chapter  6
19 Pages

Reform Policies and Change Processes in Europe


Policy-makers and administrators responsible for evaluating pressing problems in need of solutions tend to emphasize an actor’s perspective. Scholars entertaining an actor’s perspective often claim that policies are the product of the actions of major actors, like policy-makers and affected groups, where policies are understood in

terms of the preferences of the actors involved in the decision process (Ostrom, 1990; Scharpf, 1997; Tsebelis, 1999). According to these interpretations, the degree and pace of change depend on the aims of the actors and may be explained either by changing values and aims among actors or by changes in the constellation of actors involved. However, other scholars have depicted reform processes as complex, hard to delimit and difficult to interpret in terms of specific actors, choices, outcomes and consequences (Bleiklie, 2004; Bleiklie, Høstaker and Vabø, 2000; Kogan et al., 2006). Such observations have often been taken to support an institutionalist perspective, according to which policy change tends to be pathdependent and slow. Change becomes abrupt only if circumstances create a situation in which existing policies are considered inadequate to sustain institutionalized values, norms and practices in a given policy field (Baumgartner and Jones, 1993; March and Olsen, 1989; Maassen and Olsen, 2007). A third perspective is based on the observation that structural change tends to be based on evolving needs generated by developing pressures on social systems. According to this functional perspective, change depends on external pressures and how social systems respond to them in order to remain stable (Ben-David, 1971; Parsons and Platt, 1973). The specific organizational forms of concrete universities depend on how society’s need for cultural functions is expressed.