Tertiary Education and Management

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 179–192 | Cite as

Learning outcomes across disciplinary divides and contrasting national higher education traditions

  • Rachel SweetmanEmail author
  • Elisabeth Hovdhaugen
  • Hilde Karlsen


In many quarters, attempts are underway to identify learning outcomes in higher education which are context-neutral or ‘generic’; such measures could provide new ways to assess and compare outputs from higher education. This paper considers potential challenges in using such broad learning outcomes across contrasting disciplinary and national settings. An empirical contribution is provided by an analysis of data from the international REFLEX survey for Norwegian and English bachelor’s degree graduates. This sheds some light on the relationships between graduates’ broad learning outcomes (general competencies), their national contexts and their disciplinary area. It finds variations in competencies across subjects and countries, suggesting that general competencies of the type often suggested as generic learning outcomes may be unstable and problematic to compare across contrasting settings. It highlights the need for comparative research into variations in learning outcomes and graduate competencies considering disciplinary and national factors.


employability higher education policy institutional performance measures national systems of higher education undergraduate study 


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Copyright information

© The European Higher Education Society 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel Sweetman
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Elisabeth Hovdhaugen
    • 2
  • Hilde Karlsen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EducationThe University of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Research and Education (NIFU)Nordic Institute for Studies in InnovationOsloNorway

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