http://escholarship.org/brand/cshe/institute_logo.gifBy Georg Krücken. Abstract: Higher education systems in Europe are currently undergoing profound transformations. At the macro-level, there is an increase in the number of students enrolled, subjects of study offered, and university missions that have gained legitimacy over time. At the second level changes are evident at the level of university governance. New Public Management reforms have put into question the traditional mode of governance that was based on the interplay of strong state regulation and academic self-governance. Under the current regime, new actors like accreditation and evaluation bodies or boards of trustees are emerging. At a third institutional level, profound changes can be observed at the university level itself. The university as an organization is transforming into an organizational actor, i.e. an integrated, goal-oriented, and competitive entity in which management and leadership play an ever more important role. In the following paper empirical evidence for social inclusion, new modes of governance and the organizational actorhood of universities will be presented. Furthermore, I will outline an agenda for comparative research. Although the United States is in all three respects a forerunner of what we are observing in Europe, the label “Americanization” is misleading. Instead, a global frame of reference as well as national path-dependencies need to be taken into account.Download this document.
Higher education systems in Europe are currently undergoing profound transformations.
At the macro-level of society we can see an increasing inclusion of persons, subjects of study, and university missions. The second level where we can find changes is at the level of university governance. New Public Management reforms have put into question the traditional mode of governance that was based on the interplay of strong state regulation and academic self-governance. In this process, new actors like accreditation and evaluation bodies or boards of trustees are emerging. A third level where profound changes can be observed is at the university level itself. The university as an organization is transforming into an organizational actor, i.e. an integrated, goaloriented, and competitive entity in which management and leadership play an ever more important role. Although the United States is in all three respects a forerunner of what we are observing in Europe, the label “Americanization” is misleading. Instead, universities. Second, “inclusion” is a global trend in higher education that cannot be limited to Europe. Rather, European universities are part of this global trend.
Both points, the long-term historical development and the global character of “inclusion” are illustrated in the quantitative analysis by Meyer and Schofer (2007). What we cannot see in their macro-statistical data is the diversification of the student body that underlies the dramatic inclusion of people in the higher education sector. The diversification, on the one hand, relates to the social class background of university students. Since the late 1960s an increasing number of students with a working class background have gained access to universities (Trow 2010). Nevertheless, strong social inequalities remain, as aptly described by sociologists like Pierre Bourdieu. Although there is cross-national variation, social inequalities continue to be a persistent feature of all higher education systems, not only in Europe, but world-wide (Shavit et al. 2007). In Germany, for example, recent statistics indicate that 83 children out of 100 parents who have an academic degree enroll at universities, compared to only 23 out of 100 enroll whose parents do not have an academic degree.
Inclusion relates not only to social class, but also to gender. Researchers provide evidence of the historical and global dimension of this change (Ramirez and Wotipka 2001). Only about a hundred years ago women were not entitled to be enrolled at most European universities. In 1862 Paris became the first place to allow the enrolment of women in Europe and it took decades for other European universities to follow suit. Nowadays, we have a rather equal balance of male and female students enrolled at university in most European countries. In fact, women now outnumber their male counterparts in many institutions. In this regard, the inclusion process is far more advanced in relation to gender than social class background. Strong inequalities persist, however, with regard to the career trajectories of women at university. While the “glass ceiling” has become the dominant metaphor to describe the persisting inequalities between men and women in business firms, in higher education the “leaky pipeline” seems to be an equally appropriate metaphor to describe the persisting inequalities that limit the inclusion of women in academic careers. Both metaphors describe the experience for many women in the university environment. The “leaky pipeline” metaphor describes the equal inclusion of women in higher education at the undergraduate level (though choice of major can still be gendered), but equity is called into question when it comes to full professorships or even the presidency of universities. But here strong national variation can be observed as the so-called “She Figures” by the European Commission clearly indicate (European Commission 2009).
A second more general aspect of inclusion is related to the subjects that can be studied at universities. In his famous book from
1930 Abraham Flexner, one of the harshest critics of American universities, praised European universities for limiting university studies to the sciences and the humanities (Flexner 1930). He supported the fact that subjects like journalism, public health or business studies, which at that time were being institutionalized within American universities, were still unthinkable in most European universities. This has changed, too.
In European universities many fields of studies such as engineering, social work or teacher education that were previously taught outside the realm of universities yet are now a taken-for-granted aspect of university studies. For instance, health care is currently becoming a part of higher education studies in more and more European countries. Historically, there has been a similar trend in engineering and business studies. As Lars Engwall, Matthias Kipping, and Behlul Üsdiken have shown, in a wide range of European countries academic business studies to a great extent emerged in specialized schools that stood apart from the traditional university sector (Engwall et al. 2010).
The same holds true for engineering. Engineering did not gain academic recognition before the end of the 19th century and from a historical perspective it is striking to see how important engineering disciplines have become within less than a century. The global dimension of the increasing inclusion of subjects worthwhile of study at university has been broadly described by David Frank and Jay Gabler (2006) in their book “Reconstructing the University: Worldwide Shifts in Academia in the Twentieth Century”. Here, a general trend toward the scientization or academization of society is evident. With regard to Europe, I foresee that the Bologna process will further accelerate the inclusion of subjects of study. At Master’s level, in particular, one can observe more and more specializations that go far beyond the traditional disciplinary studies. Likewise, the organizational format of universities is expanding, as is evident when considering the integration of formerly independent research institutes into the higher education system. This is particularly apparent in France, but also in other European countries.
