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Education policy: Mapping the landscape and scope

Edited By Sandra Bohlinger, Thi Kim Anh Dang and Malgorzata Klatt

This book maps recent developments in the landscape of education policy in higher and vocational education, the returns of education, curriculum design and education reforms, driven by social, economic, political and cultural factors. Contributed by over twenty authors from five continents, this collection provides diverse, innovative and useful perspectives on the ways education policy is researched, implemented and enacted. It helps researchers, policy makers, students and practitioners to better understand processes of policy making, its theory, practice and outcomes. Despite national differences, many shared features and challenges emerge from this book as education systems face the common need to reinvent their existing systems and processes.

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More autonomy, more control, less funding: Trends and tensions in the system-level governance of Australian universities

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Over recent decades, many governments have sought to comprehensively reform the system-level policy and governance arrangements for their public universities in order to increase the efficiency and accountability of these organizations and their operations. This was meant to be achieved mainly through a) the consequential use of formal performance measurement systems; and b) the devolution of decision-making competencies to universities and their leadership, thus making these organizations directly responsible for their actions and the results achieved. Focusing on the Australian case, I identify and analyze two specific governance dynamics that are closely associated with this reform agenda. As will be shown, these dynamics harbour a range of tensions and ultimately have inherently contradictory governance implications for the concerned universities. First, there has been a progressive shift toward increasing the managerial autonomy of universities from Australian government. At the same time, however, other crucial dimensions of a university’s autonomy have stagnated or even diminished. Second, Australian governments have strongly committed themselves to steering universities in an ostensibly more ‘hands-off’ form through performance-based control mechanisms. Yet in the Australian case, this sort of steering arguably increases the governmental control over universities and severely limits the extent to which the autonomy of Australian universities can be realized in practice. Adding to this dilemma, the increase in control has coincided with a continual reduction in the public funding of Australian universities. This, I ultimately argue, leaves Australia’s universities literally and figuratively short-changed from the more recent shifts in system-level governance.

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