IMHE Info (Programme Institutional Management in Higher Education) May 2012.
The Cinderella of Tertiary Education: Postsecondary Vocational Education and Training
While tertiary education is expanding rapidly, how post-secondary vocational education and training (PSV) contributes to this expansion is rarely taken into account. PSV is often seen as a second choice, less glamorous than privileged universities associated with centuries of elite academic tradition and excellence. Post-secondary vocational education and training institutions are not included in the global rankings of world-renowned universities which attract the best students and provide access to the most prestigious jobs. However, this type of education is here to stay. In many countries post-secondary vocational education and training is booming as demonstrated by the number of enrolled students and PSV graduates in high skill jobs.
It is difficult to have a globally-acceptable definition of PSV because the range of institutions varies widely as do programme features. A current OECD study has therefore adopted a pragmatic definition of these programmes: one to four year programmes (full-time equivalent), depending on the country, that prepare students for direct entry into the labour market in a specific profession. These programmes are provided beyond upper secondary level (International Standard Classification of Education - ISCED 4, 5), through which students may obtain recognised qualifications. This does not include programmes beyond bachelor degree or the equivalent.
Post-secondary vocational education and training institutions offer PSV programmes regardless of their governance and funding structure. They may also provide other education and training programmes. For example, community colleges in the United States offer a wide range of vocational as well as academic programmes, while Swiss professional education and training colleges provide specific PSV programmes.
For employers education is important as it has a direct bearing on worker productivity. Two identical workers with different educational backgrounds performing identical tasks will produce different outputs. Some jobs require high level education and training (doctors, lawyers) while there is not much comparative advantage of a well educated workforce in other types of jobs (cleaners). As a result, the need for more education-intensive jobs in response to changes in the economy and labour market will increase the demand for high level education. In recent decades, employment has risen in high skill occupational groups in most OECD countries while at the same time the middle skill job sector has contracted. There has also been an increase in low-skill occupations such as elementary jobs, as well as sales and services while the number of workers in clerk positions has been steadily falling. Employment in fields such as crafts and plant operators has also dropped off. This phenomenon has sometimes been described as a ‘hollowing out’ of the labour market.
Stronger links and inter-reliance between countries affects PSV systems. The impact of globalisation is evident not only through cross-border movements of students and graduates but also through more indirect routes such as foreign direct investment and international trade. This is not only about the movement of people across borders but also increasing cross-border movement of goods, services, technology and capital resulting in greater international competition. Yet at the same time, for companies in national markets, globalisation provides new market opportunities in other countries. Companies operating in diverse markets therefore require more “globalised” skills and competencies. For example, a tax specialist working for clients in various countries might be required to understand the relevant rules and tax laws of several countries. To ensure that graduates completing post-secondary programmes are well prepared for increasingly globalised jobs, both local and international aspects relevant to the field of study need to be well integrated into study programmes. In practical terms, this might require teaching staff to keep abreast of recent changes in policy, research findings and technological innovations and to update study content to reflect recent developments.
Prior to setting up in another economic market, companies take into account available human capital, as well as other factors such as transport costs, plant economies of scale and other local market characteristics. Countries with a highly skilled workforce are less competitive in low skill sectors. PSV can play an important role in helping companies promote job creation in high skill sectors to prevent the outflow of capital and investment.
The response of PSV institutions to labour market needs depends on the mix of programmes and the skills obtained within each programme. PSV should provide the skills and knowledge necessary for students to be able to accomplish successfully the tasks that the job entails. Students who are trained using outdated equipment or who are not up to par on important aspects of their specialised field are at a significant disadvantage as they finish their studies poorly prepared for the job for which they have been supposedly trained. As a result, they have little comparative advantage in specific occupations and employers are more likely
to hire people with better credentials. For institutions, this might lead to fewer enrolments, less public funding and diminished confidence in the credentials they provide on the labour market. Institutions therefore need to consider both employer needs and students’ interest in the set of skills that students develop through the programme.
