Public policy and inequality in higher education
Title: Public policy and inequality in higher education
Author: GEVEN, Koen
Citation: Florence : European University Institute, 2018
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of Political and Social Sciences
Policy-makers are increasingly looking for ways to reduce inequality in higher education. But what is the size of this problem? How does public policy affect inequality, if it at all? And what actually works to reduce inequality? In this thesis, which combines four empirical papers around this topic, I define inequality as the parental background effect on access to and completion of higher education. The broad goal, then, is to better understand how public policy affects intergenerational inequality. I use a variety of data sources and research methods to provide an answer. Cross-sectional population surveys are analyzed to provide a descriptive picture of inequality in Europe. I also use research findings as data, by doing a systematic literature review on the current state of the evidence. I analyse government register data to better understand the effect of policy changes in England. To analyse the dynamics of completion, I use administrative data as well as the administrative archives from the European University Institute. I find that there is substantial variation between European countries in both the absolute level and the trend in inequality. No country has come close to eliminating inequality completely. Public policy may be a factor that explains this cross-country variation. In terms of what works, I find that some outreach policies, particularly those that include counselling and academic tutoring can work to increase access for disadvantaged groups. Needs-based financial aid also seems to work, while performance-based aid looks promising. The relationship between tuition fees and inequality should still be clarified. While there is extensive evidence that costs can be a barrier, recent increases in tuition fees do not seem to have affected inequality in enrolment. Finally, I find that a reinforced program structure as well as more extensive financial aid may help doctoral students from finishing their dissertations more quickly.
Defence date: 13 February 2018; Examining Board: Prof. Hans-Peter Blossfeld, European University Institute (Supervisor); Prof. Fabrizio Bernardi, European University Institute; Prof. Herman van der Werfhorst, University of Amsterdam; Prof. Carlo Barone, Sciences Po Paris
Type of Access: embargoedAccess
Version: Chapter 4 'How did the latest increase in fees in England affect student enrollment and inequality?' draws upon an earlier version published as a chapter (2015) in the book 'The European higher education area : between critical reflections and future policies'; Chapter 5 'How to increase PhD completion rates? An impact evaluation of two reforms in a selective graduate school, 1976-2012' draws upon an earlier version published as an article 'How to increase PhD completion rates? An impact evaluation of two reforms in a selective graduate school, 1976-2012' (2017) in the journal 'Research in higher education'