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A tale of many stories: explaining policy diffusion between European higher education systems

  • The thesis ”A Tale of Many Stories - Explaining Policy Diffusion between European Higher Education Systems" systematically examines diffusion processes and their effects with regard to a rather neglected policy area – the case of European higher education policy. The thesis contributes to the slowly growing number of comparative and mechanism-based studies on policy diffusion and represents the first study on the diffusion of policies between European Higher Education Systems. The main aim is to contrast and compare testable and coherent explanatory models on the functioning of different diffusion mechanisms. Three sets of explanatory models on the relationship between variables triggering and conditioning diffusion mechanisms and their impact on policy adoption are drawn from mechanism-based thinking on policy diffusion: on learning, socialization, and externalities. These approaches conceptualize the policy process in terms of interdependencies between international and national actors. Explanatory models based on assumptions about domestic policies and the common responses of countries to similar policy problems extend this theoretical framework. The thesis is based on event history modelling of policy change and adoption in higher education systems of 16 West European countries between the yeas 1980 and 1998. Overall 14 policy items describing performance-orientated reforms for public universities ranging from the adoption of external quality assurance systems to tuition fees are examined. Empirically, the main research question is what international, national and policy-specific factors cause and condition diffusion processes and the adoption of public policies? Evidence can be found for and against all of the four theoretical approaches tested. In comparison, many of the assumptions related to interdependencies lack robustness, whereas the common response model is the most stable one. This does not mean that explanatory models based on interdependent decision-making are not suitable for analysing policy diffusion in higher education. Rather interdependency is a multi- dimensional concept that requires a comparative assessment of diffusion mechanisms. Some of explanatory factors based on interdependent decision- making are still supported by the empirical analysis though. From this point of view, the recommendation for analysing diffusion is to start with a model based on domestic politics, that is successively extended by explanatory factors dealing with interdependencies between international and national actors. Diffusion variables matter – but it is only one side of the tale on policy diffusion.

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Author:Torben HeinzeGND
Publisher:Freie Universität Berlin
Place of publication:Berlin
Referee:Tanja A. BörzelORCiDGND, David Levi-FaurORCiDGND
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Year of first Publication:2013
Date of Publication (online):2021/04/16
Date of final exam:2013/07/09
Reviewstate:Qualifikationsarbeit (Dissertation, Habilitationsschrift)
Tag:governance; higher education policy; isomorphism; new public management; policy convergence; policy diffusion; policy transfer
GND Keyword:Bildungspolitik; Ereignisdatenanalyse; Hochschulpolitik; Höheres Bildungswesen; Vergleichende politische Wissenschaft
Page Number:519; xi
University:Freie Universität Berlin
City of University:Berlin
DDC classes:300 Sozialwissenschaften / 320 Politik
Open Access?:ja
Licence (German):License LogoUrheberrechtlich geschützt