The Governance of Higher Education Systems: A Public Management Perspective

Ewan Ferlie, Christine Musselin, Gianluca Andresani

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


European higher education (HE) systems experienced major changes, and many publications have already proposed to assess and analyse this evolution. But looking at the state of the art on this issue, as will be done in the first section of this introduction, it appears that none adopted a public management perspective and considered wider patterns of public sector ‘reforming’ and how they have been applied to higher education systems within the EU. Although most HE systems in Europe, but also in the US, are publicly funded, admit the highest share of students and, by contrast with the US benefit from higher reputation than many private institutions, HE has rarely been studied as a public policy or management topic, so has not been one of the traditional areas covered by generic political scientists or public management scholars ‘Bringing in’ more generic concepts from political science and public management more fully into the study of HE institutions (HEIs) is a promising avenue to explore academically, and may re-invigorate the study of HEIs. Often the HE sector is seen as a ‘stand alone’ sector, which is not directly or easily comparable with other types of organization, even within the public sector. The ideology of academic and institutional autonomy as described by Merton, which is so well developed within the HE sector supports this sectoralist approach. There may be some evidence to support this notion of difference even at the organizational level: for example, UK universities retain more self direction and less central control than some other UK public sector settings, such as the National Health Service (the very name describes a national rather than a local service). Yet at a more fundamental level, the organizational similarities with other professionalized public sector settings such as health care are more important than the differences: European universities are largely dependent on the state for financing; the state is concerned to regulate their behaviour as they influence citizens' life chances significantly; they contain a mix of professional and bureaucratic elements and they operate within strongly structured institutionalized fields. There are many fundamental similarities with other public service settings such as health care. Within organizational analysis, they fit well with the more general archetype of the professionalized organization developed by Mintzberg (1979).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHigher Education Dynamics
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Publication series

NameHigher Education Dynamics
ISSN (Print)1571-0378
ISSN (Electronic)2215-1923


  • Deliberative Democracy
  • High Education
  • High Education System
  • Public Management
  • Public Sector


Dive into the research topics of 'The Governance of Higher Education Systems: A Public Management Perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this