A public administration perspective on the study of higher education

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    This article explores the relationship between higher education research and the study of public administration, the concpetual perspectives of which are useful for understanding the links between government policy‐making and higher education. A short introduction to the study of public administration is followed by the presentation of six newly evolved concepts of public administration which are labeled as follows: comprehensive rationality, the community action approach, the public choice approach, political systems theory, policy sciences, and contingency and inter‐organizational approaches. All of these have contributed to the eclecticism and the conceptual pluralism of the discipline of public administration as a whole. Having been adapted to the theoretical underpinnings of the administration of higher education, these six concepts have stimulated the development of four theoretical models for the analysis of decision‐making processes in higher education: the analytical or rational actor model, the garbage can or organized anarchy model, the collegiality model, and the political model. Specific problems in higher education administration have been addressed, as they have arisen, with reference to one or more of the six concepts and the four decision‐making models. For the future, the public administration approach to higher education will be most likely to draw upon the study of co‐ordination mechanisms in collective decision‐making processes and the comparative analysis of the external functions and performances of government.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)57-78
    Number of pages21
    JournalHigher education in Europe
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1991


    • Public administration
    • Higher education


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