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A stakeholder analysis of an educational policy reform: The transition from Technical College Graduate to Bachelor of Science in Engineering in Sweden
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Learning. (HEOS)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-3914-7670
KTH, School of Education and Communication in Engineering Science (ECE), Learning, Organisation and leadership. KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Learning.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2983-5573
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In the early 1990s, the lower engineering degree in Sweden was transformed into a two-year engineering degree at the higher education level. This profound educational policy reform was preceded by more than ten years of investigations and preparations, with contributions from various stakeholders. With this policy reform, Sweden took its place alongside many other countries that had already implemented similar reforms to elevate what had traditionally been their more practically oriented engineering education. By using an oral history approach, i.e., a combination of historical text studies and interviews, this study explores the events leading up to the decision to enact this educational transformation. The focus is on the stakeholders involved and the roles they played. A division of the decision-making process into three phases shows how different stakeholders were more active in different phases. We conclude that it is not possible to identify any single stakeholder as more important than the others in this decision-making process, nor is there a single argument or single event that is decisive. Different proposals were tested and scrutinized, and by being an active part in the discussion, a final proposal with broad support from many stakeholders eventually emerged.

Keywords [en]
engineering education, higher education, stakeholder analysis, educational policy reform, critical juncture
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Education and Communication in the Technological Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-273224OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-273224DiVA, id: diva2:1429864
Note

QC 20200513

Available from: 2020-05-12 Created: 2020-05-12 Last updated: 2020-05-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Change and inertia in the development of Swedish engineering education: The industrial stakeholder perspective
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Change and inertia in the development of Swedish engineering education: The industrial stakeholder perspective
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis investigates higher education development in Sweden from an external stakeholder perspective, with a particular focus on engineering education. Industry has long been a major external stakeholder in the development of profession-oriented higher education, not least in the context of engineering education. Representatives of industry and other employers have continuously called for developments in the curriculum to prepare students for an evolving profession. Scholars of higher education have gone so far as to depict employers as the definitive stakeholder in higher education today. However, it has also been claimed that engineering education and its institutions are, and always have been, rather unresponsive to external calls for changes. These partly contrasting views call for a study of the role of industry vis-à-vis the different strategies that higher education institutions can draw upon to respond to external calls for change. Thus, the following overarching research question is posed: What kind of role does an external stakeholder such as industry have in the development of engineering education?

The conceptual framework for the thesis is based on literature on organisational continuity and change, response strategies to external calls for change, university–business collaboration, and curriculum development and quality. The main theoretical concept presented in the thesis, however, is stakeholder theory and stakeholder analysis. A model for stakeholder analysis is chosen and presented in which the assessment of the attributes power, legitimacy and urgency form the basis for the analysis of the stakeholders’ salience.

Empirically, the thesis is based on three studies, which have yielded four appended papers. The studies represent different situations in which external stakeholders have had the possibility of impacting higher education. All three studies have an interpretative and qualitative methodological approach, with semi-structured interviews as the main source for data collection, combined in the second study with historical document studies. In order to frame these studies in their historical context, an overview of the development of engineering education in Sweden is presented as a background. In this overview, the development of relationships between industry and engineering education institutions are depicted with reference to a series of milestone events.

The results show that, from a historical perspective, industry has indeed been an influential stakeholder to engineering education. It is argued that while industry still is an important stakeholder, higher education institutions today have to attend to the interests of a broader range of stakeholders, including students, government and others. Claims in the international literature that employers are the definitive stakeholder in higher education does not seem to fit well with the Swedish context, as analysed in this thesis. This may be partly understood as a consequence of a shift away from national-level decision-making regarding higher education development, leaving previous structures for active stakeholder influence less potent.

Important decisions about engineering education have in Sweden moved from a national and centralised level to an international level, exemplified by the Bologna Process and the global quality assurance and enhancement scheme called the CDIO[1] Initiative, and at the same time to a local level due to an ambitious autonomy scheme for higher education institutions in Sweden. This can be seen as a divergent trend compared to an international setting, specifically in Anglophone countries where the Washington Accord acts as the basis for curriculum development. This accreditation agreement is heavily influenced by the accreditation scheme for engineering education in the United States, the ABET criteria, in whose formulation employer representatives have a major impact. It may be questioned whether industry representatives have fully recognised this shift in the decision-making process in the engineering curriculum in Sweden. With regard to earlier claims that engineering education and its institutions are unresponsive to external calls for change, the thesis concludes that higher education institutions respond and act, but not always in the way external stakeholders expect or want. External stakeholders have to persist in their eternal quest for progress and development in engineering education, but they may have to adjust and divert their attention to both an international and local context at the same time.

