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Global Perceptions of the Community College.

The authors trace and discuss changes in location between secondary and post-secondary educational systems based on the concept of short-cycle higher education. They extend this theme globally by developing profiles of short-cycle and nonuniversity institutions in 10 primary geographic sectors that include the following countries: People's Republic of China, Japan, Singapore, Mexico, Argentina, Kenya, South Africa, Jordan, France, Germany, Sweden, and Great Britain. They conclude their discussion by providing an assessment of global short-cycle higher education based on three program types (preparation for work, community education, and transfer education) and two rapidly increasing alternatives (consortia and industry-sponsored education).

We continue to be reminded that the community college is an American invention. The most recent major resource by Witt, Wattenbarger, Gollattscheck, and Suppiger (1994) refers uneqivocally to the American community college movement as "the most important higher education innovation of the twentieth century." They further note that "it was born in the American heartland before the turn of the century and spread rapidly throughout the expanding West" (Witt et al., 1994, p. 1). Since inception, the perception of the community college (junior college, as it was first termed) has vacillated between location in secondary and post-secondary (higher education) systems. In some countries, community colleges are viewed as a part of the postsecondary portion of the K-14 group. In other nations, they are considered collegiate in nature belonging to universities as separate units.

The purposes for this writing are first to trace and briefly discuss the changes in location between secondary and postsecondary systems, then to extend this theme globally, and finally, to discuss several implications in terms for future of the short-cycle nonuniversity movement.

Although the term short-cycle higher education (SCHE) is still found in the literature, titles of the actual institutions vary considerably: junior college, community college, technical institute, regional or district college, and academie are most popular. Short-cycle remains the European descriptor. In want of a better term, the authors favor short-cycle higher education as the generic name for all postcompulsory and postsecondary education.

The roots of the short-cycle movement in the United States first appeared in the mid- 1800s. Proposals were made as early as 1851 by Henry Tappan, president of the University of Michigan; in 1859 by William Mitchell, a University of Georgia trustee; and in 1859 by William Folwell, president of the University of Minnesota, that junior colleges should relieve universities of the responsibility of providing general education for qualified high school graduates. Universities, they insisted, could not reach true research maturity as well as remain as exclusive developers of the higher professions. Lower-division preparation was considered an unwarranted burden (Cohen & Brawer, 1996, pp. 5-6).

Later in the century, other prominent educators, including William Rainey Harper at the University of Chicago, Edmund James of the University of Illinois, and David Starr Jordan of Stanford, had similar inclinations--advocating separation of the first two "teaching years" of college instruction from upper-level university work. They believed that the higher educational system in the United States would benefit by following the European model whereby universities would be responsible for higher-order scholarship and junior colleges or lower schools would concentrate on training in vocational and technical education. As a consequence, two-year colleges were developed primarily as a part of the "lower schools rather than higher education." (For a thorough review, see Witt et al., 1994).

Through the early decades of this century, the popular perception of the community college slowly changed. Even in the late 1970s, writers were addressing the "identity crisis" of community colleges and where they fit into the scheme of higher education. For example, Young (1977, p. 340) pointed out that "the real community college apparently reflects a conflict between the egalitarian ideals of community college leaders and the elitist ideals of many community college faculty." Mellander and Robertson (1992, p. 3) warned that "community colleges [and all of higher education] are increasingly forced to recognize that their individual survival, as well as that of the American way of life, depends on resolution of the differences, interdependence, and a moratorium on the academic elitism in which institutions, students, and faculty have been imprisoned for far too long."

The following observation by Lucas about a 1994 report by Terenzini and Pascarella questioning some of the fundamental precepts and assumptions underlying American academe clearly sets forth the position that acceptance in the higher education community does not depend on one's historical situation:
 The hallowed tenent that institutional prestige and reputation reflect
 genuine educational quality.... On the contrary, by almost any meaningful
 indicator of effective teaching or academic achievement, educational
 quality' was not found to be closely associated with any given academic
 school's repute or standing in the traditional institutional hierarchy.
 Lackluster performance was in evidence at prestigious schools; and
 otherwise mediocre colleges might be blessed with many first-rate
 instructors and high-achieving students. (Lucas, 1994, p. xii)

Placement in the American and the Canadian higher education hierarchy has been predicated on historical precedent as well as on a number of seemingly less relevant factors such as the type of curricula offered. In the current environment, however, performance and economic reality play increasingly important roles in determining placement. As Mellander and Robertson relate (1992, p. 12), "Elitism can flourish in institutions with supply-demand curves like those that the baccalaureate institutions once had. But now, those curves have flattened, and four-year faculty are compelled to acknowledge that, in many cases, more than half of their graduating seniors began college work in community colleges." Community colleges have been and continue to be free agents in the higher education and the economic market.

