In this part of the research programme, we are interested in how key higher education policy actors develop governance architectures and specific policies and instruments in an increasingly dynamic policy environment. These dynamics play out e.g. with respect to the mix of regulatory and market coordination mechanisms visible in contemporary higher education governance; they also play out at different governance levels: national, regional and supranational. To what extent this mix should be judged as a parsimonious governance effort or a “dangerous cocktail” will be explored by investigating the impact of these governance arrangements on stakeholders in higher education: particularly the higher education institutions, but also their academic staff and students.
A gradual change is taking place from seeing higher education institutions as mostly responsive and adaptive to their environments. With the changing, and arguably more volatile and challenging, national and supranational contexts, there appears to be more leeway – although not in every respect – for higher education institutions. In this part of the research project, we try to gain insight in the (strategic) choices made by these institutions to survive, gain legitimacy and position themselves. The above seems to suggest that higher education institutions are homogeneous actors, but we are suspicious of internal coherence. One strand of the programme therefore zooms in on the internal dynamics within higher education institutions and revolves around notions of power, decision-making and resistance.