[1] CDIO: Conceive-Design-Implement-Operate

Abstract [sv]

I den här avhandlingen har utvecklingen av högre utbildning i Sverige, särskilt ingenjörsutbildning, undersökts ur externa intressenters perspektiv. Industrin har länge varit en viktig extern intressent i utvecklingen av yrkesinriktad högre utbildning, inte minst inom teknisk utbildning. Representanter för industrin och andra avnämare efterlyser kontinuerligt en utveckling av utbildningar i syfte att förbereda studenterna för ett ständigt förändrande yrkesliv. Forskare inom högre utbildning har gått så långt som att hävda att arbetsgivarna är de definitiva intressenterna inom högre utbildning idag. Samtidigt har det också hävdats att ingenjörsutbildning och dess institutioner är, och alltid har varit, ganska långsamma, till och med ointresserade, av att svara på externa uppmaningar till förändring. Dessa delvis kontrasterande synpunkter ligger till grund för en studie av industrins roll i förhållande till de olika strategier som universitet och högskolor kan använda gentemot externa krav på förändring. Följaktligen ställs den övergripande forskningsfrågan: Vilken typ av roll har en extern intressent som industrin i utvecklingen av ingenjörsutbildning?

Avhandlingens konceptuella ramverk bygger dels på organisationsteoretisk litteratur om kontinuitet och förändring samt svarsstrategier på externa krav på förändring, dels på forskning om samverkan mellan universitet och företag samt kvalitets- och programutveckling. De huvudsakliga teorierna som används i avhandlingen är dock intressentteori och intressentanalys. I den modell för intressentanalys som valts utgör bedömningen av intressenters makt, legitimitet och enträgenhet (urgency) grunden för analysen.

Empiriskt baseras avhandlingen på tre studier som har genererat fyra artiklar. Studierna representerar olika situationer där externa intressenter har haft möjlighet att påverka högre utbildning. Alla tre studierna har en tolkande och kvalitativ metodologi, med semistrukturerade intervjuer som bas för datainsamlingen, i den andra studien kombinerat med historiska dokumentstudier. För att rama in studierna i sitt historiska sammanhang presenteras en historisk översikt över utvecklingen av ingenjörsutbildningen i Sverige. Översikten fokuserar på ett antal händelser då relationerna mellan industrin och utbildningsanordnarna har förändrats.

Avhandlingen visar att industrin historiskt sett har varit en inflytelserik aktör gentemot ingenjörsutbildningen och att de fortfarande är en viktig intressent, men att högskolorna numera måste ta hänsyn till fler intressenter, inte minst studenter och andra branscher. Påståenden i internationell forskningslitteratur om att arbetsgivarna är de definitiva intressenterna inom högre utbildning verkar inte stämma i ett svenskt sammanhang, åtminstone inte så som det analyserats i denna avhandling. Detta kan delvis förklaras av att det skett en förskjutning bort från att viktiga beslut om utveckling av högre utbildning tas på central nationell nivå, vilket gör att tidigare strukturer hur intressenter utövar sitt inflytande har blivit mindre verkningsfulla.

Viktiga beslut om ingenjörsutbildning har i Sverige flyttat från en nationell och centraliserad nivå till både en internationell nivå, exemplifierat av Bologna-processen och det globala kvalitetssäkrings- och utvecklingsprogrammet som kallas CDIO[1], och samtidigt till en lokal nivå tack vare en långtgående autonomiprocess för högskolor i Sverige. Detta kan ses som en divergerande trend jämfört med internationella sammanhang, särskilt i engelskspråkiga länder där det internationella ackrediteringsavtalet Washington Accord fungerar som grund för kvalitets- och programutveckling för ingenjörsutbildningar. Washington Accord är starkt påverkat av ackrediteringssystemet för ingenjörsutbildning i USA, ABET, där representanter för arbetsgivarna har en stor inverkan. Det kan ifrågasättas om industribranschernas företrädare i Sverige har uppmärksammat denna förändring i beslutsprocessen för ingenjörsutbildningar. När det gäller tidigare påståenden om att ingenjörsutbildningen och dess institutioner inte hörsammar externa krav på förändring, avslutar avhandlingen med att hävda att universitet och högskolor både reagerar och agerar, men inte alltid på det sätt externa intressenter förväntar sig eller vill. Externa intressenter måste vara uthålliga i sin strävan efter utveckling av ingenjörsutbildningarna, men de kan behöva anpassa och omfördela sin uppmärksamhet till både ett internationellt och lokalt sammanhang.

[1] CDIO: Conceive-Design-Implement-Operate

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2020. p. 84
Series
TRITA-ITM-AVL ; 2020:24
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Education and Communication in the Technological Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-273297 (URN)978-91-7873-520-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2020-06-05, https://kth-se.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_0MG9EB_dSuuhnvezU1O1aw - http://Vid fysisk närvaro eller Du som saknar dator/ datorvana kan kontakta service@itm.kth.se, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
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Supervisors
Available from: 2020-05-13 Created: 2020-05-12 Last updated: 2020-05-29Bibliographically approved

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