For example, North Carolina's impending change from a quarter system to a semester system and use of a common course library to enhance transfer, not only from community college to community college but from community colleges to universities, is symptomatic of the "blurting of placement within a hierarchy." When one can start at a community college in the associate in arts area and be guaranteed junior status in the university after completing two years in the community college, progress has been made in blending various higher education components.

Another example of performance and economic reality affecting institutional acceptance comes from a report about Canadian education in the Atlantic region. Norman reports that (1997, p. 12) "community colleges and technical institutes are enjoying a surge of popularity. People in their mid-to-late-twenties, some with university degrees, many with work experience, are turning to technical schools to get them where they want to be--gainfully employed in satisfying work." She also reports in the same article (p. 12) that the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council compared education level to job creation in the last two decades. The results show that 192,700 jobs were created between 1986 and 1995 for Atlantic Canadians with a postsecondary certificate, while during the same period job creation for those with university degrees actually dropped. Changing economic pressure is creating increased acceptability of community colleges, both in the United States and in Canada.

Although plans for reforming higher education systems in other nations are moving ahead at an accelerated pace, acceptability of the new units lags. Continuing lack of accessibility to education after postcompulsory or postsecondary years, little programmatic diversity in university curriculums, and administrative inflexibility of university-dominated systems have been major deterrents, thwarting attempts of governments to meet societal demands for broader participation in higher education. Reforms appeared either as a restructuring or an extension of secondary education as in (the United States), expansion of existing higher education units into comprehensive universities (extensively in Germany), or as new institutions separate from both secondary and university systems (again, the United States situation). All three options were used in a few nations. Accessibility to advanced or higher education, a problem in most nations, will be discussed in a later section.

The placement of these colleges in the hierarachy of education varies considerably from country to country. Globally, however, community colleges share nonuniversity characteristics. We define a nonuniversity as a short-term, short-cycle college or institute that provides vocational and technical training toward certificates and diplomas primarily, but not exclusively, for compulsory school or high school graduates. Continuing education (lifelong learning) for adults is frequently included, but preuniversity studies with transfer opportunities are offered almost exclusively in the United States and several Canadian provinces (Kintzer, 1995, p. 236).

Although the junior college movement (primarily postsecondary extensions beginning in the first decade of the century) has been thoroughly documented, only slight attention in the literature has been given to developments in other countries. These first occurred in India in the early 1960s with discussions beginning in the middle 1950s a decade after independence; in Chile in the early 1960s; and in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) during the same decade. Names associated with these nonuniversity systems varied from junior college (India), collegios universitarios regionnales (Chile), and junior university colleges in Ceylon. Not until the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) became directly involved in the early 1970s did the term short-cycle appear in the literature of postsecondary education change.

The term short-cycle emerged from an international meeting of delegates from five nations held in November 1971 at Grenoble, France. Organized by the OECD (Pads) Secretariat, the conference gathered together delegates to confront major problems facing the educational institutions of the several nations. The five countries represented were Norway, the United States, Yugoslavia, France, and Britain. Distinctions were made among four terms: short-cycle higher education, first-cycle higher education, short-cycle higher education institutions (SCIS), and university branches. The volume, Short-Cycle Higher Education: Search for Identity, published in 1973 by OECD, also contained detailed descriptions of the nations represented and their nonuniversities, and discussions of key issues.

Although the OECD had previously convened delegates from several European countries at a Paris meeting in 1970, papers read and discussed on plans for postsecondary education were not published. However, a statement from the German delegation, according to Medsker (1972), reflected the philosophic thought of other European leaders on the importance of democratizing higher education. The 1973 book Search for Identity was pivotal in the chronology of nonuniversity developments because solutions were presented in detail for the developing systems, as well as an exhaustive review of common issues.

