Change of policies and organizations in higher education: The role of European initiatives (PhD projects) (completed)

This study focuses on higher education policy change in Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia and organizational change of the three flagship universities in these countries, namely University of Ljubljana (Slovenia), University of Zagreb (Croatia) and University of Belgrade (Serbia).

Research focus and design

The main research aim is to assess what aspects of change of higher education policies and organizations can be attributed to European initiatives in higher education, e.g. the Bologna Process. In essence, the main reseach question is: when and how does an additional/European governance layer matter for change of higher education policies and higher education institutions?

The study thus focuses on two levels of analysis - systems and universities; and one particular issue for higher education - quality assurance. The cases selected are three systems - Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia - which were until early 1990s part of a federal system (Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), and the corresponding flagship universities - University of Zagreb, University of Belgrade and University of Ljubljana. The study covers the period from early 1990s until 2010, with particular attention to period after 1999, partly due to the beginning of the Bologna Process and partly due to profound political changes that took place in Croatia and Serbia in 2000.

This is a comparative study of, one the one hand, very similar cases of policy change. The three higher education systems have a common heritage and relatively similar circumstances of political and economic transition, with Slovenia going through the first stages of transition somewhat earlier and in a more stable manner than the other two countries. On the other hand, the choice of flagship universities for studying organizational change is grounded in the assumption that these universities, given their size, age, weight in the higher education policy arena and internally very fragmented organizational structure are least likely cases of organizational change in response to external (European and system level) pressures.

Theoretical basis and empirical material

In theoretical terms, the main building block is institutional theory, including different varieties of institutionalism (rationalist, sociological and historical), as well as different approaches to policy analysis (incl. works on mechanisms of Europeanization, policy transfer and multiple policy streams) and more recent developments concerning institutional work.

The empirical material consists of extensive document analysis on the European, system and organizational level, as well as individual interviews with policy makers and university leadership and group interviews with academic and administrative staff working in the areas of quality assurance.


The study is conducted in the form of an article based PhD dissertation, including three articles and an extended abstract. The study will be completed in November 2013. For a list of related publications please see list of publications.

Research category

Basic research


Published Sep. 27, 2010 1:56 PM - Last modified Nov. 19, 2014 3:58 PM


E-mail: Martina Vukasovic

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