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Stratification through a Binary Degree Structure in Finnish Higher Education

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Global Higher Education book series (PSGHE)

Abstract

The aim in this chapter is to analyze stratification in Finnish higher education by examining the establishment of a binary degree structure on the Master’s level. The idea of educational credentialism is adopted to address positional differences between higher education sectors. The question that arises is how the attainment of a degree from a particular sector is related to job opportunities in the labor market. The empirical analysis focuses on how graduates with an academic Master’s degree and employers reacted to the new professional Master’s degree. The introduction of a new degree specific to universities of applied sciences allowed the research universities to distinguish themselves and, by claiming a higher quality of academic programs, to cast their degrees as superior to those of their counterparts.

Keywords

  • Stratification
  • Degree reform
  • Master’s degree
  • Educational credentialism
  • Finnish higher education

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Educational credentialism can be understood alternatively as a persistent trend toward the need for ever increasing educational credentials for jobs (credential inflation) or as a non-linear return for schooling, meaning that the highly educated are rewarded more than their contribution to production is worth (Bills and Brown 2011). Both approaches convey a negative image of educational credentialing as superficial and as a mechanism that creates an unjust competitive advantage for people with a degree compared to those without.

  2. 2.

    ‘Academic’ and ‘professional’ refer here to differences in institutional profiles.

  3. 3.

    These included experts from the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, the Federation of Finnish Enterprises, the Union of Health and Social Care Professionals, and trade unions from private sector services and industry. Officials from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health also participated.

  4. 4.

    All professional Master’s degree programs included in this study contain 90 credit points. However, some programs exist whose length is only equivalent to 60 credit points.

  5. 5.

    Fifteen graduates with a professional Master’s degree were also interviewed in the project. These interviews are not part of this analysis.

  6. 6.

    Results are presented as the proportion of respondents who agreed (fully or partially) with the survey items on a five-point Likert scale.

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Isopahkala-Bouret, U. (2018). Stratification through a Binary Degree Structure in Finnish Higher Education. In: Bloch, R., Mitterle, A., Paradeise, C., Peter, T. (eds) Universities and the Production of Elites. Palgrave Studies in Global Higher Education. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-53970-6_4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-53970-6_4

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