In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Higher Education Governance

  • Introduction
  • General Overview and Historical Studies
  • Conceptual Approaches
  • System-level Governance
  • Institutional Governance
  • International and Multi-level HE Governance
  • Accountability and Autonomy in Higher Education
  • Quality Assurance
  • Governance Reforms and Change Processes in Higher Education Governance
  • Interest Groups
  • The Political Economy of Higher Education
  • Regional Approaches to Higher Education Governance
  • Federalism and Higher Education Policy

Education Higher Education Governance
Michael Dobbins, Jens Jungblut
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0203


The governance of higher education has been a prominent topic for investigation at least since Burton Clark’s foundational 1983 study on the higher education system (see General Overview and Historical Studies). While there is no universally agreed definition of governance in general or governance in the area of higher education, there are certain characteristics of it that are common to most if not all definitions. First, governance relates to decision-making processes and structures, many of which draw on long-standing historical regulatory models. In Europe and higher education systems influenced by Europe, these include, for example, the Humboldtian tradition of academic self-rule and the Napoleonic state-centered tradition, as well as the Anglo-Saxon model of stronger market-oriented regulation. The structures and decision-making processes inherent in higher education governance also generally entail multiple actors with often diverging interests and especially in higher education regularly take place in a multi-level environment with diverse stakeholders. This also relates to the second point, namely that higher education governance addresses supranational, national, regional as well as institutional processes; studies in this area can either focus on one of these levels or cut across several of them. Third, while higher education governance has some sector-specific characteristics it also shares many developments with general public sector governance. This is reflected in the fact that many conceptual approaches used for the study of higher education governance are imported from political science, public administration, public policy, or organizational studies. Finally, higher education governance also has intersections with other research fields, including, for example, higher education policy studies and studies on the political economy or the financing of higher education. As governance tools become more diverse, and since governance arrangements and dynamics are inherently political, it is hard to completely isolate this topic for the purpose of this bibliography. Therefore, a certain overlap or complementarity with other bibliographies, such as the one by William R. Doyle for Oxford Bibliographies in Education “Higher Education Policy,” are inevitable. Our selection of themes is largely pragmatic and aims to cover all crucial dimensions and major themes of higher education governance addressed in academic research. We structure the bibliography along twelve sections starting from more general and conceptual analyses. For the sake of transparency and clarity we focus next on different levels of higher education governance: (1) system-level governance (i.e., state steering of higher education); (2) institutional governance (i.e., university-level administration); and (3) international and multi-level governance. We then address studies on key modern-day issues in higher education governance such as accountability, autonomy, and quality assurance, before presenting a series of theoretically guided analyses on contemporary reform processes. The following segments are then dedicated to the linkages between higher education and the political economy, the welfare state, and a diverse array of interest groups. In the end we address developments in specific regions of the world as well as higher education governance in federalist political systems.

General Overview and Historical Studies

Austin and Jones 2016 provides a good general overview of governance in higher education. Huisman 2009 focuses more on different conceptual approaches used in the study of governance, while Paradeise, et al. 2009 highlights three main narratives that are dominant in contemporary governance reforms. Shattock 2014 discusses the distribution of authority in higher education governance in different national contexts around the world, offering a comparison of the levels of autonomy and self-governance. The volumes by Amaral, et al. 2009; Gornitzka, et al. 2005; Kogan, et al. 2006; and Kyvik and Lepori 2010 all present results from comparative research projects that provide both an empirical overview and conceptual implications. The study by Clark 1983 is not only a foundational one but provides both a general overview of the higher education sector as well as a historical account of how sectors in different countries have developed. In a similar way, Goedegebuure, et al. 1993 as well as Teichler 1988 offer a comparative policy analysis in the area of higher education, which due to their years of publication have some characteristics of historical overviews. Finally, Shattock 2012 offers a detailed historical account of the development of the British higher education systems since 1945.

  • Amaral, A., I. Bleiklie, and C. Musselin, eds. 2009. From governance to identity. A festschrift for Mary Henkel. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

    The editors and contributors address how and why higher education has increasingly been affected by European integration. They explore the challenges which paved the path to the Bologna Process. The chapter contributors discuss the mechanisms of European higher education governance. The second half of the volume presents case studies on the direct and indirect impacts of the Bologna Process in France, Italy, the Czech Republic, and The Netherlands.

  • Austin, I., and G. A. Jones. 2016. Governance of higher education: Global perspectives, theories, and practices. London: Routledge.

