ECER 2005 Proceedings
Opening Plenary Colloquium
How European are Europe's work and learning policies?
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Introduction by Barry Nyhan, Cedefop

This section is entitled: "How European are Europe's work and learning policies". It was John Elliot from the University of East Anglia at the ECER conference in Ljubljana (1998), at the opening plenary session of the whole conference, who spoke about the role of the European research community in contributing to European development. Europe, as John explained at that session, is a project that can only be built by the citizens of Europe - that is if they want to continue building it as we have learned from recent discussions and referenda in different countries. 
    So the question that we are posing in this opening session is what is the role of VET researchers in this European project. Are we here at UCD this year, just to exchange information - we're at an international conference, so we want to exchange information - or are we trying to build a VET research community in Europe with the view to building a European framework for VET, searching for common shared European values and goals around VET? So this is the question, this is an open question, and I'm sure people in VETNET have different views about it, but this is the underlying reason for organising this session. Also our other session which will take place tomorrow (Thursday morning) is again about a VET research agenda. 
    Now our topic today, as distinct from tomorrow's topic, is a very broad one "how European are Europe's work and learning policies". We wanted to start by painting a broad picture trying to situate VET in a wider area, because in fact it is a very interdisciplinary area. It is at the crossroads of education, work sociology, labour market, employment policies, technology, business. So it draws into its group a good cross section of people. In fact it's the biggest network, I think, in the whole ECER, and perhaps this is because it offers interesting discussions on transitions between school and work and society. So it's not just a purely educational discussion about pedagogics, looking at schools and universities. 
    So we decided to have a discussion against this wide multi-faceted context. The question again, another way of putting (it): To what extent do European work and learning policies exist in reality? Is there such a thing as European work and learning or social policies? Or what kind of European work and learning policies does VETNET – do we as researchers – want to support in the face of the current situation and discussion about Lisbon, Copenhagen, Maastricht and all these things? 
    There have been a number of books written about this recently, and particularly Jeremy Rifkin's book on the ‘European dream’, which he is supporting over against the American dream. And there have been quite a number of books in the past. There was a book by Michel Albert two years ago entitled "Capitalism versus capitalism". He wrote, to quote from that book, that capitalism was at risk from democracy because it valued making money above spending it, but for him capitalism should be at the service of the nation state, and not to just promote the economic interests of the nation state. 
    So now, for the keynote speech on our topic "How European are Europe's work and learning policies" I'll hand the floor over to Professor James Wickham of Trinity College Dublin.

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Source: Recording of VETNET session at ECER 2005 in Dublin (details see Proceedings)
Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO