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Guidelines of research-based policy consultancy

The specialists at the Federal Institute advise the Federal Government and make their expertise available to members of parliament and parliamentary groups in the Bundestag and to government departments. They support parliaments and ministries at federal state level as well as assisting the European Union, international institutions and government and partner institutions operating in the field of vocational education and training in other countries.

Statutory remit and recipients

The Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) was set up in 1970 with the aim of using academic research as a basis for conducting regular and systematic analysis of the field of vocational education and training in order to develop recommendations for the way in which VET should be structured. The tasks of the Federal Institute and of its organs, the President and the Board, are governed by the Vocational Training Act. BIBB has the legal form of an entity under public law and is subject to the legal supervision of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. It carries out its remit within the scope of the educational policy of the Federal Government.

The specialists at BIBB advise the Federal Government and make their expertise available to members of parliament and parliamentary groups in the Bundestag and to government departments. They support parliaments and ministries at federal state level as well as assisting the European Union, international institutions and government and partner institutions operating in the field of vocational education and training in other countries.

Policy consultancy is also aimed more generally at the wider stakeholders involved in vocational education and training, i.e. trade and industry employer associations, competent bodies and trade unions. Networking and cooperation with these stakeholders form the foundations of research and development work which is aligned to the needs of occupational practice and the basis of academic research services.

Core values of research-based policy consultancy

In its Mission Statement, BIBB commits to provide expert research-based policy consultancy. The objects of this guidance are issues and problems relating to vocational education and training which are of current or future relevance. These issues and problems may be identified and processed by BIBB itself on the basis of its own expertise or equally may be brought to the institute’s attention by policy makers or by those involved in VET practice.

The development of research and development projects takes place on a statutory basis. BIBB is independent with regard to the execution of projects, in particular in respect of choice of methods, interpretation and publication of results.

Policy consultancy is articulated in the form of analyses and recommendations, which are drawn up on the basis of academic research investigations and expert surveys. Not the least of the purposes of research and development projects and academic research services is to equip policy decision makers with data, findings, assessments and recommendations which are of significance in terms of evaluating developments and deciding on measures.

Research-based policy consultancy is a complex matter. It begins with the definition of a problem, encompasses the formation of a theoretically based hypothesis, the analysis and preparation of data and the conducting of surveys and ends with the final development of options or recommendations. Each research and development project has the potential to assist with policy guidance.

Research-based policy consultancy is essentially provided on the basis of our own research and development work. By the same token, debates on policy guidance also deliver indications of research and development requirements. BIBB also processes enquiries from the political realm and takes on specific consultancy commissions. In certain circumstances, the work involved is calculated separately and invoiced to the respective recipient. BIBB does not, however, accept any consultancy mandates for commercial reasons.

Forms of research-based policy consultancy

Research-based policy consultancy constitutes a cross-sectional task which cannot be allocated to individual organisational units and is not restricted to a certain organisation. It tends to take place in different contexts and in various structural forms. Vehicles include written responses and publications, involvement in committees or informal pathways. The following guidance contexts are characteristic.

  • Response to enquiries received from policy makers. In order to perform their duties, members of parliament and ministries require research expertise from proven specialists. BIBB is an expert partner for policy makers in issues relating to vocational education and training. Incoming enquiries receive a response from the relevant experts at BIBB.
  • Involvement in the preparation of the Federal Government Report on Vocational Education and Training. BIBB supports the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in drawing up the annual Report on Vocational Education and Training by preparing and evaluating data and by providing academic research expertise.
  • Participation in consultations. Experts from BIBB take part in consultation sessions and meetings held by Bundestag committees and parliamentary groups and provide responses to the relevant questions raised.
  • Guidance within the scope of regulatory procedures. BIBB works in conjunction with experts from occupational practice to prepare draft training and advanced training regulations on the basis of instructions from the government department responsible and in accordance with parameters agreed with the consensus of the relevant stakeholders. This process is informed by the results of research and development projects and by long-term observations.
  • Consultancy within the scope of pilot projects and programmes. BIBB acts on behalf of government departments and the EU to conduct programmes and pilot projects aimed at fostering VET and innovative development. It is also involved with the development of these programmes and is responsible for implementation and monitoring. It participates in back-up/evaluation research and supports transfer to occupational practice.
  • International cooperation and system consultancy. Experts from BIBB work with international organisations and advise both governments and public institutions in other countries on the reform of their vocational education and training systems. In order to support government departments with issues relating to international VET cooperation, the “German Office for International Cooperation in Vocational Education and Training (GOVET)”, a central Federal Government body, has been established at BIBB.
  • Preparation of surveys and expert reports. Academic research-based surveys and expert reports dealing with specific issues are prepared at the request of external partners such as ministries, the European Commission or foundations.
  • Involvement in external committees. BIBB specialists are appointed to national and international committees, where they are able to bring their expertise to bear.

Requirements made of research-based policy consultancy

Research-based policy consultancy must meet the requirements of academic research work. BIBB has signed up to standards laid down by the German Research Foundation (DFG) aimed at safeguarding good academic research practice and ensures the implementation of these stipulations within the scope of its quality management system. With regard to research-based policy consultancy, BIBB is in particular committed to observing and complying with the following principles.

  • Consultancy takes place impartially, and outcomes are open. Data, methods, knowledge and results are all documented. Considerations resulting in the consultancy are presented transparently.
  • Consultancy is informed by current research results and by the status of the academic research discourse. Gaps in research are stated.
  • Premises, assumptions and norms are disclosed and justified.
  • Consideration is accorded to different research approaches, results, interpretations and positions. Insofar as possible and useful, various possible solutions are analysed, and options are developed to provide a basis for reasoned recommendations.
  • The products and outcomes of academic research work are published in a suitable form. Care is taken that research findings and conclusions are prepared in a manner which is suitable to the target audience and is potentially applicable to the structuring of practice and policy. Interests of principals that are worthy of protection and any reservations they may have regarding publication are respected.
  • Principals and third-party funding providers are indicated when commissioned work is published.

General conditions for the provision of expert consultancy services

Research-based policy consultancy requires assured access to data and the institute’s own contributions to vocational education and training research. As well as evaluating statistical information, BIBB also collects its own data. Analyses are based on the Vocational Education and Training Statistics, on representative surveys conducted on a regular basis and on detailed qualitative studies. Long-term series and observations provide relevant structural data on the development of vocational training, and this informs expert reports and publications.

Good research-based policy consultancy requires in-depth communication with the respective partners and recipients. This means that the issues to be investigated must be sufficiently clear, and BIBB’s autonomy within the process needs to be respected. It is also necessary for an appropriate time frame to be accorded and for resources that are in line with requirements to be ensured. If a consultancy assignment is not sufficiently defined, clarification with the principal takes place. If consultancy cannot be provided for technical reasons or if a principal signifies that an open-outcome approach is not desired, commissions should be rejected or in certain circumstances be modified in such a way so as to ensure a well-founded professional and independent procedure.

The research-based consultancy services provided by BIBB have their basis in the technical, social and personal competences of its staff. BIBB ensures that the qualifications and areas of expertise of the personnel deployed meet the requirements of the consultancy assignment. Cooperation between employees with different competence profiles plays an important role in this regard.

Activities which take place within the scope of research-based policy consultancy are documented on an ongoing basis. This applies in particular to the drawing up of expert reports, the processing of enquiries and the appointment of academic research staff to commissions and councils. Policy consultancy services are regularly evaluated as part of the quality management process.