That, in brief, is the history of the short-cycle higher education and nonuniversity movement, which is reaching into the far comers of the globe. Now, as the second purpose of this writing, we will explore examples of the movement. Rather than a number of brief isolated profiles, one for each of 10 primary geographic sectors will be offered, except for the Pacific Rim where two national systems in Japan and Singapore will be reviewed and contrasted. Likewise, for Central Europe and Scandinavia, three systems in France, Germany, and Sweden will also be reviewed and contrasted. Two systems in Africa--one established in Kenya and the other under development in South Africa--will be briefly discussed.


The Pacific

Far Pacific and Asia, People's Republic of China. Nonuniversities in the People's Republic are private, and in that respect resemble the Japanese system of junior colleges. Similar to Taiwan, many are five-year schools beyond what we would refer to as junior high school. Some are two- and three-year vocational institutions beyond senior high school years. A large and complex nonuniversity system will predictably emerge rapidly in that vast nation (See McBreen, McBreen, & Wu, 1996). The so-called workers' or peasants' colleges run by local governments for senior secondary finishers are providing training primarily in farming and forestry management. The People's Republic, along with Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, and other Pacific Rim Countries, is beginning to offer technical training at industrial settings separate from formal institutions. The BeiNei Group Corporation, a maker of engines, is one example (Hatton, 1995).

Pacific Rim, Japan. Most Pacific Rim nations have two-tier systems of higher education. In Japan, two basic sectors replaced the prewar multitrack system: long-cycle (universities) and short-cycle (junior colleges, technical colleges, and special training schools) (Abe, 1989). A second group specializing in adult education is divided into two nonformal segments: (a) grand schools, universities of the air, and correspondence education sponsored by long-cycle institutions; and (b) specialized technical schools sponsored by short-cycle units (Kuroha & Kitamura, 1989). The private sector still dominates formal higher education. More than 70% of university students and 90% of junior and technical college students enroll in private institutions. Compulsory education in Japan ends with the ninth grade, but more than 90% continue into senior high schools. There are over 500 junior colleges scattered over the islands, most private for females with single vocational subjects offered. Private technical colleges are largely for lowersecondary completers, and a very large number of technical and vocational postsecondary schools (over 2,000) are primarily for males who are not university-qualified. Public nonuniversities are being strengthened.

Singapore. As mentioned earlier, two-year courses leading to industrial technician certificates are emerging in some Pacific Rim nations. Singapore is an example where that type of arrangement between several Singapore polytechnics and technical institutes has been activated. Applied projects "capstone" courses are terms used to announce the integrated learning technique. For example, the Precision Engineering Institute and other training institutes are sponsored by the Singapore Institute of Technical Education. The institute, established as a postsecondary school in 1992, is the national agency for vocational-technical training. Its broad mission is to expand the country's human resource potential (Hatton, Chung-Sheng, & Tang, 1995, p. 15).

The Americas

Central America, Mexico. Of all Central and South American countries, Mexico and Argentina are changing most rapidly in the development of short-cycle institutions. The creation of the International Consortium for Economic and Educational Development (ICEED) in 1992 has the potential to ease higher education problems. For generations, Mexico has been held back by a rigid centralized national government that acted in good faith to establish a system of technological institutions, but failed to provide proper financing, coordination, and supervision. Little attention was accorded rural communities for whom the system was originally created. The continuing dominance of the elitist university system is a further deterrent to progress. The ICEED, now operating as a cooperative effort in several Mexican states and community colleges in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas, is beginning to strengthen the Mexican provincial technical institutes and attempting to balance efforts to serve rural communities realistically (ICEED, 1992 & 1993). Now in its fourth year, the ICEED group is establishing some uniformity throughout the third-tier system. Technical assistance and faculty and student exchanges should strengthen many of the rural technical institutes and introduce active partnerships with Canadian short-cycle institutions as well as those in the United States identified earlier.

