Full paper Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Navigating the complexity and uncertainty of higher education systems: Ontology mapping of Chilean universities (#208)

Freddy Coronado 1 , Ariel La Paz 1 , Arkalgud Ramaprasad 2
  1. Control de Gestion y Sistemas de Informacion, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile
  2. University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, United States

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

In HERDSA 2014 Hasan, Ramaprasad, and Singai (http://ssrn.com/abstract=2464523) proposed ontology mapping as a method to study higher education systems systematically and systemically. They discussed its use to analyse the emphases of higher education systems and manage them strategically. It can be used to synthesize extant data from multiple sources to visualize the ‘big picture’ of the state-of-the-aspiration of the system, and analyse the ‘bright’, ‘light’, and ‘blind/blank’ spots within it. Higher Education strategies and public policies can then be directed at managing these emphases. They illustrated the method with their study of the higher education system in Karnataka, India.

In HERDSA 2015 we propose to discuss how the method can help to navigate the uncertain and complex domain of higher education to deliver learning for life and work, using data from Chile and contrasting it with Karnataka.

We (including one of the authors of the Karnataka study) have replicated the study in Chile. The number of universities in Chile is almost the same as the number of universities and university-like institutions in the Karnataka study. However, the two contexts are very different. The Chilean Government had decided to reform the educational system; it is discussing the main goals of the new system. However, the discussion is being primarily focused on whether or not an institution is operated for profit. We proposed that an ontological map of Chilean universities and its comparison with another benchmark (the map of Karnataka) could help introduce other relevant elements and criteria into the discussion.

The contrasts between Chile and Karnataka will be insightful. The origins and the environments of higher education systems in the two countries are very different. Their challenges for delivering learning for life and work are very different because of the differences in demography, geography, economy, language, sociology, and culture. We argue that ontology mapping can provide an excellent foundation for developing evidence-based strategies for higher education systems to navigate the uncertainty and complexity of their environment, and to transform themselves.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

 A higher education system has to  have institutions which are highly differentiated but yet tightly integrated – there has to be a purposive unity in its extensive, complex institutional diversity. It has to include universities, colleges, and vocational institutions. These institutions have to be differentiated in their emphasis on research, education and service; their focus on the district, state, country, region, and the world; their specialization in the sciences, professions, vocations, fine arts, humanities, and social sciences; and their effect on the scientific, technical, economic, social, and cultural development. Yet they have to act in concert within and for the development of the society. They have to form a coherent, coordinated, albeit complex system to generate knowledge, store it, propagate and promote it, and apply it to the development of the society. Ontological mapping can reveal the combinatorial complexity of such a system and help navigate it in an uncertain environment.

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