The Conversation published a piece by PEW’s Professor Moodie on the impact of fudged research results on trust. The piece can be found here.

PEW’s Professor Moodie published a short piece in WONKHE on the impossibility of teaching-only universities. The piece can be found here.

PEW’s Professor Moodie published a piece on CIHE’s blog on the current debate regarding free speech in Australian universities. The piece can be found here.

by Edmund Adam

In 2000, the Postsecondary Education Choice and Excellence Act authorised Ontario’s colleges to award bachelor degrees. It marked a milestone in a journey that had begun a decade earlier with Charles Pascal’s (1990) Vision 2000, which recommended the creation of new degree-granting institutions. The government justified this reform on various grounds. A strong rationale was broadening student access to baccalaureate level study, particularly for students from groups under-represented in the university.

In 2002, college baccalaureates were officially introduced into Ontario’s post-secondary education (PSE) system, with nine colleges offering 12 baccalaureate programmes. In 2016, thirteen colleges offered 108 baccalaureate programmes, and with full-time enrolments estimated at 15,000. However, the question remains about the extent to which college baccalaureates have achieved the social objective of widening access – that is, facilitated baccalaureate completion rates for traditionally under-represented target groups.

Prior studies in other jurisdictions indicate that college baccalaureates have indeed broadened PSE participation for under-represented groups (Floyd, Skolnik, & Walker, 2005; Wheelahan, Moodie, Billett, & Kelly, 2009). Our Ontario Human Capital Research and Innovation Fund research project addresses this issue by focusing on the characteristics of students enrolled in college baccalaureate programmes, their decision making processes, their reasons for enrolment, and the impact of participation on their identities.

In our study analysis, we applied a theoretical framework developed by Ball, Reay, and David (2002) regarding two ideal types of students in terms of PSE choice: embedded and contingent choosers. Embedded choosers are those students who have a clearly forged pathway to PSE coming out of high school, whereas contingent choosers are those for whom participation in PSE depends upon overcoming one or more barriers. The two ideal types build on Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of ‘cultural capital’ which, in its simplest form, refers to the kinds of symbolic wealth transmitted from middle-and upper-income parents to their children to sustain family status across generations (Bourdieu, 1977). Generally, it is embedded choosers who possess this cultural capital.

The study presents evidence obtained through interviews with 22 baccalaureate students from five Ontario colleges. Preliminary analysis of interview data offers interesting results. For example, 60% of the interviewees were non-traditional students above the age of 25 years. 55% students explained that their decisions to choose college baccalaureates were informed mostly by a ‘word of mouth’ from those in their immediate social circle: friends, colleagues, and sometimes parents. Reasons for choosing a college degree programmes varied, but the most important reasons were location, cost, greater opportunities for coops, the applied nature of programmes, availability of specialised programmes, lower admission requirements, and ample financial aids for students with outstanding academic credentials at high school.

Data also suggest that college baccalaureate students are, more often than not, contingent PSE choosers. This is evident in two of our findings. First is the local considerations for decision making: cost, location, coops, and financial aid are important for college baccalaureate students, in stark contrast with embedded choosers’ considerations such as status and prestige of degrees. Second, 73% of students report no parental involvement in the decision to attend a college baccalaureate programme.

As to student identity, our analysis shows that college baccalaureate students identify more with the field of study than with the college they attend. Students interviewed indicate that when asked how they describe their experience to family, friends, and acquaintances, they prefer to talk about their field of study or the profession they want to enter before they volunteer the name of the institution in which they are undertaking this degree.

Our analysis provide insights into the contributions colleges can make to dealing with the challenge of fulfilling the growing demand for bachelor degrees and the provision of equitable access to baccalaureate education and other access initiatives.


Ball, S. J., Reay, D., & David, M. (2002). Ethnic choosing: Minority ethnic students, social class and higher education choice. Race Ethnicity and Education, 5(4), 333-357. doi:10.1080/1361332022000030879

Bourdieu, P. (1977). Cultural reproduction and social reproduction. In J. Karabel & A. H. Halsey (Eds.), Power and ideology in education (pp. 487-511). New York: Oxford University Press.

Floyd, D. L., Skolnik, M. L., & Walker, K. P. (2005). The community college baccalaureate: Emerging trends and policy issues. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus.

