L'istruzione terziaria in prospettiva comparata. Assetti istituzionali, partecipazione e disuguaglianze sociali [Tesi di dottorato]
Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca, 2010-06-28
Access to tertiary education expanded dramatically in the last century and higher education became an institution with a «mass» participation. The rapid increase in the number of enrolments has been followed by a raise in the heterogeneity of undergraduate population, because higher percentages of students from lower social classes and with a weaker scholastic background entered university. In this context one of the aims of higher education institutions (HEIs) is to promote participation and to guarantee students from disadvantaged families the opportunity to enter and complete higher education, if they are sufficiently motivated and able. Literature review on this topic shows that higher education systems (HES) widely differ in the way they are able to achieve this goal. In fact, the level of social inequality in access and degree completion according to social origins varies across countries. My work hypothesizes that they way in which HES are structured reduce or enhance the overall level of access and differences among social groups in the probability to successfully complete a tertiary degree. To test this hypothesis I analyze macro and micro data from 15 industrialized countries, with different institutional profiles and level of inequality (Australia, New Zealand, United States, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, and Japan). The first chapter of the thesis is devoted to an overview of the main developments of HES in a number of industrialized countries and to answer this question: is it possible to observe a convergence in the institutional arrangements of HES over time? I show that several processes have pushed towards a convergence in some aspects of institutional configurations: a) the common expansion of student access; b) the role of international organizations like OECD, UNESCO, World Bank and Eurydice in setting a common «agenda» of issues and objectives; c) the hegemonic role of US higher education, often seen as an example of advanced system to be imitated; d) the «Bologna process», which promoted a structural transformation of degree courses and other aspects in European tertiary education systems. Nonetheless, these macro-processes are counterbalanced by the actual reforms’ implementation, which is strongly affected by the existent institutional arrangements, political forces, predominant ideological views, socioeconomic and cultural conditions in each nation. This means that even if HES face a set of common problems in different historical periods, they maintain rather different institutional profiles. These institutional configurations can be seen as diverse ways to solve problems derived from the expansion and diversification of student population and from growing financial constraints. In the second chapter I show that also change of social inequality followed different trends across countries. Moreover, the enlargment of rooms in higher education is not an effective way to promote a reduction of relative inequalities, because students from upper classes are often the first who take advantage of educational expansion. On the contrary, expansion could help to reduce absolute inequalities among social groups, because it improves the overall educational attainment of lower class students. The second part of this work is dedicated to a) identify the main characteristics which define the institutional profile of HES; b) determine the position of each country using several indicators; c) create an empirical typology of HES on the basis of similarities and differences among their institutional configurations. I show that HES can be conceived as an institution in a complex set of relations with other institutions: school system, State, family and market. School system has the main task to educate and train young people, transmitting them knowledge and skills. A large part of these students decide to enter higher education and their probability of success is strictly connected to their previous school career. State finances HEIs, defines the basic rules of system functioning and sets universities’ degree of autonomy. Families provide students with financial assistance, along with various kinds of public support (grants, loans, etc.). Lastly, HES are characterized by different levels of stratification and professionalization, which affect graduates’ characteristics and their degree of success in the labour market (employability, wage, etc.). Furthermore, according to the economics of education, occupational returns can be viewed as an incentive or disincentive for enrolment in higher education among high school leavers. In the fourth chapter I elaborate an empirical classification of HES, based on a multidimensional view of their institutional configurations, which are defined by 15 indicators related to investment, autonomy, accountability, economic affordability, stratification and privatization. The empirical typology suggests the existence of fourth clusters of countries, which resemble the typology of welfare regimes. Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain and Japan constitute the Liberal regime, United States and Canada the North-American one; Belgium, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy and Ireland the Continental regime, while Sweden and Finland the Nordic regime. The fifth chapter is devoted to an investigation of the outcomes of HES: participation and social inequality. Firstly, I show the way to operationalize the concepts of participation and inequality; secondly I discuss the limits of a comparative analysis of these phenomena. I rely on macro data to measure student participation in higher education, using indicators on access, participation, drop-out and degree attainment. Micro data are instead used to derive indexes of inequality. The degree of inequality is measured by the partial association of parents’ education and the probability of tertiary education attainment estimated with binary logistic regression models. I elaborate both relative and absolute measures of the «effect» of social origins. In the sixth chapter these indicators are related to the empirical typology and to HES specific institutional configurations, in order to answer this basic research question: is there a relation between the institutional profiles of HES and their degree of openness to students? The analysis suggests an affirmative answer, within the limits of available data. First of all, participation and inequality vary according to the typology of HES. The level of tertiary education attainment is higher in the Nordic and North-American regimes, followed by the Liberal and the Continental ones. A similar order emerges looking at inequality indicators: the Nordic countries are the most equal, followed by the Anglo-American systems. The Continental regime is instead characterized by a relatively high level of inequality, compared to the other systems. In the last part, a fuzzy-set analysis is used to discover whether particular combinations of institutional traits are systematically associated with a higher degree of participation and equality in tertiary education attainment. Results corroborate hypotheses derived from the economics of education and the social stratification studies. The combination of a low tracked school system with a high level of investment, privatization and occupational returns of higher education constitutes a sufficient condition for a large participation. A low level of tracking in the school system combined with a good financial affordability and a low privatization is related to a low degree of social inequality, whereas privatization and stratification seem not to amplify inequality..
diritti: info:eu-repo/semantics/openAccess
Settore SPS/07 - - Sociologia Generale

Tesi di dottorato. | Lingua: Italiano. | Paese: | BID: TD16014800