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Governance reform in higher education

“New public management” theory has largely replaced more traditional “public sector management” methods of governance, the latter being criticized for its lack of efficiency and inadaptability in responding to the market demands. The new model redefines the relationship between the state and higher education institutions, from a state control to a state supervision model. The keys principles are increased institutional autonomy and privatization.

What impact have reforms had on university management?


IIEP studied the evolution of policies and new governance structures at the global level; it examined their implications in the management of higher education at the national levels; and it analysed their implications for institutional effectiveness in higher education.  

The first results from empirical studies have shown that governance reforms have resulted in substantial changes, including: 

  • the creation of intermediate actors (agencies, institutions) as buffers between the ministry of education and HE institutions (HEIs); 
  • the granting of membership in the educational decision-making bodies to actors from the private sector; 
  • the implementation of policies through persuasion and incentives rather than legal means; 
  • quality control by external agencies and professional bodies;

The move towards increased autonomy of HEIs is a major reform strand in higher education. This move comes against the backdrop of: the changed role of the state, constrained financial resources, growth of private institutions, and strong social demand evidenced by an increase in enrolments. Consequently HEIs are compelled to enhance the quality of service and delivery, while striving for cost-effectiveness and global competitiveness. 

In response to these evolutions, and building on lessons drawn from previous work on governance reform and quality assurance, the Institute will work with Members States and HEIs on developing and improving internal quality assurance systems and mechanisms. Applied research will pave the way for training and policy advice in this area.