• Christine MusselinEmail author
  • Pedro N. Teixeira
Part of the Higher Education Dynamics book series (HEDY, volume 41)


Higher education and research have reached the top of governmental agendas, since they are expected to play a crucial role in knowledge societies. In all countries, they have been for many years at the centre of reforms aimed at deeply transforming university practices and governance that are considered poorly adapted to contemporary settings and to the new missions that universities and research institutions are expected to fulfill.

The rationales underlying those changes have been the subject of significant debates. In order to explain the reforms in higher education and research, many authors have mentioned the influence of New Public Management. The developments in higher education at the institutional level also suggest that we need to go beyond those general statements and trends. In recent decades, there has been a significant strengthening of institutional autonomy in many higher education systems, notably in Europe. The more this trend has developed, the less likely it is that the implementation of policy reforms will be a straightforward and reactive sequence. On the other hand, this growing institutional autonomy has been accompanied by a growing institutional differentiation in many higher education systems. This differentiation has had multiple sources, from legal changes to different financial treatment by governments, though it has certainly contributed to making the institutional landscape increasingly more diverse across and within higher education systems. Thus, although many higher education systems have shared commonalities in this reform trend, the way they have responded may present significant differences at the national and institutional levels and this will likely have an impact on the way policies are designed and implemented.

In this introductory chapter, we will start by setting the context of change that has characterized European higher education over the last three decades. Then, we will reflect upon the extent to which the analysis of policy design and policy reform may be affected by those aforementioned changes and suggest three different but complementary ways of looking at reforms. Finally, we will present the contents of the volume.


High Education High Education Institution Policy Reform High Education System Policy Design 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre de Sociologie des Organisations, Sciences Po and CNRSParisFrance
  2. 2.CIPES and Faculty of EconomicsUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal

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