Nordic Fields of Higher Education. Stable and Similar Social and Gender Structures across Time and Space

Monday, 16 July 2018: 17:45
Oral Presentation
Mikael BÖRJESSON, Uppsala University, Sweden
When the Nordic systems of higher education are analysed as fields of higher education, that is, as structures structured by the resources possessed by the students attending different programmes and courses at specific institutions, a fairly similar pattern emerges across time and space. The fields of higher education in the four studied Nordic countries are all characterised by a dual structure. The first axis describes the division of men and women and separates education in technology and natural sciences from education aiming at professions in health, education and caring. The second axis displays a social hierarchical dimension with social groups rich in economic, social and cultural assets in contrast to groups with small such resources. This latter dimension also differentiates the traditional universities along with prestigious professional schools and long and selective professional programmes at the pole of students from well-to-do homes from regional university colleges and colleges of health science and shorter non-selective professional programmes at the other pole.

The stability and similarity of the structures are even more remarkable given that all systems have gone through rapid transformations during the last two, three decades. There has been a very pronounced expansion, due to both establishment of new institutions and growth of existing institutions. The systems have also been subject to profound organisational changes including adoption to the Bologna process, increased internationalisation, and an augmented emphasis on efficiency, competition and market orientation. In short, the systems appear to have been transformed from cohesive and standardized systems, administered largely within the state, into larger, more diverse and complex national and international higher education landscapes. The puzzle of the stability of the recruitment patterns in times of transformation will be further developed in our presentation.