A third aspect of the far-reaching and ongoing inclusion processes concerns the missions of universities. Following the German von Humboldt model, which was influential across very different regions of the world, universities basically have two missions – teaching and research, and social benefits ultimately result from universities’ focussing on these two missions. Over time, and especially over the last two decades, more and more university missions have been explicitly formulated and become legitimate parts of what it means to be a university. The most prominent one is the so-called “third academic mission”, i.e. the direct contribution of universities to economic development. Teaching and research contribute only indirectly, and due to high levels of uncertainty one can hardly know in advance what the exact contribution of academic research and teaching to economic
development will be. With the “third academic mission” universities have become an integral part of regional, national, and global innovation systems.
Many policy-initiatives in Europe focus on strengthening the link between universities and their socio-economic environments. One need only consider the Lisbon strategy, with its aim to make the European Union the most competitive and dynamic economic region of the world. I foresee that this will not be the end of the inclusion of further societal missions for universities. For example, some European and American universities already claim to be spearheading a global trend toward “ecologically sustainable development”.
GOVERNANCE

The second level where we can find change is at the level of governance. In recent years in most OECD countries - and especially in Continental Europe - the traditional forms of university governance have come under pressure. There has been a considerable loss of confidence in the capacity for self-governance by the academic community. At the same time, strong state regulation has become subject to a fundamental ideological critique, in higher education as in other domains. In Europe, New Public Management reforms have led to changing modes of inter-organizational steering as well as institutional governance of universities. Concepts and instruments borrowed from the corporate sector play an important role here. Despite all the differences among countries and their universities, the relationships between universities and the state, as well as with other social actors, are undergoing profound changes and new governance regimes are being established. We can currently observe changes regarding four aspects in the governance of European higher education. These four aspects reinforce one another and have become increasingly important in a diverse range of European countries (Paradeise et al. 2009; Jansen 2007).
Firstly, the traditional mode of governance as exercised by the state is evolving. Instead of direct and top down regulation of the concrete behaviour of universities and their members, the state is increasingly taking a more supervisory and “steering at a distance” approach, in which more indirect ways of governance play a larger role. The management by objectives approach, for example, is of importance here, i.e., objectives are defined by the state, ideally in cooperation with the universities. The manner of reaching these objectives, however, is left to the universities. Please note that state regulation is not decreasing in this process. The state continues to play a strong role in university governance. Careful analyses of the Bologna process, for example, show the persistent strength of state regulation in Europe (Amaral et al. 2009).
Second, we can see an amazing increase in the number of actors involved in university governance, one which goes far beyond the traditional dualism of state governance and academic self-governance that is so well-known in Europe (Clark 1983). This makes the picture much more complex than twenty years ago. For instance, we see in all European HE systems an increase in the number of accreditation and evaluation bodies both with regard to teaching and research. Additionally, institutional boards or boards of trustees are currently being established. There is a lot of controversy around this issue as well as very heterogeneous practices among European universities.
Third, Europe is increasingly becoming a relevant level for university governance. The Europeanization of higher education has been spurred first and foremost by the so-called Bologna process, which aims at a common European higher education area. The importance of the Bologna process has been stressed by many analyses, and am in agreement. I would, however, rather stress the symbolic value of “Bologna”. From my point of view, the Bologna process is less a hard-wired rational political decision-making process leading naturally to outcomes upon implementation. Bologna is rather a myth or a symbol that different actors can invoke in order to pursue actions which otherwise would have been less probable. The Bologna process, in other words, grants legitimacy to a variety of actions in European countries, actions that do not directly derive from the explicit political statements, goals and procedures to be found in the policy documents. By invoking the Bologna myth, different and sometimes contradictory attempts at change get the symbolic value and societal legitimacy they require.
Fourth, competition as a distinct mode of governance is becoming more important. Competition in higher education is different from competition in the business area. Peers, i.e. other competitors on the supply side, play a decisive role, while actors on the demand side for academic goods (like firms or potential students) play a more indirect role. In the university sector, evaluation by other academics and ranking tables, which are at least in part also based on academic judgements such as peer review, shape competitive processes over scarce resources such as money and prestige. Historians and sociologists of science have shown that competition among scientists had been deeply embedded in scientific life for centuries. However, competition among scientists is currently aggravated through rankings, evaluations, and indicators of all kinds.
Likewise, competition is seen to be of prime importance as a mechanism to stimulate research excellence within EU member states and at the EU level. In a recent Open Method of Coordination (OMC) Working Group, representatives from 17 EU member states agreed on the importance of fostering competition by a variety of instruments, including benchmarking processes and sharing of best practices (CREST 2009). Furthermore, we can currently witness the transformation of university organizations into competitive actors that increasingly behave like strategic actors, and less like loosely coupled systems. This leads me to the third level where we can observe profound changes: the transformation of universities into organizational actors.
See also ‘Americanisation’ of European universities is not on the cards.