Italian Centre for Research on Universities & HE Systems

Comparing Governance Regime Changes in Higher Education: systemic performances, national policy dynamics, and institutional responses. A multidisciplinary and mixed methods analysis.


Giliberto Capano



The project aims to explain differences in performance across Higher Education Systems in Europe, considering a multidimensional system of performance from a diachronic perspective. The analysis focuses on changes in systemic governance regimes (i.e. the set of adopted policy tools, interests alignments and prevailing shared ideas), national policy dynamics (the process through which governance regimes are designed over time), and institutional responses (the reaction of institutions to inputs from the existing governance regime). The proposed analysis offers a multi-level perspective of the ways in which a higher education system’s performance is produced,and as such it aims to provide answers to three main research questions: 1. Which governance regimes are more conducive to the better performance of HE systems? 2. Which characteristics of national policy dynamics (i.e. interactions among political, socio-economic and ideational factors) favour specific choices in terms of governance regimes? 3. Which institutional characteristics permit a coherent pursuit of the HE system’s principal systemic goals? According to its main objectives, the project addresses the issue of HES’performance from a multidisciplinary, mixed-methods, multilevel perspective. Multi-disciplinarity stems from capitalizing on the theoretical and empirical contributions of political science, of management science, and of public economics.In these fields, previous studies provided models of how higher education policies are steered, and thus of how governance regimes in this field are designed and operate. The mixed-methods approach means that different methods will be adopted to gather and analyse data, depending on the research design. Quantitative techniques will be adopted to grasp the specific systemic impact on single policy tools; QCA (Qualitative Comparative Analysis) will permit the assessment of the specific national configuration of governance regimes resulting from the policy tool-mixes in use in given countries. Qualitative analysis (process tracing, semi-structured interviews, content analysis) will be adopted in order to analyze national policies as well as institutional behavior. The project will therefore produce ground-breaking outcomes. It will: 1. generate an accurate dataset of performance indicators and policy tools in use in EU countries from the mid-1990s on; 2. describe national cases trajectories across governance regimes; 3. identify which specific elements of the governance regime in use resulted in the HES’ success or failure; 4. help understand and explain why and how institutional responses either fit the systemic guidelines or not; 5. provide useful lessons for poor performers, so that they may improve their performance by modifying their HES’ system of governance; 6. test and combine different methods of investigation of the complex relationship between the adopted policy tools and a system’s performance.







Varieties of Governance. Dynamics, Strategies, Capacities

The study of governance may be currently in fashion, but it is also a firmly-established lens through which the complexities of contemporary policy making can be analysed while examining the ways in which a society and its political processes are organized and steered. [...]