET
system, but once you start going European you can add another twenty to
that, such as Leonardo and Socrates. So if you've got to do research in
this area you better make sure that your networks are in good order and
that you've got a large stock of social capital. It has also got implications
for some of the research skills which you need to do - because if you are
going to these types of agencies you need to have a constructivist perspective
We found that these institutions are all revolved around local targets.
So they wouldn't supply any apprenticeships to this scheme, because it
didn't do anything for local youth unemployment. The local colleges wouldn't
supply the best kids for this scheme because that would mean that this
would hit on the failure rates and in some cases on the performance related
pay. The local skills council wouldn't do it either. So if you are interested
in developing a European perspective on VET I think it would really require
a revolution in the way in which the British agencies are structured. A
colleague and I wrote a paper on this, and we came to the conclusion that
not only is the British VET system incapable of providing upskilling, you
couldn't import it either. So that's one of the perspectives that I came
to from the research.
Later on we started doing research on the French compagnonage. I want to
pick up a response here which Jim Stewart made in a paper which was circulated
round on the HRDI. We came up against some of the effects of working in
an institution which is dominated by positive economists, and also of working
in an atmosphere where research is increasingly being termed by what sort
of journals you find. I know that this is the case in the UK, but certainly
in France too. Here the list of publications in which you can appear is
given to you. So you write anything with HRD or VET in the title and you
are told that you should publish this in the area for organisational studies.
Coming now to the slide on the 'type of field related to HRD/VET within
institutions' - what isn't on here? Management isn't on here, business
studies isn't on here. Why not? For me that reflects a perception that
HRD isn't really seen as mainstream, and VET isn't seen as mainstream either.
And this is reflected all the way through the structure of universities.
The reason is there is no demand for it.
Recent developments in VET have pointed to the importance of things like
communities of practice, situated learning, learning which takes place
within institutions. You could argue that if VET was to have a disciplinary
base then that should be anthropology, rather than economics or sociology.
But we live in institutions in which economists and sociologists are the
dominant groupings. VET and HRD is what people who work in the field do.
It's an entirely respectable area of study in its own right. I think whether
it constitutes a separate field or academic discipline is an interesting
argument, and one which perhaps reflects a wider concern, but at the end
of the day it's what people in this field do, and we shouldn't really concern
ourselves whether or not it's linked to another discipline.
a comment - management and business probably comes under economics.
that's the problem of simplifying for a presentation...
but probably that doesn't take from Hedley's point that there's an economic
kind of a foundation to much of HRD and indeed VET.
an observation, as we are sitting in the Business School of Tilburg University:
This has no connection at all with the faculty which is organising our
conference - strange! It is called the Faculty of Economics and Business
Administration and our conference is organised without any help or involvement
from anybody in the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences.
I have also got to thank Hedley for giving a British perspective, and that's
not what I'm doing, I'm giving Jim Stewart's perspective, so you have the
benefit of both.
I'm going to make some observations on Barry's opening, and then some answers
to the questions posed by Sabine in her presentation.
First on the theory - to the extent that we do have to theorise, in my
theory at least I wouldn't suggest that HRD is th same as VET. On the European
point, and again I agree with Hedley - he was suggesting that in the UK
there is no national theory of HRD or VET. There is lots of research which
demonstrates that there is no European model of HRD.
Moving on to Sabine's questions, in thesis one on 'research activities'
- what struck me was that research into and on teaching is something that
is common within both HRD and VET, so it would be interesting to find out
to what extent those two major activities are actually connected within
institutions, to what extent these institutions who do a lot of research
and a lot of teaching actually also research teaching, since teaching is
a common interest to both HRD and VET. Furthermore, I think the links with
consulting are much more important in HRD than they are in VET.
Thesis three on the 'distinction between VET and HRD' - the thought that
occurred to me there was that the overall picture suggested by institutional
websites probably doesn't reflect institutional structures. The slide is
suggesting a large quantity of shared HRD and VET. My suggestion is that
that doesn't reflect what happens in institutions. It might be that institutions
engage in both, but the people in institutions like here, in a business
school, are doing things entirely independently, entirely separately; they
are even avoiding areas of mutual interests and activities. So I think
that amount of sharedness suggested by that slide probably doesn't reflect
the kind of sharedness that is actually going on.
I'm now addressing your question on the European research communities in
HRD and VET - speaking for myself and briefly as Chair of the University
Forum of HRD: we certainly do support links between the academic and professional
networks, and the Forum will be establishing contact with the VET
network. I belong to the snall group of people who have been to both conferences,
I've been to ECER three or four times, and there is a lot of overlap in
our research interests, a lot of overlap in the research being carried
out, and a lot of valuable learning for each of us. We need to build much
stronger links between the HRD and VET research communities.
Thesis four on 'HRD and VET profiles' - the thing that occurred to me there
was that the findings and comments support what I said earlier about the
European model of HRD. The previous research would suggest that it's very
difficult to identify any description or definition of HRD which would
fairly accurately describe what is happening in the different countries
in Europe. So there is no European model.
