Pither, Jane Margaret Lacey (2021) From Lisbon to Copenhagen, London, Helsinki and Edinburgh - a study of vocational education and training (VET) policy making in four European countries (Denmark, England, Finland and Scotland). Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

In this study I explored the complex spatial and temporal relationships developed during vocational education and training (VET) policy making by the European Union (EU), three member states (Denmark, Finland and the United Kingdom) and a region, Scotland, covering the period from 2000 to 2019. Discourse and thematic analyses of EU and national VET policy documents were used to compare the distinctive nature of VET policy making in the four countries through comparative policy analysis. Illustrative thematic case studies, developed to better understand the interplay between the policy making processes were then compared with selected policy change theories of convergence, divergence, Europeanisation, Europeification, policy drift and policy diffusion.

Using Archer’s morphogenetic approach within a critical realism framework to support analyses of different layers of discourse, it was found that there was no consistent understanding of the purpose of VET between the EU and its member states, or, indeed, within the nations of the UK. Nor did the EU establish a consistent VET policy space. The purpose of VET policy was varyingly perceived as either social, economic, educational or political between 2000 and 2019.

These nuanced relationships are portrayed through the conceptualisation of a VET policy making gyre, developed as an alternative to the policy making cycle. The gyre was found to represent more fully the ebb and flow of aspects of policy purposes and goals over time as well as the dynamics of structure and agent relationships in policy formulation. The gyre also reflected the shifts between top down, bottom up and peer to peer policy learning or absence of learning that was apparent as VET policy was developed.

Brief consideration is given to the future of VET policy making in the light of both Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, based on the trajectories developed in the study.

PITHER - THESIS.pdf - Accepted Version
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