Working Paper 106
Universities and Regions: the ‘Hinterland’ Issue in European Higher Education Policymaking
Published December 2023

The article addresses the issues surrounding the importance of regions in the construction of European higher education systems and, in particular, the impact of ‘hinterlands’ in the formation of policy. It draws on studies of Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Norway, Portugal and the United Kingdom to illustrate different policy approaches and shows how in some countries ‘hinterland’ issues have been the major factor in the reconstruction of national higher education systems. It draws a distinction between the past where policies were essentially based on the growth of student numbers to the present where the drivers are much more related to regional social and economic factors and, in some countries, to public good policies on equalising opportunities between deprived and affluent areas. It suggests that regional issues are now central to how systems are constructed and that as a result systems will become more complex to manage but that regional and institutional ‘bottom up’ determination may offer better prospects for innovation and flexibility in the face of societal change.