Skill Formation in Central and Eastern Europe

A search for Patterns and Directions of Development

by Vidmantas Tutlys (Volume editor) Jörg Markowitsch (Volume editor) Samo Pavlin (Volume editor) Jonathan Winterton (Volume editor)
©2022 Edited Collection 526 Pages


Skill formation in Central and Eastern Europe. A search for patterns and directions of development offers holistic analytical insight into skill formation processes and institutions in Central and Eastern European countries by referring to the timeframe of historical development of skill formation from the fall of communism to the present time and future development trends. Leading researchers of skill formation from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine refer to critical junctures and the findings are compared and discussed in five concluding chapters focused on important cross-cutting topics: development of social dialogue over skill formation, qualifications policy and development of qualifications systems, implications of European integration and EU policies for governance and institutional reform of skill formation, features and implications of policy borrowing and policy learning from the Anglo-Saxon and German speaking countries, respectively.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of contents
  • List of figures
  • List of tables
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgements
  • Abbreviations
  • 1. Skill formation in the post-communist CEE countries (Vidmantas Tūtlys, Jonathan Winterton, Jörg Markowitsch and Samo Pavlin)
  • 2. Lithuania: between neoliberalism and statism (Vidmantas Tūtlys, Genutė Gedvilienė, Lina Kaminskienė and Eglė Stasiūnaitienė)
  • 3. Latvia: towards systemic approach to skill formation (Ilze Buligina, Biruta Sloka)
  • 4. Estonia: expanding the institutional landscape (Krista Loogma)
  • 5. Poland: striving for better governance and integration (Horacy Dębowski and Wojciech Stęchły)
  • 6. Czech Republic: national and local perspectives (Dominik Dvořák and Petr Gal)
  • 7. Slovakia: skill formation at the crossroads (Juraj Vantuch and Dagmar Jelínková)
  • 8. Hungary: liberal and developmental choices (Andrea Laczik and Eva Farkas)
  • 9. Slovenia: segmentation and sectoral disparities (Samo Pavlin, Klara Skubic Ermenc and Branko Bembič)
  • 10. Croatia: impact of Europeanization on skill formation (Teo Matković and Nikola Buković)
  • 11. Bulgaria: skill imbalances and policy responses (Ralitsa Simeonova-Ganeva, Kaloyan Ganev and Radostina Angelova)
  • 12. Romania: between statist and collective approaches (Zoica Elena Vladut)
  • 13. Ukraine: late and iterative institutionalization (Sergii Melnyk)
  • 14. Social dialogue and skill formation systems in the CEE (Emma Wallis and Jonathan Winterton)
  • 15. Education systems and qualifications frameworks (Jörg Markowitsch and Horacy Dębowski)
  • 16. EU implications for skill formation in the CEE (Sandra Bohlinger and Vidmantas Tūtlys)
  • 17. Liberal market influences on CEE (Jonathan Winterton)
  • 18. Skill formation: policy learning from Germany? (Andreas Saniter and Christiane Eberhardt)
  • Notes on contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

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List of figures

Figure 2.1. Institutional change and development of skill formation during early post- communist transition 1990–2004: critical junctures.

Figure 2.2. Institutional change and development of skill formation after the accession to EU 2004-2019: critical junctures.

Figure 2.3. Emigration and immigration flows in Lithuania in the period 2003–2020. Source: Statistics Lithuania, http://www.stat.gov.lt.

Figure 3.1. Number of vocational education institutions in the Republic of Latvia 1990–2019 and linear trend. Source: author’s calculation and construction based on Central Statistical Bureau data, www.csb.gov.lv.

Figure 3.2. Number of vocational education entrants, enrolments and graduates in the Republic of Latvia 1997/1998-2019/2020 and respective linear trends. Source: author’s calculation and construction based on Central Statistical Bureau data, www.csb.gov.lv.

Figure 6.1. Number of young Czechs in typical age of upper secondary students (Source: Czech Statistical Office, 2018; data for 2020–2030 are predications).

Figure 6.2. Number of university graduates according to the field of study in a given year.

