Higher Education

, Volume 70, Issue 3, pp 299–313 | Cite as

Opening the gates or coping with the flow? Governing access to higher education in Northern and Central Europe

  • Rómulo Pinheiro
  • Dominik Antonowicz


Access to higher education has become a key policy issue in most European countries in since the last half of the last century. We trace the historical development of the ways in which governments in two countries within the region, Norway and Poland, have attempted to steer developments. Three access waves or phases are identified and contextualized, by illuminating dominant policy logics and tensions. Our analysis suggests that “coping with the flow” reflects a continuous attempt to instrumentalize higher education and make it serve different political goals: equity, efficiency, and responsiveness. As for the institutions, these have either resisted or embraced government-led initiatives while protecting their institutional autonomy. We show empirical evidence of the fact that the two countries have undergone similar waves and policy measures, yet these have resulted in distinct institutional responses due to national peculiarities, history, local politics, and deeply rooted academic traditions.


Higher education Policy Equity Access Governance Norway Poland 



The article benefited from a research grant (DEC-2011/02/AHS6/00183) from the Polish National Research Council. We would like to thank Professors Ted Tapper, Pundy Pillay, Marek Kwiek and Peter Maassen as well as two anonymous reviews for insightful and constructive suggestions in an earlier version of the paper. Any remaining errors are the authors’.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political Science and Management, Faculty of Social SciencesUniversity of AgderKristiansandNorway
  2. 2.Department of SociologyNicolaus Copernicus UniversityToruńPoland

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