Handbook on the Politics of Higher Education
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Handbook on the Politics of Higher Education

Edited by Brendan Cantwell, Hamish Coates and Roger King

Understanding the politics of Higher Education is becoming more important as the sector is increasingly recognised as a vital source of innovation, skills, economic prosperity, and personal wellbeing. Yet key political differences remain over such issues as who should pay for higher education, how should it be accountable, and how we measure its quality and productivity. Particularly, are states or markets the key in helping to address such matters. The Handbook provides framing perspectives and perspectives, chapters on funding, governance and regulation, and pieces on the political economy of higher education and on the increased role of external stakeholders and indicators.
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Chapter 18: Risk-based regulation in higher education: why, how, when, and what else?

Roger King


In recent years, higher education sectors have become subject to policies that have sought to extend models found in other sectors. Alongside marketization and related ideas of consumer-driven competition found in predominantly commercial sectors, one also finds attempts to apply models of regulation, transparency and accountability found in other public sectors. But across both private and more public domains one finds governmental focus on ‘better regulation’ as a means of avoiding bureaucratic ‘red tape’ and releasing entrepreneurial energies and innovation. Risk-based regulation as applied to higher education is found particularly in Australia and England. Increasingly the focus of such a model is less the anticipation of future harm and hazard and more a move towards education and guidance, at least as a first resort, as a means of developing organizational learning and resilience. The starting assumption is that most organizations seek to comply, but often require regulatory help in doing so, especially if they are small and/or new providers. Reflecting changes in criminal justice systems, there is recognition of the limited role of sanctions and the need to move towards persuasion and conciliation as key processes of enforcement. Both regulatory practice and scholarship, alongside recent psychology research, are influencing regulatory cultures away from more punitive approaches towards education and responsiveness as primary instruments.

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