Status hierarchies in the diversifying higher education in Finland


    Finland has been regarded as a forerunner in the move from an elite university to mass higher education (HE) largely funded and controlled by the state and tuition-free. Recent developments are, however, challenging this in ways that conflict with ideals of educational justice and equity. This study examines the diversification of educational credentialing in Finnish HE. The objective is to capture the complex and contested nature of status hierarchies between and within different degrees provided in different HE institutions. International research has emphasized the increasingly hierarchical nature of HE sector, which has not thus far been examined in the Finnish context. A critique of higher education reforms, policies and practices reveal that HE often leads toward increased social stratification along class lines and produces socially biased student populations to universities also in Finland. The overall objective of this study is to formulate a significant theoretical and methodological framework that will make visible the status hierarchies and differences within the Finnish higher education sector, which are known to be interrelated with reproduction of societal and occupational positions. The aim is to capture the contemporary debate over diversification of credentialing and to deconstruct perceptions of different interest groups. The specific research questions are formulated as follows: (1) How the diversification of the types of degrees is manifested within the Finnish higher education systems? (2) How is the status of different degrees perceived by various interest groups, e.g., policy-makers, institutional leaders, academic staff, students/graduates, employers, and unions? (3) How grapevine information on reputation and prestige produce status hierarchies and increasing inequalities between various degrees? New qualitative data will be produced by observing the debate that occurs during focus group interviews. The benefits are multifold: not only will this project launch new directions for future research. In addition, it hopes to reach the level of political importance and to provide multifaceted and complex knowledge to policy makers that enable the adjustment of the current political directions.
    Effective start/end date01/06/201531/05/2018