Cross-Case View of Critical Elements in the Policy Process
All reforms described and analysed in the preceding chapters were government initiated or supported. They also were partly similar regarding the types of reforms; governments either intended to bring about more horizontal or vertical differentiation in the system or intended to address the interrelationships between higher education institutions. That said, within these types, we saw both similarity and differences. It appears that the excellence initiatives showed more similarities. Through deeming eyes, these reforms all focused on additional funding for promising bids of universities or university alliances to improve the quality of research. At the other end of the spectrum, the reforms pertaining to horizontal differentiation seemed much more divergent. The setting up of an ‘alternative’ sector in Austria and strengthening the (practice-oriented) research focus in the UAS sector in the Netherlands were quite different policy reforms.
As has been highlighted above, the structural reforms presented in this volume differ not only in the degree to which they affected the higher education landscape, but also in terms of the policy processes that unfolded from the emergence of a reform idea to its materialisation. Inevitably, the question emerges: which factors explain the success or failure of the reform policies?
Bearing in mind that we ‘only’ analysed 11 case studies, that the cases also differed in terms of contextual conditions (if only for the fact that some reforms took place recently and others two decades ago), we will not be able to offer the ultimate answer to this question, but we hope to be able to at least offer our reflection on critical elements in the policy process. With the term ‘critical elements’ we stress that these factors are not conditional factors (necessary and sufficient) for success.