Figure 6.3. The number of Czech upper secondary schools by operator (Source: MEYS).

Figure 10.1. Enrolment in upper secondary education tracks, 1998–2020. Sources: CBS first releases ‘Upper secondary schools.’ Apprenticeships: CCTC statistical reports (up to 2012), Školski e-rudnik (since 2013). Note: first-year entrants, no repeaters. Regular art and design programmes displayed among technical schools. Special needs education track not displayed.

Figure 10.2. Graduates from professional and academic tertiary education. Source: CBS First Releases ‘Students who Graduated from University Study or Completed Professional study’. Note: 2010 break due to the ‘overlap year’ of pre-Bologna and Bologna.

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Figure 11.1. Secondary vocational education: enrolled students and graduates (right-hand scale). Source: CSO and NSI statistical yearbooks.

Figure 11.2. Comparison of shares of employers reporting labour shortages as an obstacle to their activities in Bulgaria and in EU-28 (per cent). Source: NSI, Eurostat, own calculations.

Figure 11.3. Share of employers in Bulgaria reporting labour shortages as an obstacle to their activities (by economic sector, per cent). Source: NSI, Eurostat, own calculations.

Figure 11.4. Total number of students (thousands, right-hand scale) and shares of tertiary (PhD level not included), primary and secondary (excl. VET) and secondary vocational education (per cent). Source: CSO and NSI statistical yearbooks, own calculations.

Figure 12.1. Unemployment rate in Romania between 1991 and 2017. Source: National Agency for Employment.

Figure 13.1. Number of the institutions of tertiary education in Ukraine. Source: State Statistics Service of Ukraine (http://www.ukrstat.gov.ua).

Figure 13.2. Number of entrants in tertiary education in Ukraine. Source: State Statistics Service of Ukraine (http://www.ukrstat.gov.ua).

Figure 13.3. Number of graduates of tertiary education in Ukraine. Source: State Statistics Service of Ukraine (http://www.ukrstat.gov.ua).

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List of tables

Table 2.1. Employed and employment rate by education 1997–2017

Table 2.2. Unemployed by education and unemployment rate by education 1997–2017

Table 2.3. Distribution of learners in VET and HE establishments 1990–2020

Table 2.4. Lifelong learning rate (of the population aged 25–64) 2013–2020

Table 2.5. Investment of companies in the continuing vocational training 2010–2015

Table 4.1. Unemployment rate by educational attainment (1997–2019)

Table 5.1. Youth and adult participation in education and training 1990–2018 (thousands)

Table 6.1. Main tracks in Czech upper secondary education

Table 6.2. Vocational schools in Šluknov Hook in 1980s (source: author based on archive research)

Table 9.1. Sectoral shares (per cent) of standard employment, 2017

Table 9.2. Historical developments in the three sectors

Table 10.1. Mid-term changes in broad sectoral employment

Table 12.1. Institutional change and development of skill formation during early post-communist transition 1990–2007: critical interventions

Table 12.2. Institutional change and development of skill formation during 2007–2018: critical interventions

Table 12.3. Changes in the number of students enrolled in high-school and vocational school in the period 2000–2018 (thousands)

Table 12.4. The network of the national higher education system

Table 12.5. Number of students enrolled for Bachelor degrees (thousands)

Table 14.1. Typology of skill formation systems

Table 15.1. Overview on main changes in Education and Training in CEE 1989–2021

Table 15.2. Summary of main changes in qualifications systems related to the NQF implementation in CEE

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The idea of this book emerged from various comparative educational research projects and European fora of researchers and experts of vocational and higher education, skill formation, qualifications and human resource development in recent decades. Although the accession of eleven countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) to the European Union (EU) after 2004 stimulated interest in skill formation, there has been no systematic research of recent developments of skill formation processes and institutions in this part of Europe. Existing typologies and models of skill formation predominantly characterise well established skill formation systems of post-industrial Western economies. Liberal market economies like the UK are contrasted with coordinated market economies like Germany in the literature on Varieties of Capitalism (Hall & Soskice 2009). Associated with these economies are market-based skill formation systems in the UK and Ireland, collective skill formation systems in the German speaking countries and neo-corporatist state-led skill formation systems in the rest of Continental Europe (Brockmann, Clarke & Winch 2011).

