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The OECD and Higher Education Policy: Agenda-Setting, Organizational Dynamics and the Construction of Convening Authority

The article examines the engagement of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with the higher education sector. Detailed empirical case studies probe the ultimate failure to launch of the OECD’s Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes initiative, as well as the recent demise of the long-established Institutional Management in Higher Education programme and the development of a new initiative on the evaluation of higher education system performance. The analysis is informed by a theoretical framework drawn from the wider international organization literature, focusing on internal organizational dynamics and the manner in which international organizations seek to construct their external authority. A complex portrait of the OECD as a policy actor correspondingly emerges, focused on agenda-setting within the organization in terms which highlight the interplay of organizational, governmental and stakeholder interests. This is further suggestive of a broader research agenda exploring emerging international-level policy processes in higher education.

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This study was funded by the Université du Luxembourg (Grant No. R-AGR-0330 Global-Uni).

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Correspondence to Robert Harmsen.

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Harmsen, R., Braband, G. The OECD and Higher Education Policy: Agenda-Setting, Organizational Dynamics and the Construction of Convening Authority. High Educ Policy 34, 582–602 (2021).

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  • Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
  • higher education policy
  • international organizations
  • Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes (AHELO)
  • Institutional Management in Higher Education (IMHE)