This call has been published in the Supplement to the Official Journal of the European Union 2012/S 117-192782 of 21/06/2012.
Deadline of submitting tenders: 20/08/2012 (17h00 for hand-delivered tenders).
Requests for additional information/clarification should be received by 08/08/2012.
The answers to such requests, if any, will be published under this banner, therefore please visit Cedefop's website frequently for updates.
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Attachments: Tender Dossier - Partnerships for LLL.
2 Terms of Reference
Recent Cedefop research activities on permeability and progression routes in the context of lifelong learning and career development revealed that education and training systems have developed different devices and mechanisms to support individuals in organising and self-defining their learning paths (see for example the work on the European Credit system for Vocational Education and Training, the European Qualifications Framework, validation, permeability and guidance principles2).
Education and training policies in Europe nevertheless still call for increased equity in education and training, increased learning opportunities and access to further professional or academic education and training for a wide range of learners (young, adult, disadvantaged groups, etc.). The recent analysis of progress towards achieving the objectives of the Strategic Framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020) identifies structural weaknesses in access to higher education. “There is considerable potential to help those already in the labour force enter or re-enter higher education, to promote the transition from vocational education and training to higher education, and to improve the recognition of prior learning acquired in non-formal contexts”3 as well as remaining obstacles for lifelong learning in terms of limited learning opportunities; a lack of accessible information and support systems; and insufficiently flexible vertical and horizontal learning pathways. On the long run, enabling learning pathways means better adapting learning to the labour market needs and individual career/learning development. It can also be understood as a means to increase the employability of learners and graduates.
Lifelong learning includes all learning activity undertaken throughout life, which results in improving knowledge, knowhow, skills, competences and/or qualifications for personal, social and/or professional reasons (Cedefop, 20114). Depending upon segmentation and stratification patterns of education and training systems, envisaging permeability and progression in lifelong learning implies focusing at different interfaces. Permeability and progression might occur at the interface of different IVET segments, as well as between IVET and further education/higher education or between education/training provisions aimed at different target groups (young people, adult learners). Partnerships for lifelong learning depend upon the institutional settings and regulations within education and training systems. Characterised by different patterns of segmentation and stratification, the systems have undergone different reform endeavours. These include new definitions of responsibilities (including in some cases devolution of decision and policy making activities away from central authorities), of autonomy in decision making and practices, decentralisation/regionalisation and mergers but also increased accountability at provider levels (Cedefop, 20105). In some countries, institutional autonomy also involves funding (Bulgaria, Germany, Austria) where VET providers can increasingly take independent budgetary decisions. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia, for example, have merged state-owned VET schools to optimise financial and human resources as well as increasing quality of, and accessibility to, VET. To reduce large-scale fragmentation of the IVET structure, the government of Hungary offered financial support to voluntary emerging VET development associations. In Denmark vocational colleges and labour market training centres were encouraged to merge to improve interaction with local and regional business and to strengthen dialogue among training providers and end-users, including both VET learners and business. In Northern Ireland, further education colleges were consolidated to provide high quality customer focused education and training, able to meet the needs of individuals and employers.
The Finnish development plans (2003-08 and 2007-12) aim at strengthening VET provider networks. These developments lead to different modes of organisation and management such as the articulation hubs in Scotland, regional education pools in Nordic countries, collaboration platforms in Germany or the extension of remits of VET providers in the Netherlands. It also leads to education and training stakeholders defining new positions in decision-making and policy implementation processes; as for instance the sector and skills councils in the UK or the competence centres in the Netherlands.
2.2 General purpose
This Cedefop study on “Partnerships for lifelong learning in Europe: Towards greater permeability” focuses on why and how education and training stakeholders engage into partnerships and networks at national and regional levels to support access and progression of learners and graduates in education and training. The study has an explorative character and shall lead to an analysis of how far partnerships are emerging or have emerged since 2000 as a new mode of VET governance and with which characteristics and efficiency, including in terms of employability. This study follows upon the definition of VET as applied in Cedefop study on development of VET at higher qualification levels6 and underlying learning outcomes approach to qualifications. In that study, VET offers were considered independently of their organisation anchorages. Governance in VET can be understood, by analogy and in a broad sense, as the interactions between institutions, processes and tradition that determine how power is exercised, how decisions are taken on issues of public and private concern, and how citizens have their say (Oliver, 2010).
2.3 Research questions
The general purpose of this study should be tackled by answering at least to the following questions:
1. Which are the triggers for VET stakeholders to initiate or enter partnerships leading to lifelong learning offers in terms of qualifications and education/training provisions?
2. Which models of partnerships are emerging to respond to the needs for lifelong learning offers including better articulation of different education and training offers? This question includes analysing the partnerships in terms of types of stakeholders involved and respective roles. The analysis should also relate to underlying VET governance models and traditions, and how they are evolving.