Employers should indicate the skills they require so that PSV can adjust their programmes accordingly. To ensure employer participation in PSV, many countries have introduced a legal obligation for stakeholders and institutions to consult employers on various matters including the mix of the education provided. To this end, labour market representatives are often included on the governing boards of institutions. The willingness of employers to provide on-the-job training is a good indicator of employer needs.
New OE CD work to boost entrepreneurship: Review of Skills for Entrepreneurship

Universities can provide a unique environment for nurturing high growth enterprises, spin-offs and graduate start-ups. A new OECD activity has been launched to assist universities, governments at different levels and development agencies to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of policies, strategies, structures and practices in university support of entrepreneurship. This would increase start-up, survival and growth rates of graduate enterprises and showcase best practices throughout the world.
This review evaluates university entrepreneurship against OECD criteria, together with a policy development workshop to create and agree on a local action plan to implement recommendations. It includes: a) a comparative survey of university entrepreneurship strategy and practices, b) a detailed assessment of challenges and opportunities, c) tailored recommendations for policy improvements and a Policy Action Plan, d) comparison of the quality of local entrepreneurship support with institutions and regions in other countries, and e) a set of international learning model programmes.
Individual universities, groupings of universities and other higher education institutions, national and sub-national government authorities and economic development agencies are invited to apply to join a new review round that starts in early 2013. Studies take 9-12 months to complete. To know more about the benefits, contents, costs and scope of the review, please contact or
The Managing Internationalisation initiative

The OECD Programme on Institutional Management in Higher Education (IMHE) studies how the increasingly global nature of higher education is changing the ways in which higher education institutions view their role, mission and the way in which they work.
As part of this initiative, two conferences were organised. The first one focused on the Strategic Management of Internationalisation in Higher Education at Lund University in association with the Nordic University Association (NUS) and the Nordic Association of University Administrators (NUAS). The second one, co-organised with the State University of New York, examined Internationalisation for Job Creation and Economic Growth.
From the conference held in Lund, three main challenges were identified: i) cultural understanding; ii) more encompassing management strategies; and iii) the need for regulatory frameworks. Key recommendations emphasised that internationalisation should be included in the debate on improving quality assessment in institutions and include staff and students in the management groups; HEIs should seek government support in the development of international strategies; internationalisation strategies and policies should not be one-size-fits-all but rather amended to fit the size and type of the institution.
Breaking away from the rhetoric seeking to explain and rethink internationalisation, the conference held in New York underscored the concrete issues and actions to be taken by universities and governments in order to best exploit and deal with internationalisation for economic growth. The four main conclusions were:
• There is a consensus on the economic value of internationalisation but not all participants considered that internationalisation might be an economic driver. University leaders still essentially recognise the student social and civic engagement without enlarging the potential effects of international education.
• The economic impact of internationalisation draws an increasing interest from governments and higher education systems (e.g., regional consortia, multi-campus systems, home and offshore systems…). Both play a growing role in fostering or inhibiting internationalisation, either via regulations or incentives.
• Likewise governments and systems also acknowledge that the internationalisation of higher education led by universities have an impact on their policies, particularly when it comes to national security and trade. Some national authorities have subsequently fostered economic ties with foreign governments as to control and facilitate the import and export of higher education. The individual impact of internationalisation on students’ experience is not the main purpose of governmental intervention (unlike for universities) but the wider development lever that internationalisation can spur on.
• Therefore, discussions on internationalisation should include governments, systems and the institutions.
SUNY, along with its 64 campuses, is developing the concept of “systemness” as a driver to respond consistently to current challenges in the US and the results of the severe economic downturn in the industrial areas of New York State. Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of SUNY, defined the systemness to mean “the coordination of multiple components that, when working together, create a network of activity that is more powerful than any action of individual parts on their own.”
IMHE has held online focus groups to further explore aspects of the internationalisation of higher education. The findings of these sessions will be compiled into a report which will also contain tools for strategic management and institutional practice as well as useful resources. The results of the 2 conferences and the report should be presented at a session at the IMHE 2012 General Conference on Attaining and Sustaining Mass Higher Education, Paris, France, 17-19 September 2012.