Integration and/or Diversification: The role of structure in meeting expectations on higher education
by Berit Askling
HEIK working paper 2012/04
Professor Berit Askling
In this paper, it is argued that structural measures undertaken around the world in the 1970s in order to meet the expansion might be more or less congruent with recent claims for specialization and competition. By using Sweden as a case, the relationship between objectives and structural models is brought to the forefront. Sweden adopted an integrated model when expanding its higher education system and included all postsecondary institutions in one unitary “högskola”, covering almost all tertiary education. Since then, Sweden has followed international trends regarding governance and management. Today, autonomous institutions have to find a balance between being competitive on international knowledge markets and respecting the “soft” national objectives of the 1970s. Institutions are encouraged to specialize, cooperate or merge, but no formal measures are taken by the government in order to reshape the system in a more binary direction.
Against the background of the Swedish reforms, this paper also discusses the relationship between university, society and markets in a short-term and long-term perspective. In a historical, long-term, perspective, does the current emphasis on market orientation represent a threat against the university’s nature as an autonomous academic institution or does it just reflect that the everlasting relationship between university and society is currently being reshaped into a new format?