United Kingdom from Bureau Professionalism to New Public Management?

  • Ewan Ferlie
  • Gianluca Andresani
Part of the Higher Education Dynamics book series (HEDY, volume 25)

UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) exhibit strong ideologies of autonomy and retain important sources of institutional autonomy when compared with other HE systems. UK HEIs hold Statutes from a non party political body (technically known as the Privy Council), which guarantees their institutional rights. Universities have internal control over faculty appointments and academics are not civil servants. Universities are not part of the Ministry of Education, although steered by it. Traditionally, the UK HE system has been steered indirectly through ‘buffer’ agencies as it was not a political priority for intervention (compared with, say, schools and hospitals) and the doctrine of academic freedom was respected in the policy arena. It is commonly argued within the sector that it is ‘special’, insulated from outside macro forces and shaped by traditional internal and academically led dynamics. But is this pattern badly dated? Has the sector undergone progressive managerialisation since the 1980s? This national case study argues that powerful outside forces – including public sector wide reform strategies – have shaped the UK HE system over the last 30 years. We argue that these reforms have had more than the superficial impact often predicted.

This paper takes a historical perspective on the evolution of the UK HE sector. Part 1 describes the pattern pre 1980. Part 2 focuses on the mid 1980s–1997 period, where important policy shifts were evident towards the NPM mode of steering elaborated in the introductory chapter. Part 3 asks whether there has been a shift since the election of New Labour in 1997 to a governance style steering pattern. Part 4 considers two tracer issues: doctoral training and research. The conclusion argues that there is a hybrid mode apparent, but one with a strong NPM component. We here acknowledge an earlier source paper (Hartz et al., 2005).


Public Management Network Governance Doctoral Training Fund Council Private Finance Initiative 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ewan Ferlie
    • 1
  • Gianluca Andresani
    • 2
  1. 1.Royal Holloway University of LondonUK
  2. 2.University of HullUK

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