Nordic Fields of Higher Education. Structures and Transformations of Organization and Recruitment, 1985-2015

  • Munk, Martin D. (Project Participant)
  • Börjesson, Mikael (Project Manager)

Project Details


There is much evidence suggesting that a special model for higher education has developed in the Nordic countries during the second half of
the twentieth century. This model is characterized by largely publicly-owned systems, which are relatively closely regulated by the state,
include high levels of public funding and no or low student fees, and have strong influences from egalitarian traditions. In such models,
higher education has also been seen as an important pillar in the welfare system, not only through the emphasis on broad and equal access,
but also by educating the professionals needed for the development of the welfare state (Välimaa 2005; Vabø and Aamodt 2008).
During the last three decades the higher education systems in the Nordic countries have undergone important changes. The Bologna
process has been implemented, although time tables and the degrees of adjustments have varied (Kim 2002, Tomusk 2006, Kehm, et al.
2010). The number of students has increased drastically and this has also involved the establishment of new institutions. Internationalization
has become a more integrated part of the national systems and an increased emphasis on efficiency, competition and market orientation has
been apparent. In short, the systems appear to have been transformed from cohesive and standardized systems, administered largely within
the state, into more diverse and complex national and international higher education landscapes.
Our project investigates what these changes mean for the traditional Nordic model of higher education. Recent developments suggests that
Nordic higher education systems are increasingly characterized by tensions and trade-offs between varied and often conflicting goals,
including tensions between mass and elite forms of higher education, and between academic education and vocational training. In terms of
organization and policies, the Nordic countries have taken different approaches to resolving these trade-offs. One example is the
organization of vocational and academic tracks, with Denmarks more divided system, and Norways more integrated system between
professional colleges and universities offering contrasting cases. These kinds of changes and tensions pose challenging questions: Can we
still speak of a Nordic model of higher education? Do we need to redefine it to make sense of contemporary challenges? Or, are there now
several, distinct and competing models for higher education in the Nordic region?
Changes in the Nordic model of higher education are to be investigated by focusing the recruitment of students. We believe that recruitment
patterns offer a key to understanding the effects of restructuring in national systems of higher education, as changes in recruitment patterns
over time provide us with indicators of changing valorizations of higher education programs, fields and types of study, and institutions.
Analyzing recruitment patterns also makes it possible to evaluate the function of higher education in relation to the welfare state, evidencing
the role it plays in democratic goals related to equity.
The project will compare recruitment patterns across four countries: Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden; as well as comparing between
several disciplines and higher education institutions within each country. Under-utilized and unique statistical resources that exist in the
Nordic countries will provide robust data for analyses of the whole population of students in each country, and investigations of structural
changes over the last three decades.
These findings will be interpreted and guided by a broader, comparative analysis of the key contrasts and similarities between the Nordic
higher education systems. In this way, we will develop and set-out a robust understanding of what the Nordic model means today, in relation
to the patterns of recruitment in the fields of higher education. Such an understanding is crucial for planning the future direction of higher
education system in these countries, and for establishing areas for further Nordic collaboration and shared effort regarding issues of access,
equity, and inequality.
Effective start/end date01/01/201316/04/2018


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.