Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory

pp 1-7

Date: Latest Version

Private and Public in European Higher Education


Control; Funding; Ownership; Goods


The dichotomy public/private has become increasingly crucial in higher education. More precisely, there is a growing pressure to make higher education more private and less public. In many countries, this is also currently the dominant trend.

This aim to increase the level of privatization must be understood in light of the traditional perception of higher education as a public good. The original idea of the university as in terms of universality, i.e., as a community of teachers or students, bears similarities with the notion of higher education as a public good, something held in common to which all contribute and from which all profit. In the Middle Ages, universities formed a trans local community, a network of seats of learning, sanctioned by the Catholic Church. Higher education thus enjoyed a certain degree of independence from local authorities. With the rise of nation states, religious authorities lost most of their power ov ...

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