3. To which extent do VET providers seek partnerships and cooperate within and beyond their own sector? More specifically: Which main forms do these partnerships take? At which geographical and institutional level does this happen? For which purposes are partnerships established? Which are the barriers and enablers of such partnerships?
4. How do the partnerships impact on lifelong learning? In that respect impacts will be considered in a multi-level perspective (for individuals, for institutions/organisations, for VET systems, for the labour market). This includes for instance the question on how these partnerships influence the lifelong/life-wide learning of individuals (progression) and the transparency, responsiveness and relevance of VET systems.
5. How can/could the efficiency of the identified governance mode be measured? (in terms of process outputs and outcomes)
2.4 Description of tasks and methodology
The study should follow a comparative and qualitative approach. It should be based both on secondary data analyses, taking into account existing research and policy documents as well as on collecting and analysing new data. In the following sections, the tasks and methodology are described in detail.
The contractor should carry out two main tasks:
a) Comparative overview of 15 European countries answering the questions as formulated in section 2.3.
This study will map and analyse different patterns of partnerships for lifelong learning. This overview includes an analysis of triggers, favourable conditions and obstacles to develop partnerships (including remedial activities). It will link to the analysis of existing and emerging governance modes in education and training. An important aspect is the analysis of contextual elements such as prevailing stratification, differentiation or segmentation patterns in education and training. The analysis focuses on VET stakeholders and shall consider how far and how labour market stakeholders or not-profit organisations (e.g. associations from the volunteering sector) are joining the partnerships. The selection of the countries by the tenderer should address different factors, such as geographical coverage, VET systems provisions and governance regimes existing in European countries (EU Member States, Norway and Liechtenstein).
This study links to the request by the European Union for an “improved coordination of policies across different sectors (education and training, labour market, social affairs, etc.) and levels (national/regional/local) in order to reduce fragmentation of lifelong learning systems, improve provision and access for individuals, and deploy resources more efficiently”8. Beyond the development of the common European tools and principles for lifelong learning (EQF, ECVET/ECTS, EQAVET, Key Competences Framework, and European guidelines on validation of non-formal and informal learning)9 the study shall identify the triggers and mechanisms for developing partnerships. This study is part of Cedefop research activities on modernisation of education and training in Europe10 and will contribute to discussions on governance in VET. It consequently links to two on-going Cedefop studies focusing on how the education and training system and the labour market cooperate and communicate in the process of defining and renewing the content and profile of VET provisions and qualifications and the role of qualifications for access to and practice in occupations and professions. This study also links to the on-going study on qualifications at level 5 of the European qualifications frameworks.
b) Development and in-depth analysis of 6 case studies.
The comparative overview will be supported by 6 case studies, which will analyse in depth how partnerships emerged (or are emerging) and develop(ed). The case studies shall illustrate the main models of partnerships for individual progression and permeability in education/training systems as identified on the basis of the comparative overview. The case studies are also intended to check on hypotheses formulated in the comparative overview. Particular attention should be paid to whether and how these partnerships contributed to increased opportunities for lifelong learning in their respective settings in terms of education/training provisions and target groups. The extent to which these partnerships indicate a change in conception and understanding of education and training shall also be analysed (impact assessment). The case studies shall include examples for partnerships developed at national and regional levels.
The research should rely on a thorough analysis of national and European policy developments as well as on research. The case studies will be built into the analysis, allowing for understanding current developments and formulating conclusions for policy and practice as embedded into a grounded approach to the research issue.
- Desk research and empirical research.
The analysis on education, training and partnerships for lifelong learning will be based on literature reviews and research as well as on qualitative research methods (i.e. interviews with policy makers and experts from different sub-systems of education and training should be conducted to gather the most up-to-date developments, and any other means proposed by the contractor). For the desk research the tenderer will review the most recent relevant policy and research publications at national, European and international level and identify relevant data in countries.
The case study approach allows in-depth, multi-faceted explorations of complex issues in their real-life settings. The definition of criteria for 6 case studies is an important part of the research methodology. The contractor should address different factors and dimensions on partnerships for permeability in education and training, including triggers, obstacles and impacts on education and training as well as on labour market issues.
The contractor should envisage organising focus groups to validate and support the comparative analysis of the case studies.
- Networking with national stakeholders
The contractor is advised to assemble the team necessary to execute, manage and coordinate the study. Considering the complexity of the study, the contractor is advised to rely on a team of experts/consortia across different countries to carry out the analysis and validate the findings.
- Collaboration with Cedefop
In the different development stages, the contractor will be working in close collaboration with Cedefop’s project manager(s) responsible for this project. The research tools will be subject to discussion and approval by Cedefop’s project manager(s) responsible for the project.