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Gwilym Croucher

Growth in the size and complexity of higher education worldwide in the latter part of the twentieth century has meant that setting effective government policy for universities and other tertiary education providers is a challenge, with much at stake for the performance, quality and accountability of systems. Those charged with making higher education policy must balance competing interests while being mindful that failure often carries significant costs for students, governments and institutions alike. This chapter explores useful insights for both scholars and policy makers from policy breakdown in higher education, using two examples from Australia to illustrate lessons to be drawn from policy settings that have not delivered as intended. First, it examines policy change initiated in the 1990s which led to the unsuccessful merger of some higher education institutions. Second, it draws lessons from the failure of policy initiatives intended to expand the proportion of Australian students that have faced socioeconomic disadvantage. The chapter synthesises lessons from these distinct domains and comments on their applicability to higher education systems.

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Gwilym Croucher and Glyn Davis

Is the position of universities as an admired – and protected – public institution more precarious than ever? Is there a mismatch between government expectations in setting higher education policy and the core role of universities? More than ever, governments articulate the need for higher education – echoing the demands of knowledge-based economies – but cannot control delivery. This chapter examines a tension imbedded in making higher education policy, arising from disharmony over who controls institutions of higher education and who should pay for them. National systems take dramatically different approaches to reconciling incommensurate views of how the benefits flowing from higher education are distributed. Increasingly, the status of universities as privileged spaces for critical enquiry and knowledge production and dissemination is challenged by governments keen use their funding to shape research and teaching. The chapter concludes with a discussion of difficult questions many universities face about their missions and activity, and their efforts to build a greater constituency beyond government.

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Kenneth Moore, Hamish Coates and Gwilym Croucher

Higher education has grown to play a major role in many countries, amplifying interest in productivity. Yet surprisingly little scholarly research has been conducted on this phenomenon. The chapter discusses the generalisation of a model validated previously by the United States National Academy of Science. It exemplifies this model by analysing cross-national data collected from ten diverse Asian countries and dozens of institutions. Quantitative data was collected on inputs, and on education and research outputs. In each country reviews were conducted of salient political and institutional contexts. The chapter reviews technical and empirical contributions to research, and articulates contexts and strategies for improving national policy and institutional management. Most broadly, it highlights the value of progressing contextualised scientific studies of productivity in higher education.