Higher Education and Public Policy

Academic Year: 
ECTS Credits: 
Course Description: 

The course is open to all CEU faculty and staff

Elective Course, Higher Education Policy Specialization

This graduate-level course proposes a comprehensive introduction into fundamental issues and topics in contemporary higher education policy. Higher education is seen as a particularly contested area of public policy, which has important connections with, and impact on, other fields or policy areas. Higher education policies can foster social integration and economic development, but also reproduce inequalities; help the creation of shared identities, but also contribute to societal divisions; and have as much to do with the “simple” production of knowledge as with broader political agendas, tensions and conflicts. In the contemporary mass higher education systems, more and more people spend some part of their lives within universities and other institutions of higher education. But how does it function? What are the issues surrounding it? How to think about and research higher education as a policy field?

Using an interdisciplinary perspective, the course offers a systematic overview of the key actors, structures and dynamics in the field of higher education, aiming to address both global trends and specific policy developments in certain parts of the world (EU, Central and Eastern Europe, US, South-East Asia, Southern Africa). The course combines a generic, theoretical level of analysis with relevant case studies, in order to bring the practical world of higher education policy and research closer to students. It aims to address student interests in both the domain of research and the domain of application, and thus provide grounds for a reflexive and theoretically-informed engagement in further higher education policy research, policy making or implementation.

The course aims to equip students with knowledge and analytical skills that can help them better understand the complex world of present-day higher education policy. The course is intended to provide a platform on which further, more specialized, studies in the domain of higher education policy can be built. It also empowers students to pursue a professional career, either as policy analyst, commentators in the area of higher education, or as high-level administrators or managers in higher education institutions.

Learning Outcomes: 

After the successful completion of the course, the students shall be able to:

  • Recognize the main actors and policy challenges in contemporary higher education policies;
  • Analyze and explain the dynamics shaping current higher education policies in various contexts;
  • Understand and critically assess how specific higher education policies are set and implemented;
  • Develop, or participate in work aiming at developing alternative solutions to specific problems or situations facing higher education.

The students will be assessed according to the combination of the following criteria:

  • Class participation and pre-session assignments: 40%

Students will be expected to fulfill pre-session assignments as listed in the course schedule. The pre-session assignments can include the requirement to read the mandatory readings and be ready to discuss them during the sessions (graduate seminar style), identify specific materials or develop short presentations on a topic relevant for the session, and also review, comment, or participate in online discussion posted to the course’s e-learning site. Student presentations of the final project also count toward the class participation grade.

  • Midterm paper: 20%

Each student will need to prepare and present a short research paper, including a related literature review. This could be about an organization/institution, a specific policy area or situation, an emerging trend. The research paper should include a review of relevant scholarly literature (based on at least 5-7 research articles or studies). Students can propose their own topics in discussion with the instructors. The papers are expected to be about 2000 words long and need to be handed in by February 10, 2019.

  • Final project: 40%

Students, either individually or in a group, will choose a policy topic which will be presented orally during the sessions 19 and 20 and as a final written report (3500-4000 words) that is to be handed in by March 24, 2019. It will involve approaching a real-life situation and must include elements of a policy proposal. That is, it should contain a clear problem(s) definition, should be based on secondary data (i.e., published literature) and/or primary data drawn from sources or interviews for example. Ideally, the topic of the final project builds on the literature reviewed in the midterm paper(s) of the student(s). Based on the problem(s) definition, several policy solutions should be formulated and assessed according to different criteria. After identifying the best policy solution, the paper should elaborate on the mechanisms/instruments by which it could be implemented.

All absences must be excused. Students are expected to communicate absences via email and produce a doctor’s note at the earliest possible opportunity and give it to the Student Affairs Coordinator. Missing more than 2 classes without an immediate valid excuse and a written note to the course instructors may result in a failing or a reduced final grade. Missed classes, even if excused, will have to be made up by extra assignments, except in the case of an absence due to medical reason provided a doctor’s note is presented.


There are no prerequisites for this course.

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