Navigating the complexity and uncertainty of higher education systems: Ontology mapping of Chile’s universities

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 38: Learning for Life and Work in a Complex World

July, 2015, 528 pages
Published by
T. Thomas, E. Levin, P. Dawson, K. Fraser & R. Hadgraft

We map Chile’s universities using an ontology to analyze its higher education system systematically and systemically. Ontological mapping 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 analyze the ‘bright’, ‘light’, and ‘blind/blank’ spots within it. The results of such analysis can be input to developing strategies to guide the system’s trajectory.

This is a replication of the study done in Karnataka, India. The number of universities in Chile is similar to that of higher education institutions in Karnataka. However, the two contexts are very different. The origins and the environments of higher education systems in the two countries are very dissimilar. Their challenges for delivering learning for life and work are also very unalike because of the differences in demography, geography, economy, language, sociology, and culture.

Chile’s government is in the process of reforming its higher education system and is debating its main goals. However, the discussion is primarily focused on whether or not an institution should be operated for profit. An analysis of Chile’s higher education system can help introduce other relevant elements and criteria into the discussion. Thus, we argue that ontology mapping can help develop evidence-based strategies for higher education systems to navigate the uncertainty and complexity of their environment, and to transform themselves.

Keywords: Ontology mapping, higher education system, higher education strategy