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From Privatization (of the Expansion Era) to De-privatization (of the Contraction Era): A National Counter-Trend in a Global Context

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Part of the Higher Education Dynamics book series (HEDY,volume 45)

Abstract

This paper discusses Polish higher education with two pairs of concepts: expansion and contraction, and privatization and de-privatization. It focuses on what we term the “de-privatization” phenomenon, especially with regard to private sector growth and reliance on cost-sharing mechanisms in public higher education institutions, both currently in a fundamental retreat. De-privatization is a uniquely postcommunist European process today as only in postcommunist Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) had private higher education been on the rise for almost two decades, until a few years ago. Private higher education was stimulated by rapid expansion of access to higher education following the collapse of communism; not any more, though. De-privatization stems from aging populations and it is a demographically-driven public-private re-balancing process. Consequently, the current public-private dynamics in postcommunist Europe differ greatly from both Western European and global dynamics. However, the paper argues that Poland may ultimately resemble Western Europe where “normal” has always in the postwar period been predominantly public and tax-based higher education. The private sector – currently a “declining industry” in Poland and in CEE in Michael E. Porter’s terms – from a longer historical perspective can be viewed as merely a temporary phenomenon. The Polish state allowed it to flourish in the expansion period (1990–2005) to cover part of the rising costs of higher education from the private purse but in the contraction period (2006 and beyond), it is neither willing nor able to stop its gradual decline.

Keywords

  • De-privatization
  • Privatization
  • Poland
  • Private higher education
  • Public/private dynamics
  • Expansion and contraction
  • Changing demographics

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Fig. 16.1
Fig. 16.2
Fig. 16.3

Notes

  1. 1.

    A recent empirical study based on data from the Polish Household Budget Survey from the 1995–2008 period shows that improvements in access refer to students with low family educational background living outside large metropolises rather than to students from low-income families, Herbst and Jakub 2014: 14, see Kwiek 2013a for a European comparison of access.

  2. 2.

    Exceptions are Korea and Japan; see detailed projections in Vincent-Lancrin (2008: 97–103), and analyses in Yonezawa and Kim (2008: 199–220) and Huang (2012).

  3. 3.

    While we are exploring conceptual clarifications about privatization (and de-privatization) elsewhere, let us only indicate that our line of research draws on Daniel C. Levy’s studies of the private sector and privatization (1985, 1992), Roger L. Geiger’s studies on “mass”, “parallel” and “peripheral” private sectors and privatization (1986), Gareth Williams’ study on “the many faces of privatization” (1996), D. Bruce Johnstone’s paper on privatization in and of American higher education (2007) and Simon Marginson’ study of “markets in education” (1997). Then useful are papers on privatization and the public/private divide by Arthur Levine (2001), Carlo Salerno (2004) and Simon Marginson (2007), as well as three recent books on privatization across Anglo-Saxon countries: Margaret Thornton’s Privatising the Public University. The Case of Law (2012), Douglass M. Priest and Edward P. St. John’s Privatization and Public Universities (2006), and Christopher C. Morphew and Peter D. Eckel’s Privatizing the Public University (2009).

  4. 4.

    I would like to express my gratitude to Sheila Slaughter and Barrett Taylor for their encouragement to write this paper and thoughtful comments on its first version. I would also like to thank Simon Marginson and Anna Smolentseva (as well as participants in a seminar on “High Participation Systems” organized in September 2013 in Higher Schools of Economics, Moscow) for their invitation to write a first conceptual approach to this paper and for their stimulating comments. My thinking about the public-private dynamics in higher education have also been heavily influenced by a decade of collaboration and exchanges with Daniel C. Levy, for which I am very grateful. All traditional disclaimers certainly apply.

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Acknowledgements

The author gratefully acknowledges the support of the National Research Council (NCN) through its MAESTRO grant DEC-2011/02/A/HS6/00183 (2012–2017).

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Kwiek, M. (2016). From Privatization (of the Expansion Era) to De-privatization (of the Contraction Era): A National Counter-Trend in a Global Context. In: Slaughter, S., Taylor, B. (eds) Higher Education, Stratification, and Workforce Development. Higher Education Dynamics, vol 45. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-21512-9_16

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