The Program for Research on Private Higher Education
Dedicated to Building Knowledge about Private Higher Education around the World
PHE Dissertation 4

The Politics of Higher Education: Government Policy Choice and Private Higher Education in Post-Communist Countries


A Comparative Study of Hungary, Georgia, Latvia and Lithuania

By Marie Pachuashvili

A dissertation submitted to Central European University Department of Political Science
Budapest, Hungary

Defense Committee:
Balazs Varadi (CEU, supervisor)
Daniel Levy (SUNY Albany)
Ildiko Hrubos (Corvinus University, Hungary)
Gyorgy Gereby (Medieval Studies, CEU)

Defended: 19 October, 2009


Since the collapse of communist regime, higher education systems in countries of Central Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union have been witnessing a most profound transformation, related to diminished state involvement in funding, provision and governance of higher education. The creation and growth of private higher education institutions is one such development that greatly contributes to the changing higher education landscape. However, as we observe, the private higher education growth patterns have been largely uneven across the region, varying from
non-existent to more than a 30 percent share of the total enrollments. Apart from the size, differences are perceptible in the nature and types of privately provided education. Notwithstanding the common legacy both at the higher education and broad political-economic levels, countries exhibit a wide variation with respect to the scope and nature of the private growth as well as governmental policies accommodating newly emerged institutional forms. The aim of the research project is two-fold. By using comparative case study method, the study seeks to document salient tendencies in governmental policies towards higher education and examine their impact on the size and nature of privately provided higher education. To understand what leads to such variety in governmental policy outcomes constitutes another central objective of this empirical undertaking. The four countries thought to be most suitable for examining the dual question of what determines the differences in governmental policy approach and how these differences, in turn, shape private higher education growth patterns are Hungary, Georgia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The in-depth analysis of the four carefully selected cases has demonstrated that markedly different governmental approaches have produced equally diverse patterns of private sector growth. That is, a largely laissez-faire policy attitude characteristic of Georgia before the changes of 2003 has led to a sharp increase in small, pragmatically oriented institutions that are weak academically and mostly serve demand-absorbing function. Private sectors that are restricted in size and serve ethno-linguistic, religious or other culturally oriented goals characterize Hungary and Lithuania, where the governments have adopted the regulatory policy stance. The Latvian government's largely market-liberal approach towards private institutions has produced a sector that is one of the largest in the region and that serves public purpose by providing students with enhanced choice. Examination of the factors at national level that ostensibly determine governmental policy approach towards privately provided education, on the other hand, has shown that the wealth of a country is one of the most potent variables explaining the divide between Georgia and the other three countries. The mode of interest intermediation and ethnic-religious heterogeneity of population also proved to be powerful predictors for governmental disposition towards private education, while the explanatory power of political ideology turned out to be weaker than hypothesized in some country cases.

Link to the dissertation:

Date Published:
Oct 2009