South America, Argentina. The Federal Education Act of 1993 brought dramatic changes, shifting elementary and secondary education from the central government to the provincial governments, and supporting the development of nonuniversities. About 1,500 postsecondary terciarios now offer business administration, teacher training, and allied health programs. Six hundred are private, and about a quarter of all higher education students are enrolled in terciarios. Tuition is free, as it is in virtually all 65 public universities, which remain relatively inflexible in curricular offerings and credit transfer, even between university departments. Many educators and Argentine government officials visited community colleges, notably in Florida, and liked what they saw. A team was organized by Broward Community College officials for a return visit in 1992. Argentine educators were especially interested in learning more about general education, articulation and transfer, university parallel and occupational programs, and community-based governance (Holcombe & Greene, 1996). The name given the new system of nonuniversities is colegios universitarios (university colleges). Both public and private university colleges will be required to have an agreement with at least one Argentine university. Five such colleges were opened by October 1995. Several have already been named community colleges (Holcombe & Green, 1996). Decentralization and deregulation are key concepts in the pattern of this exciting short-cycle development.


Kenya. For generations, virtually all of Africa was under colonial rule by France primarily along the Mediterreanean and the northwest coast, and by England and Belgium throughout the Sub-Sahara. As the territories achieved independent status, one by one, the new governments found themselves far behind in the rush of technology. Colonial universities remained elitist, providing postcompulsory education for only a fraction of the populations. As colonial governments left after the close of World War II, the new nations scrambled in haste to prepare for a future already at hand. Nonuniversities were created especially to prepare primary teachers and technologists and technicians required to mount the new economies beginning to unfold. Some nonuniversities moved toward an American style of awarding the initial tertiary diplomas and first degrees, following a 12-year compulsory education requirement. Others favored, or remained attached to, the British ordinary and advanced certificate system centered in the Guilds of London.

Of the dozens of nonuniversity systems launched in haste, the Kenya Harambee Institutes of Technology (about 16 in every region except the northeast) are the best known and most widely diversified. Only a few Harambee Institutes offer general studies. Continuing (adult) education is gaining. Botswana is a leader with its Institute of Adult Education. In the last half decade, South Africa has shown significant progress in increasing and upgrading nonuniversities synonymous with technical training. Distance learning has also expanded remarkably, but mostly through universities.

South Africa. South Africa, including Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe (to the North) moved apartheid toward a community-college-type system with technician-level emphasis. The National Commission on Higher Education recommended a consolidated university system governed and financed as one coordinated unit composed of 30 to 40 universities and technical institutes. This effort was to improve university autonomy and to finance a uniform system. It was also recommended that the individual emphases of the technical institutes should continue to be directly associated with universities

In the technical institute group scattered over the South African states are about 18 residential technikons that prepare technicians in various occupations and 23 technical colleges. A technikon is similar to a community college with a two-fold mission to provide career training and a balance with academic scholarship. A few technikons are actually called community colleges. These postsecondary schools are seen as leaders in vocational training and technology. The technikons, which emerged from the old Colleges of Advanced Technical Education, award diplomas and certificates after one- and two-year courses. As in much of the world of short-cycle higher education, the South African technical college-technikon group is not widely recognized as higher education. In reputation, the institutions fall between high school and trade school education. Credit transfer to universities thus lags.

The 1997 government policy was developed to create a single governance system for all of higher education. This suggests that specialized institutions (technical institutes and an emerging form called community college) would merge into one system. The well-established distance education program may also become a single nationwide institution.

Middle East

Jordan. Most nonuniversities in the Arab world nations--some 20 countries--are organized in specialized curricular patterns. Jordan's nonuniversities, however, are more like American community colleges with comprehensive programs and transfer arrangements in place. The system of some 30 public and over 20 private colleges answer to the national Ministry of Higher Education. The Council of Higher Education includes both public and private college representation (Al-Tai, Ashour, & Katsinas, 1993). Jordan created nonuniversities early in the development of short-cycle higher education. As early as 1965, a network of junior colleges existed including engineering institutes, other technical institutes, and teacher's colleges, all offering two-year programs. All had free boarding schools, but remained very small (Gilliam, 1969). In addition to the community colleges, a number of the earlier schools still operate as teacher training institutions.

