Project 1.4

The governance of higher education in Europe and the UK

About this project

It is generally accepted that there is a ‘crisis of governance’ which extends over both public and private sectors of the economy, in the corporate world as much as in the management of public services.

Higher education is not immune from this and substantial changes have taken place at the system and at the institutional levels. These changes have been driven by governments, themselves responding to global pressures (EU, OECD, World Bank etc) and by the demands of austerity, greater accountability, widening participation, international competition and the employment market.

One response in many European countries has been a devolution of governance and management, including financial management, from central government to universities. This has led to universities being able to exercise greater autonomy within steering and accountability frameworks laid down by governments.

In the UK, the removal of student number controls and the introduction of a new tuition fee based funding approach has produced a more marketised system. In all countries there has been a considerable growth in ‘alternative providers’, private universities either operating as self-financing charitable bodies or as for profit enterprises. All this has put traditional patterns of governance under strain.

There were three main strands to the research programme:

  1. An examination of global influences on HE governance through a review of the policies and activities of international organisations and of the impact of league tables, of the Bologna Process, and the existence of internationally dominant HE system models;
  2. A review of the changing forms of HE system governance in Europe and the UK including issues surrounding devolved or centralised governance, the existence of intermediary bodies and the inter relationship of the governance of public and private HE;
  3. An assessment of the evolution of institutional governance under the pressures of 1 and 2 and of student growth, history and complexity, differentiation and diversification, accountability and public engagement and entrepreneurial orientation.

Policy implications

With demographic constraints on further extensive expansion of higher education, it is timely to explore whether current approaches to governance – at system as well as institutional levels – remain fit for purpose.

What can we learn in respect to centralised or devolved approaches to system governance, or in regard to more managerial or participative approaches at the institutional level? Are there new governance paradigms emerging? How far is academic performance linked to good governance?

Project methods

The research involved a substantial interrogation of the literature as well as the written evidence and documentation of different European HE systems, together with empirical work.

Nine case study universities were selected for the UK study, four in England and two each in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland plus one new for-profit university.

Four case study countries were selected for the wider European research programme. The complete programme involved more than 100 interviews at the global, system and institutional levels.



Professor Michael Shattock
University of Oxford
Michael Shattock is a Visiting Professor at UCL Institute of Education and an Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Education at Oxford. He was formerly Registrar of the University of Warwick. He holds Honorary Degrees from Aberdeen, Leicester, Reading and Warwick Universities and from the University of Education, Ghana and is an OBE. He led the Governance group within CGHE which has been responsible for the following books published by Bloomsbury: The Governance of British Higher Education—The impact of governmental, financial and market pressures (2019), The Governance of European Higher Education—Convergence or Divergence? (2023), and Universities and Regions—The impact of locality and region on university governance and strategies (2023).
Ellen Hazlekorn
BH Associates and TU Dublin
Professor Ellen Hazelkorn is Joint Managing Partner, BH Associates education consultants. She is Professor emeritus, Technological University Dublin (Ireland), and Joint Editor, Policy Reviews in Higher Education. She is a member of the CGHE Leadership Forum and Research Fellow, Centre for International Higher Education, Boston College. Ellen is, inter alia, a member of the Quality Board for Icelandic Higher Education, the EU Higher Education for Smart Specialisation (HESS) Advisory Group, and the Committee for Strategic Advice, EURASHE – the European Association of Institutions in Higher Education. She was a member of the Commission for the College of the Future (UK) and the Tertiary Education Future Initiative (Royal Society of Edinburgh & Young Academy of Scotland). She reviewed Post-Compulsory Education in Wales recommending the Commission for Tertiary Education and Research (CTER), now being established by the Welsh Government. Ellen Hazelkorn is a member of the CGHE Research Management Committee and a CGHE Co-Investigator on Project 6, ‘The impact of locality and region on university governance’.
Jürgen Enders
University of Bath
Jürgen Enders is Professor at the School of Management, University of Bath, UK. His academic interest is focused on the study of institutional change in the field of universities, and their role in society and economy. He has written and (co)edited 15 books and published more than 150 articles in books and journals including Organization Studies, Public Management, Public Management Review, Studies in Higher Education, Higher Education and Scientometrics. He is member of the editorial board of the journals Higher Education and European Journal of Higher Education. Elsevier and University of Stanford released data has recently named him among the top 2% of most highly cited academics in the world in the social sciences. Jürgen is an affiliate of the Center for Global Higher Education, Fellow of the Academia Europaea and of the German Academe of Science and Engineering, and Honorary Fellow of the Society for Research in Higher Education.
Dr Aniko Horvath
VU Amsterdam
Aniko Horvath is a CGHE Co-Investigator on Project 6, ‘The impact of locality and region on university governance’.
Paul Temple
UCL Institute of Education


CGHE working papers

Additional publications