Institutional Relationships as Structural Reforms
To maintain Finland’s prominent position in global economic competition, mergers to form stronger units, with one ‘world-class university’, were envisaged, as described by Nokkala and Valimaa. Three groups of universities responded to the Ministry’s invitation to merge, including the desired special case in the capital. Regulation was changed to grant additional programme funding (including private funding tax cuts). The three mergers took place (2007-2010) in the shadow of a large University Act reform increasing autonomy of higher education institutions.
The Flemish case study, by Huisman and Mampaey, analyses the introduction of associations - formal collaborations between one university and at least one university college - in Flemish higher education. As such, the reform, starting in 2003, was a case of (changing the) interrelationships between the higher education institutions. The overall aim was to make the higher education system ‘Bologna proof, which entailed that the associations were to transform the two-cycle university college programmes into full master programmes equivalent to those of the universities. The key policy instruments were regulation (2003 Decree) and (some) funding.
At the turn of the millennium, the small Welsh institutions were too vulnerable in a UK system characterised by increasing marketisation. The reduction of the overall number of universities in Wales from 13 to 8 through mergers in the period 2002-2014 is part of efforts to increase the overall competitiveness of Welsh higher education in the wider UK higher education system. Since the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) launched the merger policy in 2002 with direct financial support of the Welsh Government, a fund was established to meet the one- off costs which institutions would incur in merging, bringing the support systems together and rationalising the real estate. In the chapter on mergers in Wales, Benneworth and Zeeman analyse this structural to see if it was successful. Has the overall competitiveness and attractiveness of Welsh higher education in the context of the wider UK system been improved?