Europe and Scandinavia

Eastern Europe. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and other Eastern European communist countries as well as German unification, higher education for the new century has been heavily discussed. As mentioned in several of the earlier area profiles, extending access and decentralizing governance and administration are favored directions for the future of the emerging nations--Czech Republic and Slovakia--and in Hungary where a surge of independence and new nationalism is reviving higher education. Separating teaching from research or uniting the two in better balance is one of the crucial issues under debate. Under communism, the quality of teaching had deteriorated much faster than the quality of research. Universities and the academies of science did not supply the manpower to maintain competitive economies. Faculties were generally not interested in renewing obsolete curricula. Communication networks and transnational partnerships between universities and industry are now forming. With the beginning of perestroika in Russia, higher education was rapidly reorganized to strengthen links with approaching private industries. Practitioner education was prioritized. Nevertheless, only sketchy information is as yet forthcoming from the various new republics and from Russia itself. From a rough perspective, we know that three types of institutions are operating: universities, teacher training colleges and other "higher" schools, and technicums or technical colleges. The first two remain strongly centralized, but the technicums are apparently more closely in tune to local requirements.

Western Europe. Except in the United States and several Canadian provinces, most nations supporting nonuniversity systems favor a specialized style perhaps best described as technical institutes. Such is the case throughout Europe and Scandinavia--the French IUT's, German Fachhochschulen, Yugoslavia's Vise Skole, the Dutch Higher Vocational Institutes, and the Norwegian Regional Colleges. All of these are more closely related to Great Britain's binary system of higher education than to community colleges in the United States. Universities as well as nonuniversities in western European countries are legally bound to admit graduates from academic type secondary schools, but paradoxically, access to the nonuniversities is often more difficult than to universities. As in much of the world, there is little transfer of credits, but under the European community (EC) programs such as COMMET and ERASMUS, at least partial credit is beginning to be exchanged among most western European countries (Clark & Neave, 1992, pp. 1217-1224).

France. The French University Institutes of Technology (IUTs) were established in the 1920s as institutes within universities providing three-year courses for teacher preparation. The IUT faculties were separated from universities in 1968, and the systems were redesigned to provide university training in the secondary and tertiary sectors. Courses taught by separate faculties were terminal and four years in length. Admission became more selective than the university academic programs primarily because the IUTs were smaller and fewer in number. In time, the IUT faculties began to feel isolated from and less recognized because of their short-cycle assignments, despite the fact that the IUTs were officially a part of the university system, but under a separate legal status. They gradually became more like universities; beginning in the 1980s, a separate unit called Higher Technicians Sections (over 600) was created to provide short-cycle education notably in science. These sections were outgrowths of secondary school education, the Lycees. In contrast to the IUTs, the sections are flourishing despite the original intention of the government to eliminate them in favor of the IUTs. Little articulation and transfer exists between the sections and the IUTs. Most of France's 70 universities recently agreed to introduce new two-year courses to promote job-oriented work for those unlikely to complete university degrees. This is further evidence of the comprehensive overhaul of the nation's higher education system.

Germany. Should the German Fachhochschulen--the postsecondary technical institute popular in West Germany--be designated as a pattern for other Central and Eastern European nations? That question continues to be widely discussed. Fachochschulen are already established in the new Lander throughout unified Germany. Mutual recognition and equivalence of diplomas, certificates, and qualifications are required by the 1990 Unification Treaty, which has far reaching implications for much of the European continent. Enthusiasm for higher education change was not strong until unification became a reality. Unification has required new regulations to assure freedom of movement, and to assure students that diplomas and certificates earned from short-cycle institutions are equivalent in all Lander. This may take decades to accomplish.

Sweden. Unlike the regional or district college system in Norway and other national efforts to reform higher education, the massive reorganization in Sweden undertaken in the late 1960s did not include a separate nonuniversity system. The reforms involved the uppersecondary and university levels exclusively. Vocational schools were amalgamated with gymnasia-preuniversities to form a new uppersecondary system. Although considered secondary, the vocational schools were not compulsory. Admission was based on school leaving certificates earned after nine years of compulsory schooling. One-third of the places in uppersecondary classrooms were saved for direct transfer to universities. Choices of classes and admission regulations of the receiving institutions were important transfer considerations. Structural changes in Sweden illustrate two patterns of postsecondary reform: restructuring secondary education and diversifying existing higher education units, but not creating separate and distinct nonuniversity units. Nevertheless, the demarcation line between postcompulsory or postsecondary schools and universities is inexact. To complicate matters, several colleges of education offer both university and nonuniversity education. Universities have become more comprehensive and regional.

