A comparative study analyzing the most distinctive characteristics of the Finnish and U.S. universities, and principles of accessibility present within these higher education systems
1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Educational Sciences
|Online Access:||PDF Full Text (PDF, )|
|Persistent link:|| http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:oulu-201706022431
|Publish Date:|| 2017-06-05
|Thesis type:||Master's thesis
This master’s thesis analyses universities in fundamentally different higher education systems, i.e., the Finnish higher education (HE) system and the American HE system, paying attention to the most distinctive characteristics of these two systems, in addition to investigating how principles of accessibility manifest themselves within these same systems. In order to explore the aforementioned phenomena profoundly, seventeen Finnish, American, and/or other experts (professors, policymakers, international scholars) with significant long term experience of one (or both) of these countries’ educational systems were interviewed. In addition to these seventeen interviews, key policy documents from both countries were examined, and the findings of the interviews and document analysis are presented. The following research questions were formulated and utilized in order to ascertain answers relating to the challenges, problems, similarities and differences within, and between the respective HE systems: 1. What are the most distinctive aspects of the Finnish Higher Education system according to policy documents and educational experts? 2. What are the most distinctive aspects of U.S. Higher Education according to policy documents and educational experts? 3. How does accessibility manifest itself in Finnish Higher Education and U.S. Higher Education from the perspectives of educational experts? 4. How do the principles of accessibility manifest themselves in Finnish Higher Education policy when compared to U.S. Higher Education policy according to policy documents? The first two questions explore the distinctive characteristics of each system, while the latter two seek answers vis-à-vis the two HE systems concerning a specific phenomenon: accessibility. While these research questions permit discovery, they also directed the research in order to ensure that the specific type of data required by the researcher, i.e., data on the respective higher education systems as depicted by relevant documents and the educational experts was attained. This research report begins with a research context, describing the respective HE systems, while the subsequent theoretical framework discusses the theoretical perspectives on the roles and tasks of higher education, in addition to its place in society with a focus on neoliberal ideals, and the diverse approaches adopted by HE institutions. The research methods and methodology adopted and utilized in this research comprise of a qualitative content analysis, heavily influenced by a hermeneutical approach. The research findings indicate that the most distinctive characteristics identified concerning the Finnish HE system are: self-directed learning, free education, homogeneity, and emerging competition; while the most distinctive characteristics identified regarding the U.S. HE system are decentralization, large size, and diversity. Concerning accessibility, this research indicated that the fundamental differences between the two HE systems originate from their historical and societal differences, and the impact of these differences can easily be perceived with regards to accessibility. Finland seems to have achieved what many countries would like to achieve in terms of accessibility. On the other hand, despite noteworthy efforts undertaken within and by the U.S. HE system aimed at increasing accessibility, the U.S. is still facing problems with regards to accessibility. In conclusion, the researcher believes that this master’s thesis paves the way for further research in the field, and that its findings are beneficial for those who wish to deepen their understanding of these two HE systems, in addition to issues relating to accessibility.
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