Categorising and characterising the skill formation systems and regimes of the post-communist countries is a challenge in many respects. Although Central and Eastern European countries are often labelled post-communist, or post-socialist, in reference to their common history in the second half of the 20th century, this ‘historical’ categorisation is not very helpful, because of the rich variety of socio-economic, institutional and cultural transformations of these countries after the fall of the Berlin wall. The variety of societal and institutional development pathways produced a diversity of skill formation systems in this region. There is no holistic understanding of skill formation systems and models of Central and Eastern Europe, especially with respect to the implications of different educational reforms and other political, legal and institutional transformations. Development of skill formation in this region should be regarded as an historical process with uniqueness and contingency of change, irreversibility, givenness and unpredictability as well as its dynamic and processual character.

These knowledge gaps were instrumental in developing the idea of this book in Spring 2019 and in November of that year the editors, Vidmantas Tūtlys, Jonathan Winterton, Jörg Markowitsch and Samo Pavlin, met in Vienna to discuss the concept in more detail. Vienna, the hospitality of 3s and conviviality of Jörg Markowitsch provided a stimulating environment for the conception of this book. We agreed to invite leading researchers and experts in vocational ←13 | 14→education, higher education and skill formation from the Baltic states, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia and Ukraine to contribute chapters on the skill formation systems and institutions in their respective countries. These chapters aimed to describe, analyse and explain trajectories of development of skill formation from the communist period to the present, with some prognosis for the future. The findings of these chapters are compared and discussed in five concluding chapters focused on important cross-cutting topics: development of social dialogue over skill formation, specificities of qualifications policy and development of qualifications systems, implications of European integration and EU policies for governance and institutional reform of skill formation, features and implications of policy borrowing and policy learning from the Anglo-Saxon and German speaking countries, respectively.

The contributors of this book explore and analyse institutional and processual development of skill formation in the geopolitical region of Europe which emerged after the collapse of communism and the fall of the Berlin wall in the end of the 20th century. The institutional development of skill formation in CEE after the fall of the Berlin wall has been shaped and defined by global, regional and national socio-economic and political changes. The authors of the country chapters refer to such critical junctures as transition from the communist/socialist state to market economy and liberal democracy, the Russian economic crisis in 1999, EU accession of CEE countries from 2004, the global financial crisis of 2008–2009 and the COVID-19 pandemic. Now we are witnessing a new major critical juncture with potentially profound implications for the social, economic and political development of CEE – the military aggression of the Russian Federation on Ukraine launched on 24 February 2022. This critical juncture is highlighted here, because none of the chapters of the book mentions the war because they were concluded before the invasion. There are already signs that this war marks the end of the historical period of democratic transformation in the CEE countries since the collapse of communism, the period on which this book focuses. The importance of this new critical juncture requires further reflection on the possible implications for skill formation institutions and processes in Ukraine and the whole region of CEE.

Although there is still much uncertainty about the consequences of this war for the future of Ukraine and the world at the time of writing, existing evidence enables some cautious observations. The resistance of this country to aggression and the heroic mobilisation of society demonstrate that the Ukrainian nation and civil society are stronger than ever before. Attempts to suppress or destroy Ukraine by the invading regime are expected ultimately to fail, thus rendering impossible the country’s annexation and the overthrow of democratic rule ←14 | 15→sought by the aggressor. The education system and skill formation institutions of Ukraine described in the chapter by Melnyk have contributed to developing this resilience of the Ukrainian nation and society. By extrapolation, tentative conclusions can be proposed about the implications of these events for the development of skill formation in Ukraine and other CEE countries.

