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VET Organisation and management in Norway

In the white paper on tertiary vocational education, ten measures were proposed aimed at ensuring that tertiary vocational schools are well organised, with clear ownership and good governance. Several of measures deal with composition of vocational schools’ boards and the clarification of the board’s authority and responsibilities, including strengthened rights for the students’ and employees’ participation in vocational schools. In addition, one of the measures concerns the representation of the labour and business sector on the boards of vocational schools. Measures aimed at financing the sector were also proposed. The report shows that although a positive development is pointed out in the sector, there is still a need to further clarify the organisation and the management of the VET sector.

Student participation in the sector is demanding. Although the rights to student participation on board have been formally safeguarded, it is however difficult to achieve good student participation in practice. This is related to the distinctive character of the vocational schools and the distinctive character of the students. Many of tertiary vocational education students take part-time educations and many of the educations are online, and in addition, many educations are of short duration. The VET Students in tertiary vocational education are also significantly older than students at universities and colleges, and many of the students are already established in the labour market and/or have family. These factors help explain why student participation in clinical placements can be demanding. Both in terms of the time aspect and the fact that many of the study programmes are not campus-based mean that fewer students are involved in the student bodies and as student representatives, in addition to the fact that it is difficult to achieve continuity in various positions. Though students themselves have responsibility to get involved, it is important that vocational schools and the sector as a whole work to find ways to increase student participation; not only formally, but also real.

On the other hand, several challenges are identified with county’s responsibility for vocational schools. Challenges concern several and different circumstances. Among other things, the 2023 evaluation report on vocational education shows challenges related to the county municipality’s role as owner, and the framework that applies to county municipality’s management of its own vocational schools. There seems to be a need to clarify the framework for the county municipality as owner and manager of vocational schools, in relation to the role of the board as the highest responsible governing body. Hence, it also points to other several challenges due to the fact that county vocational schools must use systems and agreements that are not well adapted to current VET sector, including collective agreements for employees and the use of study administration system Visma in School. This is important to follow up to ensure that county ownership does not impede good development in VET sector. Evaluation report noted that several representatives of the county owned vocational schools believe that considering these many challenges, the discussion should be held as to whether the county ownership of vocational schools is appropriate.

Moreover, the challenges related to the county municipalities as responsible for regional competence policy have been pointed out. The evaluation report shows that there are divided opinions in the VET sector regarding whether the county municipality is perceived as taking an active role in mapping competence needs in the region, and that there are different approaches to this. There also seems to be a clear need to establish systems related to both mapping and prioritising national competence needs as deemed by today labour market. This is because the competence needs committee’s work does not seem to meet the knowledge needs of vocational schools and county authorities at a sufficient level of detail. The report points out that it is important that the measure to establish dialogue meetings between the Ministry of Education & Research and County Authorities is implemented, to ensure that the county authorities’ responsibility for the VET sector, including the responsibility associated with mapping competence needs, to a sufficient extent, are followed up.

Furthermore, the report points out that there is a need to clarify how the county authorities should separate their roles as owner on the one hand, and manager on the other. There are many differences in organisation, attention, and practice between the county authorities in the VET sector and the vocational schools that must deal with different county municipalities, experience great variation in how this is handled. Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT) is a key player in ensuring quality in educational programmes, but in general the report points to major challenges with NOKUT’s work on accreditation because of very long processing times. The consequence is that the vocational schools must wait for a very long time to start up new educational programmes that are needed in the working life. The report points out that it must be ensured that the NOKUT capacity does not become a barrier to the development of the VET sector and prevent the sector from offering education that the labour market needs and students demand. Increased number of subject area’s accreditations could alleviate some of these issues. At the same time, the report points out that it is very important to be aware of the risk that only a few of vocational schools benefit from this instrument. Hence, a desired effect of a possible increase in the number of subject area accreditation must be that the processing time in NOKUT is also reduced.

Authors of the Report

The project Competences for the Future – Matching the Needs of the Labour Market benefits from a € 106 000 grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants. The aim of the project is to update the education offer through the exchange of opinions and good practices between organizations with experience in the field of vocational education of youth and adults.