Partial Horizontal Differentiation in Croatian Higher Education: How Ideas, Institutions and Interests Shape the Policy Process

Jelena Brankovic and Martina Vukasovic


After the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, Croatia embarked on a number of public sector reforms, higher education included. Since then, higher education legislation changed several times, introducing, among others, a new degree structure and a system of quality assurance and accreditation. The main structural reform in Croatia, today spanning more than two decades, aimed to increase horizontal differentiation among higher education institutions (HEIs), which meant the re-introduction and

J. Brankovic (*) ? M. Vukasovic

Centre for Hr Education Governance Ghent, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

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© The Author(s) 2017 53

H. de Boer et al., Policy Analysis of Structural Reforms in Higher Education, Palgrave Studies in Global Higher Education,

DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-42237-4_3

strengthening of non-university higher education provision. Importantly, this reform has always been embedded in more general ones. During the 1990s, strengthening the non-university higher education was part of the broader agenda of achieving a balanced regional economic development in the newly independent Croatia, while in the 2000s, it was part of implementing the Bologna Process action lines and the overall process of European Union (EU) accession.

Increasing horizontal differentiation among HEIs in Croatia in practice implied two systemic changes. The first one concerned the establishment of non-university HEIs, in particular outside the cities such as Zagreb, Split and Rijeka - traditionally the seats of the largest universities in the country. The second change was the gradual abolishment of professional programmes at universities. And while the first change has to some extent been made, the abolishment of professional programmes at universities remains on the policy agenda to date, suggesting that the reform goals have been, at best, only partially achieved.

In this chapter, we take a closer look at these developments and offer an account of how and why strengthening horizontal differentiation in Croatian higher education persists as a challenge for policymakers. We start with presenting the conceptual framework we use for analysing policy success and failure. The central part of the chapter consist of analysis (based on primary and secondary sources, as well as interviews with policy actors) on the extent to which reform goals have been achieved, whether this constitutes policy failure and how specific characteristics of the reform, such as the policy content and institutional arrangements, on the one hand, and politics ofthis reform, on the other, are related to such reform outcome. In the concluding section, the main features ofthe reform design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation are summarized and implications for policymaking and policy analysis discussed.

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