22 SES 07 D, Responding to Theoretical, Analytical and Methodological Challenges in Higher Education Research- Alternative Approaches
From the seminal work of Burton Clark on the higher education systems in a comparative perspective, much of comparative higher education research since has followed its conceptual and methodological heritage. This paper will address how the state is, or rather is not, conceptualised in comparative higher education research and the implications that has for higher education research. The paper argues that on one hand the higher education research does not explicitly conceptualise the state, while it does so implicitly which has an impact on the underlying theoretical assumptions about society and higher education. The author argues that the concept of the state is underlined by theoretical frameworks of the state and whether the state is conceptualised in e.g. the pluralist, neo-Marxist, institutionalist or feminist perspectives matters. On the other hand, higher education research does seem to acknowledge the reconfiguration of the state through economic and political transformations, but at the same time continues to use the state as a key unit of analysis in comparative research in particular. The author explores the implications this has on higher education research and looks to open a discussion on the possible new avenues to comparative higher education research.
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