The political objectives for the institutional structures of the self-governing institution areas are to ensure broad educational environments with a range of options for young people and adults in all regions, and that the institutions should be able to bear the independent, decentralised responsibility for educational opportunities and development, as well as the pedagogical development. The primary aim is therefore to ensure a high level of educational quality and broad geographic coverage throughout the country.
In the case of post-compulsory education programmes, management of the educational options is to ensure that these programmes are available locally for all young people such that they have the possibility for commencing and, to the greatest possible extent, completing an education without having to move away from home.
Regarding the higher education programmes it is expected that the target group is, to a larger degree, mobile. The capacity of the programmes is generally more limited than with the post-compulsory programmes. At the same time, however, emphasis is placed on achieving regional coverage in terms of the educational options, partly with regard to the possibilities for maintaining attractive educational alternatives for young people in all regions, and partly in order to support regional business development.
Having educational institutions in the outlying areas is of great importance for business development. It is also to assist in attaining the political objective of having as may young people as possible complete an education. However, experience with small institutions in local areas offering a small variety of educational programmes has shown that the local educational institutions have found it difficult to attract young people, who would rather seek out the larger and multi-academic educational environments available in the larger cities and often do not return to their local areas once they have completed their education. At the small institutions with a limited educational field and a small faculty, where individual subjects are typically only covered by a single teacher, it is, furthermore, often difficult to develop versatile academic environments.
To an increasing degree, the institutions have taken on new tasks and roles and are no longer defined by a school building but by a teaching environment that is internally organised into a number of local departments of the primary institution and which, together with other educational institutions, is part of a single comprehensive and flexible regional infrastructure.
The development in the individual sectors’ institutional structures
The institutional structure for the self-governing institutions for vocationally oriented education and training has in recent years been marked by the establishment of the unified institutional structure for vocationally oriented basic, continuing and further education and training as a result of the consolidation of AMU (Adult Vocational Training) centres and technical colleges. Moreover, a great deal of consolidation of business colleges, technical colleges, and agricultural colleges has been carried out with the intention of realising the institutional policy objectives. The primary rule has been to maintain the local options, irrespective of the fact that the institutions have been merged into larger organisational units.
With the development in the structure of the institutions, their role as regionally responsible actors in relation to ensuring those seeking education and the business community’s needs for education and competence development has been emphasised. In this capacity demands, such as entering into local cooperative efforts with other educational institutions, have been placed on institutions.
Despite the harmonisation of the institutional structure, there continues to be a fairly large range in the institutions’ size, educational profile and academic breadth. The functions of the institutions are divided into four primary fields, where the same institution can perform a number of different functions:
- Local institutions offer primarily vocational education and training and vocational upper secondary programmes.
- Regional institutions meet the same needs as local schools but also offer a wider range of vocational education and training and opportunities for continuing and further education in relation to the needs of the regional labour market.
- Sector institutions are leading academic institutions in a particular field and are limited in their educational programmes, which aim at meeting a particular sector’s needs, either nationally or regionally.
- Trade institutions only offer specific post-compulsory education programmes or specialised areas within a given educational area.
In accordance with the Act on Vocational Education and Training and the Act on Labour Market Education, etc. (AMU), the state has the right to give approval to private providers to offer educational programmes. This form of approval does not include institutional approval, only approval to provide offers for specific elements of vocational or labour market educational programmes.
A process is currently underway for the establishment of up to 10 academies of professional higher education. An academy of professional higher education is a shared institutional framework for providing short-cycle higher education programmes (KVU) and further adult education (VVU). The vision of the academies of professional higher education is to strengthen the development of KVU and VVU as well as to establish a foundation that can promote the development of technical and commercial bachelor programmes.
The general upper secondary schools’ institutional structure has not changed significantly in many years. There has been development in terms of establishing new upper secondary schools in the larger cities in keeping with the increasing number of applicants in these areas. At the same time, especially in keeping with regional policy, a number of small upper secondary schools have been established outside of the larger cities. In connection with the relocation to state administration in 2007, select institutions have begun a process of merging with other post-compulsory education institutions.
Within the area of self-governing medium-cycle further education institutions, the institutional structure has also undergone extensive changes in recent years. The majority of the medium-cycle further education institutions have now joined together in a Centre For Further Education (CVU) with the aim of creating a broader academic, independent and higher profile educational environment. The sector consists of 22 CVUs, which are all multi-academic institutions of further education. The CVU sector is made up of approximately 100 individual MVU (medium-cycle further education) institutions, placed under the Ministry of Education, each of which previously offered one out of the approximately 20 bachelor degrees available in specific subjects.
As of 2008 there will be another merger of the CVUs and almost all of the remaining individual MVU institutions. 8 University Colleges will be established that will have the task of developing and offering practically oriented further, continuing and higher education programmes in their respective regions. These programmes are to meet the need for a qualified labour force in the private and public sectors at an internationally academic level. A university college is to function as a regional institution of knowledge and have a close and strong working relationship with the regional interests, including enterprises, clients, regional growth fora, etc. as well as a strategic and concrete working cooperation with universities and other relevant research environments.
The institutional structure for the adult education centres (VUC) has undergone certain changes in recent years. In many places the individual centres have merged into larger units, often with sub-divisions. This has occurred especially with the aim of creating larger and academically and pedagogically stronger education environments for adults, but also, to a certain degree, in the interests of greater efficiency.