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Title: From Growth to Decline? Demand-Absorbing Private Higher Education when Demand is Over
Authors: Kwiek, Marek
Keywords: private higher education
private sector
European higher education
Polish higher education
Polish universities
public-private dynamics
demographic decline
growth and decline
postcommunist higher education
declining demographics
private sector decline
public funding
tuition fees
external and internal privatization
Daniel C. Levy
non-public higher education
educational contraction
falling enrollments
educational projections
demographic projections
educational contraction
open-door policies
academic selectivity
equitable access
widening access
changing demography
financing higher education
economic crisis
public funding
de-privatization of higher education
status and recognition
elite roles
prestige market
educational expansion
public policy
higher education research
Polish reforms
higher education and demographics
universities and demographics
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: New York: Elsevier
Citation: In: A Global Perspective of Private Higher Education edited by Mahsood Shah and Chenicheri Sid Nair, New York: Elsevier, 2016
Abstract: The growth of the private sector in higher education in Europe – in terms of the number of institutions and the share of enrolments in national systems – has been an educational phenomenon of post-communist transition countries. As Daniel C. Levy (2010: 10) points out, though: “one of the key trends in international higher education, the rapid expansion of the private sector now holds one-third of all global enrollments. However, the growth is not unbroken or inexorable and sometimes stalls and even reverses”. Poland is an example of the reversal in question. While the expansion era (1990-2005) was characterized by external privatization (that is, private sector growth, combined with internal privatization, or the increasing role of fees in the operating budgets of public universities), the current contraction era (2005-2025, and possibly beyond) is characterized by what we term “de-privatization”. De-privatization also has external and internal dimensions: the gradual decline in private sector enrolments is combined with a decreasing role of fees in public universities. The private sector in Poland cannot be explored outside of the context of the public sector: its future is closely linked to the changing public–private dynamics in the whole system. It is useful to explore its future in the context of two major ongoing processes: large-scale reforms of public higher education, and broad, long-term demographic changes. The Polish case study is important for several reasons: the public–private dynamics is rapidly changing in a system which has the highest enrolments in the private sector in the European Union today. In the global context of expanding higher education systems there are several systems in Central and Eastern Europe, and Poland is the biggest of those which are actually contracting. Their contraction is fundamental and rooted in declining demographics. In the global (rather than European) context of increasing reliance on cost-sharing mechanisms and on the private sector growth paradigm in university funding, the Polish system seems to be moving in the opposite direction: global trends towards privatization can be juxtaposed with the Polish counter-trend towards de-privatization.
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