Great Britain

The British Colleges of Further Education (CFEs), recognized by various titles (such as college of technology, technical college, and recently, community college) are comparable in purpose, organization, and offerings to the American community college. These are nonuniversities, but not teacher's colleges, which in Britain are referred to as colleges of education. The latter are combined with polytechnics or other further education colleges in many areas to enable some of the CFEs to undertake teacher education.

Further education, as described by Graystone (1995), is the name associated with postcompulsory or postsixteen education in all four nations in the United Kingdom, particularly England and Wales. The 550 colleges vary enormously in size from a few hundred to large "general further education colleges." The CFEs are not designed as degree-awarding institutions. As most short-cycle systems around the globe, they specialize in technical and occupational programming. The CFEs remain free for full-time students from ages 16 to 18. Until the mid-1980s, institutions, other than private schools and universities, such as the CFEs, higher education, and adult and continuing education, were governed by elected local authorities.

The dramatic changes now unfolding were brought to a point of action through Britain's membership in the European Union. Educators convinced politicians that the existing system was not directly related to the surging technologies affecting business and industry. Too few of the 16-year-old generation were enrolled in the CFE system that remained under the control of local educational agencies with only oblique attachments to the government.

The Education Reform Act of 1988 removed the CFEs and sixth-form colleges (approximately one year more than the American high school) from locally elected authorities, and established independent corporations. These governing bodies are somewhat similar to the American independent public college district governance pattern. Quality assessment provisions to be developed by local councils have also been initiated, indicating an additional easing of government control. The 1988 Act also gave the independent corporations power over budgets and staffing along with the continuing local authority organizations that fund the CFEs and employ faculties.

Additional changes were exacted in 1992 when the Further and Higher Education Act removed the CFEs and sixth-form colleges from local authority control and enabled them to become free-standing corporations. Like American community college governing boards, the new British independent corporations legally own the property on which the colleges are located as well as the buildings. Similarly, the CFE executives, called principals, are elected by the corporate boards. Unlike American counterparts in most states, corporate governors appoint their own members, and at least half, according to the 1992 Act, must represent business, industry, and the professions. Principals have the option of serving as full members of the corporate boards.

The recent John Major government was closely involved in promoting postcompulsory education. Further education colleges are definitely on the priority list for sweeping reform. The accent was on greater administrative efficiency, and greater attention to aims, objectives, and achievement, suggesting that the Colleges of Further Education that do not measure up will be discarded. The new system, if followed by the new labour government, faces many problems, such as, relationships between board members and principals, and allowable similarities and differences among CFEs. Nevertheless, college leaders and enthusiasts in the government welcome the chance to belong to a quasi-independent system that enjoys high national visibility and political power.


Short-cycle higher education varies substantially throughout the provinces of Canada. Between 1965 and 1975, five postsecondary organization models were developed, with variations among models. Space does not allow discussions of all five, but the uniqueness of the Quebec system should be briefly described, following a summary statement. The Canadian version of the American community college movement prioritizes these characteristics: (a) comprehensive curricula, including academic occupational, continuing education, and remediation; (b) quality instruction and student counseling; (c) open admissions and minimal tuition; (d) nontraditional scheduling; and (e) responsiveness to community needs (Dennison, 1992, p. 5).

The nation has no Ministry of Education and no national policy on education. Many feel that both are badly needed and long overdue. Attempts are underway to control heavy centralization by creating buffer bodies between provincial government and institutions, such as college boards, commissions, and councils as now are developing in England and Wales. In some Canadian provinces these groups are advisory only to the Ministry. Others have executive powers, but the strength of provincial governments remains very strong. Suffice it to say, Canadian provinces approach the question of expanding higher education opportunities with a vast diversity of answers, from a more traditional stance in British Columbia and Alberta to the unique Quebec system, and the brokering agency style in Saskatchewan. Institutions created throughout that vast decentralized country face the same problems identified globally--the recognition and identity of the types of institutions being created to approach community and national goals.

