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Scholarship on higher education has been dominated by organizational and functionalist literatures, leading to a ‘republic of scholars’ ontology which has denuded the prospects for theory development or explanatory models to account for the configuration and changing patterns of higher education governance. This chapter proposes three correctives to traditional analogical frameworks. First, abandoning standpoint-guildism perspectives and adopting political economy and market segmentation lenses of inquiry. Second, abandoning methods of enquiry that situate the locus of change in higher education governance in mechanistic institutional-group processes and instead adopting frameworks that focus on the sociology of goods, their classification, and value construction as central drivers in market stratification and coextensive processes of divergence and convergence. And third, adopting more analytically rigorous conceptions of convergence and governance to overcome what we view as a false empiricism – the tendency to conflate policy labels and political rhetoric with policy instruments and governance tools to produce over-inflated images of convergent higher-education governance trajectories.
For several decades, higher education systems have undergone continuous waves of reform, driven by a combination of concerns about the changing labour needs of the economy, competition within the global-knowledge economy, and nationally competitive positioning strategies to enhance the performance of higher education systems. Yet, despite far-ranging international pressures, including the emergence of an international higher education market, enormous growth in cross-border student mobility, and pressures to achieve universities of world class standing, boost research productivity and impact, and compete in global league tables, the suites of policy, policy designs and sector outcomes continue to be marked as much by hybridity as they are of similarity or convergence. This volume explores these complex governance outcomes from a theoretical and empirical comparative perspective, addressing those vectors precipitating change in the modalities and instruments of governance, and how they interface at the systemic and institutional levels, and across geographic regions.