Johanna Kallo

Governance of Higher Education through OECD Future Scenarios


The present research focuses on analysing the past and current higher education future scenarios of the OECD and the congruence of these scenarios with national scenarios for higher education in Finland, France and the United States. The key research questions are:

1. Examination of the OECD’s scenarios:

Which kinds of alternative future scenarios has the OECD presented on the higher education policies of its member countries from the 1960s to the present? What are the essential differences and analogies between the latest OECD scenarios and those preceding them? Which aspects are presented as ideal (utopian) and undesirable (dystopian) future alternatives in the OECD scenarios? Which of the alternative scenarios have become reality and why? Which scenarios did not materialize and why? How have the scenarios become a part of educational governance?

2. Comparative study approach: National future scenarios

Which kinds of alternative future scenarios for higher education policy have been presented in Finland, the United States and France from the 1960s to the present? Are there shared features or equivalencies between the scenarios in the three countries? Is there congruence between the scenarios on the future of higher education presented by the OECD and national future scenarios in the three target countries? Have the OECD’s alternative scenarios for higher education policy influenced the scenarios of higher education in the target countries, or have the scenarios generated in the target countries influenced those compiled by the OECD?

The research material comprises written source material and interviews. The documents concern-ing OECD future scenarios will be collected from the OECD’s libraries and archives. The material relating to national future scenarios will be collected from the sources provided by national ministries, research institutions and think tanks. In Finland, these include, for example, the publications of and interviews the Ministry of Education and Culture; in France, the publications of and interviews with the Futuribles International Association and major think tanks, such as Terra Nova, L’Institute Montaigne and Fondapol; and in the United States, the publications of and interviews with the RAND Corporation.

The OECD future scenarios are studied primarily from a post-structural critical perspective. The objective of this approach is to analyse the ways in which a specific conception of the future becomes hegemonic in relation to other future conceptions. According to this approach, the nation state and other manifestations of power have an essential effect on the emergence and strengthening of certain hegemonic conception. (Inayatullah 2002; Slaughter 2002.) In post-structural critical research, the focus is on epistemological considerations – the questions of how future agendas are established and how such agendas are controlled. Fundamentally, this is an issue of the dimension of power, where the limits of our knowledge are defined in a manner that is independent of our own control (cf. Lukes 2005).

Key words: OECD, Future scenarios, governance, higher education policy, comparative education, history, Finland, France, the United States


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