The college model in Quebec called the CEGEPs (Colleges d'Enseignement General et Professional) is a unique system worldwide. Two programs operate side-by-side: two years of academic transfer courses and three years of occupational training (Gallagher & Dennison, 1995). Completing a two-year transfer curriculum remains today the only way to gain university admission to complete the baccalaureate. Universities in Quebec are therefore upper-level institutions. The Quebec system has expanded to include a number of private CEGEPs that have similar mandated relationships with upper-level universities. The provincial system has been regularly assessed and evaluated, and continues intact as an unique enterprise.

Conclusions and Implications

Extending and deepening the understanding of short-cycle higher education is paramount for the most experienced countries, including the United States, Canada, England, France, Germany, and Norway, as well as the host of other nations interested in launching nonuniversity systems. Recent events in such places as Argentina, England, Mexico, and East European nations indicate increased dialogue among educators, legislators, and community leaders. More experienced nations, notably the United States, through public and private agencies (consortia of colleges and universities) are now active in national and international dialogues. Principles are being introduced as policies, and while the resulting hardware is not as yet perfected, community colleges in Argentina and Hungary, Fachhochschulen in the new Czech and Slovak Republics, and other developments described in the profiles, such as accessibility and low cost, suggest a promising future for short-cycle higher education worldwide.

Before speculating on the future of short-cycle higher education, we should again recall the reasons why short cycle higher education institutions were created: (a) to train middle-level manpower for employment; (b) to democratize higher education, responding to the needs of particular societies, and later to decentralize authority and responsibility from central governments to states or provinces; and (c) to initiate quick change with innovative processes, vis a vis the resistance of universities to change. Translating these objectives into action, three programmatic types were introduced with varying degrees of priority: (a) preparation for employment culminating after two or three years with certificates and diplomas, (b) increased attention to shorter courses especially in trades for which the preparation requires less formal schooling, and (c) preparation for university enrollment, which in many countries meant permission to take university qualifying exams, but also to obtain university advanced standing from authorized SCHE courses.

Three decades of mostly trial-and-error experiences by nations on every continent have brought negative assessment of the three programmatic types.

Preparation For Work

Many short-cycle systems that have been exclusively vocational-technical with little or no attention to general studies have fallen short of meeting the preparation-for-work objective. Graduates may be technically well prepared but lack flexibility in adapting to rapidly changing facilities and work conditions. Over time, the institutions themselves have remained second-class citizens, misunderstood by universities, legislative bodies, and the society. Some have been driven into competition with universities and public schools for government support and local esteem. Fortunately, SCHE leaders are learning to approach the competition with the sense of simply representing a new and important dimension in the nation's higher education system.

Community Education

In the last two decades, short-cycle higher education institutions worldwide have moved with greater determination into community education, particularly toward sponsoring noncredit programs and activities. Lifelong learning, virtually overlooked by the early institutions, is now in better focus. Globally, the community portion of the community college idea is now more secure as a purpose of SCHE.

A major reason for this early lack of attention was the prioritizing of the preparation-for-work obligation necessarily given to bolster national economies. The expansion of the TAFE system (Technical and Further Education Colleges or Institutes) in Australia is a clear example. TAFE colleges (well over 100 in New South Wales alone) concentrate primarily on technical education at the subprofessional level. These second-tier institutions have also been pressed into developing marketing plans for Pacific Rim nations. Some TAFEs, called community colleges in the less populated southern and western provinces, give stronger attention to community education.

Transfer Education

As we review the successful articulation and transfer arrangements gradually emerging over the world, we further conclude that no single ideal plan is right for all nations. Openness remains the indispensible quality for negotiating and maintaining a system for exchanging students and credits. The rapid diversification of higher education throughout the world is a major cause for increasing complexity of articulation and transfer relationships. The alleged inferior quality of SCHE academic courses and instructors is still a major obstacle to university acceptance of credits from short-cycle institutions. The question of academic quality intensifies as short-cycle institutions give more attention to vocational-technical training and to continuing education, backing away from academic courses. In some countries (Brazil, Hong Kong, and Sweden, for example) where universities aggressively assume short-cycle responsibilities (short courses in business and engineering, in particular), short-cycle institutions have difficulty attracting students interested in vocational-technical training as well as preparing for university enrollment.


