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Higher education policy and administration

The higher education sector is rapidly changing. Since the identification of higher education as a key factor in the development of a European knowledge society, the sector has grown in terms of the number of students, the share of the national budgets and the attention devoted to it in the political sphere. These changes have brought with them new policy demands and accountability measures, particularly focused on the outputs of higher education institutions in terms of efficiency, teaching quality, graduate employment and the dissemination of knowledge. In a Danish context, these trends include a range of reforms challenging traditional values associated with higher education, such as academic autonomy, and the introduction of a comprehensive accreditation system.

One of the trends is an increased European standardization of the higher education sector across different institutional types and educational fields. Danish universities are transforming from institutions organized around democratic elections of academic colleagues into professionally managed institutions producing employable workers for the knowledge society. Other types of higher education institution, awarding professional bachelor’s degrees, have been created by merging small, practice-oriented community colleges into larger university colleges. Not only have the financial and organizational structures of these very different types of institutions gradually shifted towards a new, cross-cutting ideal of a higher education institution, educational structures have converged in the wake of the Bologna process and the introduction of standardized learning outcomes, the 3+2+3 cycle structure, the module structure and ECTS credits.

The research programme Policy Futures explores how massification, standardization and managerialization impact the purpose of higher education in today’s society. By using documents and ethnographic material from transnational and national policy levels as well as local institutional practices, Policy Futures further examines the performative effects of the new management and accountability measures on teaching, learning and knowledge production, and on the student and faculty subjectivities living their lives in institutions of higher education. In particular, the interaction between traditional academic and new managerial logics involves interesting negotiations and new practices, challenging the expectations regarding implementation in new policies.