What knowledge counts—boundaries of knowledge in cross-institutional curricula in higher education

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The aim of this study was to explore knowledge in the context of creating a shared curriculum between research-intensive and vocationally oriented universities of applied sciences. Curriculum knowledge was explored from the accounts of 26 teachers from four institutions in Finland. Shared curriculum initiatives created an environment in which teachers were obliged to negotiate and make explicit their approaches to curriculum knowledge and knowledge practices. The phenomenon of blurring boundaries is approached with Bernstein's sociology of education. The present findings show that institutions have a distinct foundation for curriculum knowledge, but cross-curricular initiatives brought pressure to change towards the knowledge practices of the other institution. Discrepancies were found between knowledge and learning outcomes, and between knowledge as a negotiated artefact and knowledge as enacted in curriculum implementation. Curriculum knowledge emerged with symbolic boundaries and an invisible pedagogic order. This resulted in practices where the official discourse appears to have similar learning outcomes, which are not similar from the perspective of knowledge. Focus on a harmonised degree, as stated in the European Qualification Framework, obscures the question of knowledge and requires more attention. This is especially the case if the boundaries between degrees and institutions are purposely weakened. If the rationale to weaken the boundaries is on the streamlined educational processes and their efficacy, there is a risk of gaps in knowledge provided for students in the higher education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1299–1315
JournalHigher Education
Issue number6
Early online date12 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • knowledge
  • curriculum
  • European Qualification Framework (EQF)
  • cross-institutional
  • Bernstein

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 3


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