The rapid increase of consortia as the major communication vehicle with developing nations is one of the optimistic signs leading into the new century. United States educators are now less likely to act as missionaries, and more frequently as consultant members of teams. This is especially noticeable in Latin and South America. Several consortia are leaders in the transmission of information, in addition to the International/Intercultural Committee of the American Association of Community Colleges. These include the Tri-State Consortium that evolved into the College Consortium for International Studies in 1975, and the College Consortium for International Development (CCID) founded in 1976. The former was started by colleges in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and the latter in Florida. The work of these organizations has encouraged groups in many other states to create a variety of international programs, such as, faculty and student exchanges, special programs at home and at foreign campuses, and starting new institutions. American corporations are also members of consortia teams, offering private assistance, equipment, and material. Educational Innovation Systems (EDUSYSTEMS) is one of these representing equipment manufacturers (See Greenfield, 1990).

Industry-Sponsored Education

Technology training offered by industry not sponsored by formal educational systems exists throughout Paficic Rim countries as reported earlier, along with collaborative arrangements with government or private institutes of technology. These are emerging as multinational associations--nations from several continents joining to provide basic or upgrading experiences for practicing engineers and others. In some instances, these arrangements bypass the formal granting of two-year degrees, but "human resource development" is also found in multinational programs. This may well be a wave of the future.
Table 1

Profiles of International Short-Cycle Higher Education
Institutions (SCHE)

Country SCHE Types Funding

People's Republic 5-year high school Private
 of China 2- and 3-year Private
 Peasant's colleges Local
 Industrial settings Private

Japan Junior colleges Public
 2-year technical colleges Public
 Training schools Public
 Grand schools Public
 Correspondence schools Public
 Special technical schools Private

Singapore Technical institutes Public
Mexico Technical institutes Public

Argentina Terciarios Public
 & private

 University colleges Public
 & private

Kenya Nonuniversities Public
 Institutes of technology Public

South Africa Technical institutes Public
 Residential technikons Public

Jordan Nonuniversities Public
 & private
Eastern Europe Technical colleges Public
 Teacher training colleges Public

France Institutes of Technology Public
 Higher technician sections Public

Germany Fachhochschulen Public

Sweden Vocational schools Public
 Colleges of education Public

Great Britain Colleges of Further Free-standing
 Education corporations

Canada Various provincial models Provincial

Country Purpose

People's Republic General education
 of China Vocational training
 Forestry and farming
 Technical training

Japan General education
 Vocational training
 Technical training
 Distance learning
 Adult education
 Industrial training

Singapore Industrial training

Mexico Vocational training

Argentina Business administration, teacher
 training, allied health

 General education, transfer education,
 occupational education

Kenya Teacher and technical education
 Adult education

South Africa Technician-level training
 Vocational education

Jordan Engineering, technical, and teacher

Eastern Europe Technical training
 Teacher training

France Technical training
 Scientific and technical training

Germany Technical and vocational education

Sweden Vocational and transfer education
 Nonuniversity education

Great Britain Technical and occupational education

Canada Transfer, occupational, continuing,
 and remedial education.


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Cohen, A. M., & Brawer, F. B. (1996). The American community college (3rd Ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Dennison, J. D. (1992). The university college idea: A critical analysis. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 22, 1.

Gallagher, P., & Dennison, J. D. (1995). Canada's community college systems: A study of diversity. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 12(5), 382-393.

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Greenfield, R. K. (Ed.). (1990, Summer). Developing international education programs. New Directions for Community Colleges, No. 70. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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Hatton, M. J., Chung-Sheng, Ling Tsong-Ming, & Tang, John, C. S. (1995). Exemplary training models in industrial technology. Ottawa: Association of Canadian Community Colleges.

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Organization for Economic Cooeration and Development (OECD). (1973). Short-cycle higher education: A search for identity. Paris: Author.

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Frederick C. Kintzer is a professor emeritus of the University of California at Los Angeles. He resides in San Louis Obispo, California (

Donald W. Bryant is president of Carteret Community College in Morehead City, North Carolina (
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Author:Bryant, Donald W.
Publication:Community College Review
Date:Dec 22, 1998
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