A Changing Landscape
Edited by Andrea Bonaccorsi
Chapter 3: Public and private higher education in Europe: competition, complementarity or worlds apart?
Over the last half a century, European higher education has been facing persistent pressures towards expansion, which have led to the emergence of mass higher education (Scott, 1995; Trow, 2010). This has raised economic and academic challenges for higher education institutions and governments. The challenges have been even more difficult for those countries in which higher education has traditionally been dominated by public provision, leading to a significant growth of the burden on public funding (Clotfelter, 1996; Ehrenberg, 2002). This has stimulated a search for means of catering for a growing and increasingly diverse population in a more economic and efficient way (Barr and Crawford, 2005). A major response to these challenges has been to promote the adoption of market elements in higher education systems, in particular through increased privatization (Geiger, 1986; Morphew and Eckel, 2009) and the emergence of private institutions. However, this runs against the dominant view about the way higher education should be funded and provided in most European countries. In this chapter we explore the public-private mix and the patterns of diversification and specialization across the European higher education systems. The chapter starts by briefly reflecting on the historical small role of private higher education (PHE) in Europe and the way the region has participated (or not) in the recent emergence of that sector as a significant player in many systems around the world (Levy, 2006).
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