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Published on 27 de November, 2015 at Educational Institutions

Towards a comprehensive and consistent tertiary education

By Francesc Quintana
4 min read

Tertiary or higher education has traditionally been separated between vocational training and university education. Moreover, generally speaking, students and families ignore that vocational training can also be higher education so university education is perceived as having a greater social prestige.

A worldwide comparative analysis of various educational systems, from Spain to Australia, highlights how different national systems of professional qualifications award a higher position to university education in terms of professional qualifications.  Now the question is: and, what the job market values the most? Here, the answer is not so clear.

This question can be addressed by focusing on school quality, which means to make available to students relevant information and career guidance. It is quite common fact that people do not choose their training in accordance with labour market demands. Often, we hear employers complaining on the fact of unmatched professionals profiles inside while it exists a stubbornly army of young people unemployed. To assign human resources in the labour market, we have the vocational training system and the university system. Which one is more efficient?

Regarding the labour market, vocational training involves:

  • a training process aimed at a specific professional profile being already demanded by the job market
  • finding a job more quickly and directly
  • a real possibility of following a later training within both the vocational training system and the university system, in a perspective of long life learning
  • entrance requirements with a moderate level of exigence
  • a wide and expanding range of training courses related to all of economic activity sectors

While training university degrees entail:

  • an wide and basic academic training, in a particular field of knowledge, which will serve as a foundation for further learning in the workplace
  • a generalist knowledge acquired through a considerable time span, which provide more resources for tackling successive changes in the professional sphere throughout life
  • a long transition period (2-4 years) in the workplace to become fully competent, while a new more specific formal training may be required, this being a controversial issue
  • entry requirements are increasingly demanding
  • a wide range of degrees but not necessarily related to economic sectors

In short, the importance of tertiary education related to professional development is found in skills. University degrees provide professional skills more general and, therefore, more versatile, while in the field of vocational training skills are more specific and directly related to the first job. The required specific responsibilities and skills for a University graduated are better known by those who will hire him or her, whereas in the field of vocational training  this difference should not be so clear.

Additionally, vocational training is the most direct way to access a well-paid job, to refocus professional activity and to enter in a high education scheme for the adults. We should also mention that governments are fostering vocational training, which has been increasing its social prestige even though it is still far from the attraction college degrees have among most social groups.

In short, there is no reason to maintain separate two training systems that allow people to access the labour market and obtain compensation for fulfilling their plans life plans. There is also no law forbidding working together. In this sense, it exist a movement aiming at getting closer vocational training and university education at the top level. This approach has the following advantages:

  • makes clear to students and society that in a single training centre you can have access to both training systems, which blurs the vision that is one is “above” the other
  • allows improved training options to make easier to combine  education and work throughout life, which is the necessary professional requalification
  • displays in front of companies the possibility of finding the wide range of qualified personnel the labour market is asking for in a single training centre

Is there any educational institution that is decidedly walking in that direction?, We can cite the case of the Universitat de Vic – Universitat Central de Catalunya,  which is committed to vocational training provision in partnership with the local business network. Another example would be the University of Vocational Technology, an institution founded in 2008.

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