    This book gives an overview of the state of the art of research on higher education governance around the world. It presents different conceptualizations and theories of governance both in general and regarding higher education. The volume covers both system-level as well as institutional governance and it also presents the status quo in different countries. In a final chapter the authors discuss new issues and recent challenges in higher education governance.

  • Clark, B. R. 1983. The higher education system: Academic organization in cross-national perspective. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    Clark’s book is one of the foundational works on higher education. Starting from the core characteristics of academic norms and values inherent in the sector, Clark discusses the distribution of authority within universities as well as the relationship between the state, market, and “academic oligarchy.” The book also discusses change process in higher education as well as the uniqueness of higher education compared to other societal institutions.

  • Goedegebuure, L., F. Kaiser, P. Maassen, V. L. Meek, F. van Vught, and E. de Weert. 1993. Higher education policy: An international comparative perspective. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

    This comparative study of higher education policy presents a set of detailed analyses of policy dynamics in eleven different countries that highlight the level of change visible in the different higher education systems, while searching for international trends and national variation. Building on a common conceptual framework founded in Clark’s triangle of coordination, the final chapter of the volume presents a synthesis of commonalities and differences in policy developments in higher education in the early 1990s.

  • Gornitzka, Å., M. Kogan, and A. Amaral, eds. 2005. Reform and change in higher education: Analysing policy implementation. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/1-4020-3411-3

    This comparative study of higher education policy presents a set of detailed analyses of policy dynamics in eleven different countries that highlight the level of change visible in different systems, while searching for international trends and national variations. Building on Clark’s triangle of coordination, the final chapter of the volume presents a synthesis of commonalities and differences in policy developments in higher education in the early 1990s.

  • Huisman, J., ed. 2009. International perspectives on the governance of higher education: Alternative frameworks for coordination. New York: Routledge.

    This volume presents a selection of disciplinary approaches and frameworks to the study of higher education governance. Based mainly on different concepts from political science, public administration, and public policy research, the authors discuss different national developments, but also present a more comparative overarching analysis of specific dynamics.

  • Kogan, M., M. Henkel, M. Bauer, and I. Bleiklie, eds. 2006. Transforming higher education: A comparative study. 2d ed. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-4657-5

    This book presents the results of a long-term research project that analyzed the higher education reforms in Sweden, Norway, and England that have been introduced since the 1970s. The comparative study uses documents, statistics, and interviews to assess the reforms of the different higher education systems on a state, institutional, and individual level.

  • Kyvik, S., and B. Lepori, eds. 2010. The research mission of higher education institutions outside the university sector. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-9244-2

    Against the background of the European Union’s Lisbon Strategy to enhance the knowledge economy, this edited volume explores the research conditions, capabilities, and challenges of the nonuniversity sector of higher education. The individual case studies highlight the increasingly complex interactions between nonuniversity higher education institutions, universities, and governments.

  • Paradeise, C., E. Reale, and I. Bleiklie, eds. 2009. University governance: Western European comparative perspectives. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-9515-3

    The edited volume analyzes changes in higher education governance in Europe as well as related aspects such as doctoral education and research budgets. They show that countries are including more heterogeneous stakeholders in governance and turning universities into more rationalized, entrepreneurially oriented organizations. However, grand narratives such as New Public Management and network governance only tell part of the story, as policymaking still remains embedded in preexisting national settings.

  • Shattock, M. 2012. Making policy in British higher education: 1945–2011. Maidenhead, UK: Open Univ. Press.

    The book provides an encompassing historical overview of policy developments in higher education in the United Kingdom since the Second World War. The author discusses chronologically and in great detail the policy decisions and processes that led to the creation of today’s UK higher education system. The book ends with a final reflection on the links between higher education and policymaking in the UK.

  • Shattock, M. 2014. International trends in university governance: Autonomy, self-government, and the distribution of authority. London: Routledge.

    DOI: 10.4324/9781315769028

    This edited volume presents an assessment of reforms in higher education governance in numerous countries that aimed at modernizing the relationship between higher education and the state, focusing on institutional autonomy and self-governance of universities. The different chapters cover cases from around the world and are structured based on different university traditions, including the Humboldtian, the Napoleonic, the Japanese, and the Anglo-Saxon model.

  • Teichler, U. 1988. Changing patterns of the higher education system: The experience of three decades. London: Jessica Kingsley.

    This book presents the structure of higher education as well as its development in Germany, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, and Australia over three decades. The author identifies structural patterns and models used to reform higher education systems. The key driver for the different developments are changes regarding access and admission to higher education in the late 1960s for which different countries found diverging solutions.

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