Vision 2000. (1990). Quality and opportunity. The final report of the vision 2000 task force. Toronto: Ministry of Colleges and Universities.

Wheelahan, L., Moodie, G., Billett, S., & Kelly, A. (2009). Higher education in TAFE. Adelaide: National Centre for Vocational Education Research.

OISE’s pathways to education and work team has been commissioned by Education International to prepare a paper, to be entitled “Global Trends in VET: A Framework for Social Justice.”

Education International is a federation of 396 associations and unions which represent some 32.5 million teachers and other employees in all forms of education: early childhood, primary school, secondary school, vocational, university and adult education. Education International represents organisations from 171 countries which are served in 5 regions: Africa, North America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and Latin America.

Education International commissioned a paper to respond to the big changes confronting vocational education, many shared with other education sectors and some shared with other social services. Some of these changes seem to be the result of general social and organisational developments, such as the diffusion of new technologies and globalisation. Others seem to impinge more heavily on vocational education, such as the transfer of responsibility from experts such as vocational teachers to employers, and in many jurisdictions, a related privatization of vocational education.

The team has found that vocational education is a higher proportion of all education in upper and upper middle income countries. This may reflect the economic structure of those countries needing a higher proportion of graduates with vocational education. But it may also reflect the fact that vocational education needs more resources than academic and general education. Vocational education needs more expensive equipment and facilities, it needs more practical classes, and more staff per student to protect the safety of students and the equipment they use.

Until recently major donor agencies have under invested in vocational education in lower income countries because they believed the returns to academic education to be higher than for vocational education. But of course returns to education reflect the rewards structured by society and its political and economic elites rather than contributions to economic and social development let alone the intrinsic worth of types of work. And atomistic analyses of returns to education ignore the shared benefits of balanced economic and social development.

There is a particular challenge to develop vocational education for the informal economy. All countries have an informal sector. Employment in the informal economy is around 15% in developed economies and from 50% to 70% in developing countries, and around 90% if agriculture is included. Much work in the informal economy is skilled, but most skills are developed in non formal vocational education or informally such as in traditional apprentices.

While the informal economy is by its nature difficult to reach and is unlikely to have much resources for formal vocational education, its economic and social importance provides a strong case for improving its skills development. There is a major gap in vocational programs and in understanding skills formation in the informal economy and how it may be improved.

Productive Capabilities as a Framework for Vocational Education

Countries’ markedly different economic resources, economic structures, cultures and societies make it very difficult to develop a policy or even goals which reflect the very different circumstances of vocational education without being too general to be informative. The team plans to use Sen and Nussbaum’s concept of human capabilities to develop a concept of productive capabilities.

Productive capabilities are the resources and arrangements of work and the broad knowledge, skills and attributes that individuals need to be productive at work, to progress in their careers, and to participate in decision-making about work. Productive capabilities are located in and concentrate on an intermediate specialised level, the vocational stream. A vocational stream links occupations that share common practices, knowledge, skills and personal attributes.

Productive capabilities rest upon broader social, economic, cultural and technological resources. For example, individuals need to have the language, literacy and mathematical skills for engaging and progressing in study and work. They need to have access to the social and economic resources such as housing, healthcare, transport and childcare that facilitate their participation in study and work and enable their participation in civic society and in their communities. And people need to have the knowledge, skills and attributes required to navigate, negotiate and engage in these aspects of life; the capacity to be skillful at work emerges from broader knowledge, skills and attributes.

The team will argue that developing productive capabilities offers a role for vocational education that is specific to vocational education yet reflects the different contexts in which it is found.

By Jacquie Beaulieu
Thank you for visiting our research team’s brand new website! Here, you can find:
  • Summaries of current and recent research projects
  • Citations, abstracts, and links to our publications and presentations
  • An introduction to the members of our team
  • Our twitter feed! Follow us @OISEPathwaysGrp

We encourage you to revisit our website and blog in the coming weeks as we will be providing regular updates related to our research and upcoming presentations. We will also post scholarly and practitioner-oriented articles for audiences interested in the topic of educational pathways.

Again, we wish to welcome you to our research team’s online home! We hope that you will find our website’s contents informative and relevant to your own research and work-related pursuits.