Voksen- og efteruddannelsespolitiske målsætninger udsat for kontraktstyring

Søren Clausen & Jens Peter Brusen Rasmussen

Student thesis: Master executive thesis


Our interest in writing this paper has been driven by the puzzle of decline and reinvention. During our past two years of MPA studies as well as in the media we have been introduced to many of the negative associations and decline of contractual governance within the public sector: It rests on an image of organizations as businesses and on actors as economic agents. The focus on competitive survival and success means that public interests are marginalized: “Non-profitable” but “socially crucial” schools and colleges are shut down and short-term success privileged over long-term sustainable educational objectives. And still in 2010 we encounter the reinvention of contractual governance within an area which has not yet been exposed to this form of governance, Adult Vocational Education and Training (VET). In the so-called Agreement Paper of 12 November 2008 the Danish government and the social partners agreed that the demand for adult education and continuing training among workers and enterprises had to be strengthened. Those with the lowest level of formal education and training, who had the greatest need for and barriers to education, had to be motivated. 5 strategic action areas were identified on a national level and later backed by legislation; among these a strengthened coordinated guidance and counseling about opportunities in adult education and continuing training. As a consequence 13 centers for adult VET (in Danish “VEU-centre”) were established across the country in 2008 - 2009 and launched in January 2010. Based on the 5 national and legislated action areas for adult VET, so-called Development Contracts have been drawn up between each of the 13 VET-centers and the Ministry of Education during 2010. The contracts set specific results to be achieved within each of the 5 national action areas, supported by halfway indicators and milestones. This paper therefore analyzes the first application of contractual governance within VET and is the first of its kind to do so. Our research uses empiric data collected during seven interviews with Directors and Board Members of VET-providers as well as representatives of the Ministry of Education. During a study visit to the EU Agency for VET, Cedefop in Greece, we interviewed four VET-experts to obtain a European view on challenges within VET. We have used legal documents, internal working documents of the Ministry and the VET-providers as well as the Development Contract itself and related reporting tools. Our view has been that the Development Contract itself, its related reporting tools and the VET-center construction may be seen as institutions within which any given actor will feel to some extent constrained and obligated by the norms and rules of the institution. Hence, the behavior of any actor is influenced and to a certain extend controlled by the institutions, which have lead us to consider the following questions, · Do the indications of the Development Contract reflect the political objectives of the national action areas? · How do VET-centers as actors respond to the Development Contract? · How do VET-centers and the Ministry attempt to “game” the evaluation of the success of the Development Contract? All three questions point at the overall task given to us by an Educational Director of the Ministry: How does the Development Contract fulfill the political objectives within VET? Our answers to the questions are as follows: The indicators built into the Development Contract only partly point in the direction of the political objectives. The quantitative indicators do not fully reflect the objectives and the value added within some of the national action areas are objectives that are too difficult to measure, and the measures that are used in their place are either uncorrelated with or negatively correlated with the added net value. VET-centers do respond to the Development Contract and do feel obliged to meet the indications of the contract but lack the strategic capacity and resources to make a difference in fulfilling the political objectives. We find some evidence that VETcenters and the Ministry “game” the evaluation of the contract in an attempt, not to exploit or gain from the political inconsistency of its indicators as one would have expected, but in order to legitimate the Development Contract itself and as a consequence the entire VET-setup. There seems to be a common interest between the parties in promoting the VET-centers and the contract as a success and by doing so legitimating the entire VEU-setup. Consequently, we find ourselves with a Development Contract which was intended to fulfill overall political objectives but which instead offers a way of drawing multiple stakeholders into the process of delivering political legitimacy in a dispersed system. It only partly fulfills the overall political objectives but underpins a series of policy initiatives directed to Adult VET. And it gives rise to the popularity of “partnerships” both between the VET-providers themselves and between VET-centers and the Ministry. However, outcomes remain difficult to measure and value. The costs (especially in terms of time) are high and accountability difficult to place. There are major lines of tension between the partnership-model and traditional hierarchical governance, and attempted resolutions tend to produce multiple new strategies of governmental control (e.g. refinements to the ways in which activity based funding is allocated). Questions of accountability are particularly significant since this partnership-model itself is the source of potential inequities – including inequities of access (who is included in the partnershipgame), speak (who gets heard and who can speak on behalf of others during the game) and legitimacy (where is the public value when objectives are difficult to measure and are only partly fulfilled).

EducationsMaster of Public Administration, (Executive Master Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2011
Number of pages156