In relation to the implications for skill formation in Ukraine, we posit several assumptions. Dealing with the consequences of war in the short-term perspective will create skills shortages and growing demand in areas like waste (especially dangerous waste) disposal, de-mining and land reclamation. Increased demand for social, rehabilitation, medical and psychological services to the suffering population, could accelerate restructuring of obsolete post-Soviet institutions of social infrastructure. Reconstruction of the economy and infrastructure after the war, including possible de-industrialisation of territories in the Eastern part of the country can be anticipated, along with restructuring of sectors like engineering and military-industrial complexes and transformation of agro-industrial complexes. Rehabilitation of the natural environment and natural landscapes in the context of such restructuring will require major mobilisation of human capital that could alter patterns of population migration and enhance return migration, in some sectors. Such trends could trigger the development of continuing training and competence development processes in key sectors of economy. The need to strengthen digitalisation of society, ensuring sustainable access to reliable information, as well as developing cybersecurity will require investment in skill formation in the ICT (information and communication technologies) sector and in the development of digital skills of civil society. Reconstruction of the skill formation system will be necessary because of the destruction of infrastructure, and the loss of teachers and trainers to the conflict. The processes of reconstruction could facilitate the development of a more open and balanced skill formation system with active engagement of civil society, SMEs, trade unions and NGOs, in contrast with the domination of big enterprises and government before the war. Another possible implication of the war could be strengthening and intensifying efforts to Europeanize skill formation processes and institutions to accelerate efforts towards EU integration. Of course, the war itself has disrupted the reform of the skill formation system and relaunching the process will depend on the success of the restitution of institutions and actors, which could be a key priority for EU and international actors supporting reconstruction. A major challenge for pedagogical processes is the integration of Ukrainian war refugees in the education and skill formation systems of receiving countries and their successful reintegration in the education system or labour market of Ukraine after the war.←15 | 16→

What could be the implications of the war for skill formation processes and institutions in other CEE countries? Firstly, the education systems and skill formation institutions in countries close to Ukraine (Poland, Romania, Moldova, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Slovakia) now are facing the challenge of integrating large numbers of war refugees, which includes not only the provision of shelter, but also at least temporary integration into the labour market and economy. This could have positive implications for developing the capacities of skill formation institutions to integrate refugees and migrants in these countries. Secondly, the war will probably strengthen the efforts of these and other EU countries to gain energy independence from Russia or at least reduce dependence on supplies of energy from this country. In addition to profound implications for the energy sector, this should prompt demand for new skills and qualifications associated with green energy and renewables, as well as exploitation of alternative technologies with diversification of transport and storage of hydrocarbon energy sources or switching to hydrogen from hydrocarbon fuels. Thirdly, the ongoing aggression changes the attitudes of societies and governments to military defence, leading not only to increased public funding and investment in military hardware, but also to expansion of the armed forces through conscription and fostering voluntary military service and activities of the paramilitary organizations and structures. Such ‘Israel-like’ reorientation of public defence policies can have profound implications for skill formation policies and processes, starting from the stronger integration of the military sector qualifications in the national system of qualifications and increased attention to policy measures for integration of former/retired military personnel in civilian labour markets (Tūtlys, Liesionienė & Winterton 2018, 2019). Increased attention to developing civil safety and security capacities, as well as developing civil engagement and resilience to totalitarian ideologies might strengthen the provision of these skills and competencies in public education systems, including VET and HE. Whatever the wider implications of this military aggression, it is evident that skill formation institutions must be an integral part of human efforts to prevent their recurrence.

We are convinced that this book offers valuable new information and analysis for all those interested in comparative education and labour market research. It provides a new reference for the international research community and has the potential to stimulate national debates in CEE countries. It is aimed equally at researchers, students, policy makers and practitioners.

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This book was only possible through substantial collaborative effort and reflects the work of many people in addition to our own contributions as editors and co-authors. We thank all the contributors to this book: Radostina Angelova, Sandra Bohlinger, Branko Bembič, Nikola Buković, Ilze Buligina, Horacy Dębowski, Dominik Dvořák, Christiane Eberhardt, Klara Skubic Ermenc, Éva Farkas, Petr Gal, Kaloyan Ganev, Genutė Gedvilienė, Dagmar Jelínková, Lina Kaminskienė, Andrea Laczik, Krista Loogma, Teo Matković, Sergii Melnyk, Andreas Saniter, Ralitsa Simeonova-Ganeva, Biruta Sloka, Eglė Stasiūnaitienė, Wojciech Stechły, Jana Straková, Juraj Vantuch, Zoica Elena Vladut and Emma Wallis.

