Three Dimensions of Institutional Contention: Efficiency, Equality and Governance in Danish Vocational Education and Training Reform

Martin B. Carstensen, Christian Lyhne Ibsen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This article develops a new analytical framework to account for institutional change in vocational education and training (VET) systems. Trajectories of institutional change are typically explained using one of two perspectives on institutional contention. First, the Varieties of Capitalism-approach highlights positive efficiency effects from coordination between companies on skill formation. Second, a historical institutionalist approach focuses on positive political feedback effects from the governance of VET institutions. We propose adding a third dimension of institutional contention related to what role VET should play in fostering greater socio-economic equality. Employing this three-dimensional framework enables a more fine-grained analysis of gradual forms of institutional change and greater appreciation of the ways in which political struggles over the configuration of the three dimensions drive institutional reform. The argument is supported by analyzing the trajectory of institutional change in the Danish VET system in the post-war period.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSocio-Economic Review
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)1037-1063
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Published online 30 March 2019.


  • Institutional change
  • Comparative political economy
  • Vocational education and training
  • Industrial relations
  • Denmark

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