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Diversity and design of higher education systems

THEME 2: Diversity and design of higher education systems


The multitude and complexity of functions in society increases and so do the demands placed on higher education. The ‘massification’ of higher education not only requires accommodating increased student numbers but also a diversification of delivery modes and educational contents in order to respond to the needs of an increasingly diverse student population. For the providers of teaching and research this requires an appropriate response in terms of the ‘clients’ they cater for, the type and conditions of the services they provide, and whether they seek cooperation or competition with other providers. Similar questions relate to how the increased demands for knowledge and R&D are met by universities and how academic research contributes to the various stakeholders in the regional and national innovation systems.

A crucial issue then is: what does the higher education landscape look like in terms of design and diversity? What are the organisations that provide teaching and research – the universities, colleges, polytechnics, as well as other specialist training and research institutions – and who are their clients, their stakeholders – that is students, businesses, government and non-profit organisations, regional communities, et cetera? How are the resources used, and how is the capacity to provide higher education services organized?

CHEPS has a strong track record when it comes to monitoring, international comparisons and evaluations of how (national) systems of higher education are organized. The design and diversity of such systems is described in terms of types of educational institutions, programmes, students, research organisations, along with their shifting roles, multiple linkages and policy frameworks. Using advanced categorization and transparency tools, this information can be used for benchmarking, evaluation and describing differentiation patterns. CHEPS will continue developing useful tools for monitoring system and institutional performance, such as through its involvement in U-Multirank.

Demographic changes, shifting political-economic realities and technological innovations lead to debates on how higher education services will be provided in the future and by whom. The demand for individualized educational services and flexible methods of delivery and the increased prominence of public-private partnerships in higher education provision will have significant impacts on the design of the systems and the role of universities and academics. CHEPS will continue to work on this theme, exploring and analysing the emerging trends.