Some contributors presented the findings of their chapters in two symposia organized at the online ECER conference on the 7th and 10th of September 2021. We thank the organizers of the conference and VETNET network for this possibility to present and discuss selected draft chapters of the book. We are grateful to Emma Wallis for her careful and attentive work in editing the English text.

We should like to express our special gratitude to the Peter Lang team, and in particular Ms. Utte Winkelkötter, for their highly professional advice, patience, cooperation and trust in us when working on this book in these challenging times. Special thanks must also go to the academic institutions and organizations providing financial, intellectual and moral support to the project of this book: Institute of Educational Research at Vytautas Magnus University (Lithuania); Leeds University Business School (UK); 3s Research & Consulting (Austria); and the Ljubljana University Faculty of Social Sciences (Slovenia).

Jörg Markowitsch

Samo Pavlin

Vidmantas Tūtlys

Jonathan Winterton

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National Agency for Qualifications in Higher Education and Partnership with Economic and Social Environment of Romania


Adult Education


Act on Higher Education Institutions (CR)


Artificial Intelligence


Agencija za znanost i visoko obrazovanje (CR)

The Agency for Science and Higher Education


National Authority of Qualifications of Romania


Agencija za strukovno obrazovanje i obrazovanje odraslih (CR)

The Agency for Vocational Education and Training and Adult Learning


Authority of Qualifications in Higher Education and Partnership with the Economic and Social Environment (Romania)


Bachelor Degree


Betriebsberufschulen (DE)

Company vocational schools


Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (DE)

Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training


Croatian Chamber of Economy


Croatian Chamber for Trades and Crafts


Central and Eastern Europe


Coordinated Market Economy


Council for Mutual Economic Assistance


Council of Occupational Standards and Qualifications


Centre Republike Slovenije za poklicno izobraževanje (SI)

The Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Vocational Education and Training


Croatian Qualification Framework


Continuing Vocational Education and Training

←21 | 22→CVT

Continuing Vocational Training


Developing a Curriculum


Diversity of Capitalism


Deutscher Qualifikationsrahmen (DE)

German Qualification Framework


European Bank for Reconstruction and Development


European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System


European Credit system for Vocational Education and Training


European Economic Community


European Higher Education Area


Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy


European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education


Estonian Qualifications Authority Foundation


European Qualifications Framework for Lifelong Learning


European Regional Development Fund


Economic and Social Council


Classification of European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations


European Social Fund


Education and Skills Funding Agency


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (July)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2022. 526 pp., 18 fig. b/w, 20 tables.

Biographical notes

Vidmantas Tutlys (Volume editor) Jörg Markowitsch (Volume editor) Samo Pavlin (Volume editor) Jonathan Winterton (Volume editor)

Vidmantas Tūtlys is Professor of Education Science and Researcher at Vytautas Magnus University Institute of Educational Research in Kaunas, Lithuania. His research areas cover development of vocational education and training policies, VET curriculum design, skill formation and qualification systems. Jörg Markowitsch is Senior Partner at 3s Research & Consulting in Vienna, Austria, and policy advisor on national and EU-Level in the area of education and labour markets. His areas of research include comparative research in vocational education and training, European educational policy, skill taxonomies and skills forecasting. Jonathan Winterton is Professor of Work and Employment and Head of the Department of Work and Employment Relations at Leeds University Business School. His research addresses human capital issues along two axes: one concerned with the quality of work, from high involvement to precarious work, the other with how human capital is developed, deployed, and retained. Samo Pavlin is Professor of Education and Human Resource Development of Department of Human Resources and Social Management, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. His research areas cover knowledge management, development of competencies and European developments in higher education and vocational education.


Title: Skill Formation in Central and Eastern Europe
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