Higher education reforms have been on the agenda of Western
European countries for 25 years, trying to deal with self governed
professional bureaucracies politically weakened by massification
when an emerging common understanding enhanced their role as major
actors in knowledge based economies. While university systems are
deeply embedded in national settings, the ex post rationale of
still on-going reforms is surprisingly uniform and de-nationalized
. They promote (1) the organizational turn of universities, to
varying extent substituting collegial loosely coupled entities by
integrated, goal-oriented entities deliberately choosing their own
actions (and therefore open to differentiation), that can thus be
held responsible for what they do (2) the diversification of
stakeholders, supposedly offering solutions to problems as various
as the democratisation of universities, the shrinking of State
budget resources and the diversification of university missions
offering answers to changes in the making and in the use of
When it comes to accounting for these reforms, two grand
narratives of public management share the floor. NPM implies a
strengthening of the capacity of the core State to direct public
services organizations through management by objectives and results
or contractualization, assessment, evaluation and. Governance
focuses on network-based governance systems, where coordinating
power and control are collectively shared between the major social
actors or partners at all levels of the decision-making system. Our
results suggest that all higher education systems under study were
more or less transformed according to both these narratives. It is
therefore needed to understand how they combine or create
contradictions. This leads us to test a third neo-weberian model.
This model reaffirms the role of the State, of representative
democracy, (central, regional and local), of public law (suitably
modernized), preserves the idea of a public service with a
distinctive status, culture and terms and conditions. It shifts
from an internal orientation to bureaucratic rules towards an
external orientation in meeting citizens needs and wishes by means
of standardization of work processes and their products, based on a
distinctive public service and a particular legal order survived as
the foundations beneath the various packages of modernizing
This book traces the national dynamics of public policies,
organizational design and steering tools in seven European higher
education and research systems, using these narratives to interpret
and test the actual changes and the degree of national
specificities and European convergence.
This book is not a sum of national chapters like other
presumably comparative. It does not intend to tell once again the
story of the transformation of the relationships between the state
and universities. It tries to use Higher education system to
discuss issues on state intervention and steering and more
generally the NPM, governance and neo-weberian models in a specific
Furthermore, this book intends breaking the walls between
specialists in higher education and specialist in public management
and research policy. This well rooted division of labour is less
that ever justified as the university mission in research
(fundamental, applied, strategic) is underscored by commentors and
reformers themselves. For that reason, we have chosen to observe
the consequences of the dynamics of public policies, organizational
design and steering tools on two specific issues related to the
development of research training and organizing within
universities: the transformation of research funding on the one
hand and the expansion of graduate studies and doctoral schools on
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