Thesis five on the 'European focus' - the observation that occurred to
me again is the disparity between what might be suggested by institutional
websites and what actually happens in practice. I think the conference
papers will reflect the personal interests of individual academics. I think,
to a significant extent, individual and personal interests of academics
will be reflected in the projects, because whatever programmes are put
on what comes back is what people are proposing in their own personal academic
you say that they don't necessarily reflect institutional interests?
that's what I'm saying. So what I'd say is that the conference papers and
the projects, to an extent, are explainable by personal interests of individual
academics. I can't explain the institutional results, I am fairly certain
the institutional results will reflect political and perhaps economic priorities
rather than the interests of academics.
comment about the European model: I'm arguing for European practice – lived
values -rather than a European model.
kept thinking what's the problem, the European problem in terms of research
or practice. There are a whole series of national problems, and that led
me to think it would be a shame if there were all sorts of national differences.
And the other kind of observation I made was - who controls the public
funded research activities within different countries in Europe, and who
are the gate keepers of those processes, and how are those people influenced
in terms of how they see us, the agenda for HRD or the agenda for VET,
or the extent to which they are interlinked or separate. So those gate
keepers of public funded research, to me, would be an interesting extension
of the research you've done today, to look at that kind of dimension.
thing that has struck me - what's the difference between HRD and VET? It
seems - I think I agree with Jim to some extent - that VET is focused on
society whereas HRD is focused on individual organisations. They've obviously
got many intersections, as we know, but VET has generally featured national
strategies and funding coming from the EU ,and thinking about which way
we need to go, in terms of skills that we need for the future. That is
quite a problematical area, and I think that is something where HRD
could have a bit more input.
HRD and VET have been two parallel universes - often with different literatures,
but different people saying similar things and looking at similar things.
Now it's no reason why everybody should get together, -, there are reasons
why they are separate, but there are reasons also why they should collaborate.
The experience of people in HRD and organisations might be useful to feed
back to the development of VET policy, because both are basically about
what we need to make our societies and businesses and organisations better
for the future. And those are really important issues that people who are
working in organisational learning need to be involved in.
working at a small research centre (www.apel.nu) in Sweden which has grown
quite a lot in the last four years. The reason why we have grown is because
our methods to combine research and development are in demand and traditional
academic institutions do not supply this kind of developmental support
through research. We have developed a method to work together with the
practitioners, where we combine developmental work together with research,
in order to develop both the academic knowledge and the practical use through
a joint learning experience in a shared knowledge building process. We
seem not to have a problem to find funding for research from the European
social funds or from national sources because the financiers find us as
an interesting party as we use untraditional research methods where we
involve our practitioners in the research process in the aim to learn from
developmental work and where new knowledge can change practice. There is
a lot of demand to research issues that relate to developing the future
society in general and developing new competences for future demands in
specific. Research methods that seek to combine learning from practice
and simultaneous trying new solutions with the support from researchers
is highly demanded from different stakeholders such as government agencies,
public employers, the health sector, SME’s and trade unions.
a point which Jim raised - you very rightly say that sharing themes of
research doesn't mean that they jointly do this research. In the analysis,
'sharing' is simply used as a technical term to describe the overlap between
HRD and VET research.
lived in France and in Norway, and what I was thinking of when you were
speaking was that the labour market is so different. I was just wondering
if we can have such a shared HRD policy or European way of HRD. The context
of HRD you are working in can be so different that it needs different policies
and different ways of working in different contexts. So I wonder where
the idea of a European HRD comes from.
think this idea comes from the idea of a common market, a common labour
market, a common capital market, that does have some implications for transferability
of labour between different countries. But if that's the only problem then
perhaps research might be better concentrated on policy, on something like
VET practice, what we have in higher education, how do you move students
about between countries. I think as long as this isn't realised you won't
get harmonisation between different national systems of higher education.
The collaboration around a credit transfer system might be one way forward
- how do you do credit transfers for plumbers, for technicians.
am looking at the European aspect in a sense of promoting certain values
about social inclusion, for example creating a strong - if you call it
- apprenticeship system. These things matter. The apprenticeship system
is under threat because in many cases the employers don't want to pay for
it any more, even in Germany. But there's a concern in many countries about
the generation of skills for people who want to go to higher education,
but at the level of the workforce. So the argument would go - in a European
context, can countries learn from each other, not just copy each other,
but can they learn to support and encourage each other to preserve these
things like social cohesion as well as greater competitiveness. From an
individual country perspective – each country is probably no longer strong
enough to withstand competition from the US, China, India. The movement
in society is largely towards the neo-liberal tradition, so if countries
don't cooperate together to come up with something strong in response,
then there are problems in safeguarding of these traditions which are behind
the humanistic tradition of HRD - getting a better balance between your
work and your life. These are practical issues, they are political issues,
but they are not about coming up with a grand model. It's not one grand
theory – with everything is the same, but European countries do share lots
of values and the future has to be constructed. It's not a question of
having a model - I mean the Swedish have had their Swedish model, which
has been spoken about, and in many ways it's totally changed today. Social
models can only be sustained by trade unions, by employers, working together.
For example in the UK, the voice of trade unions to me has been so weakened
that it's a great shame. I would think from any point of view that this
is something that is weakening VET. HRD can become very instrumentalist,
just in a neo-liberal kind of discourse. To me the European Union model
is very often driven by a top-down ideology. This is different from the
efforts of our countries to preserving their culture. This is about a multiplicity
of practices, learning from each other, but also trying to identify certain
values around working life. I'm a great fan of the Nordic countries in
the sense of that they have got some kind of a balance between VET and