How Important Is Private Higher Education in Europe? A Regional Analysis in Global Context


Daniel C. Levy, ED 321University at Albany, SUNY Albany, NY l2222, USA,


The importance of private higher education (PHE) is increasingly clear globally. But does Europe fit the global generalisation? This question can be assessed with reference to two major considerations: the size of PHE and the degree of private-public difference. The growth of PHE in Europe has been delayed and limited compared to that in most of the world, though still significant. For the 27-member European Union, the PHE share is best put at 12%, with a modestly higher share for Europe more broadly defined. Europe's PHE share is thus less than half that of the global share. The regional share is considerably higher in Eastern than in Western Europe. In terms of distinctiveness, European PHE differs from public higher education in important respects that reflect world patterns. Inter-sectoral differences are decisive in finance. Though less quantifiable, they appear fundamental albeit blurred in some but not all aspects of governance and activities. Blurring in activities, governance, and even finance occurs through changes within both sectors, especially through partial privatisation within the public sector. Still, Europe's private sector is far from simply isomorphic to the public sector. Considering together size and distinctiveness, a reasonable assessment is that PHE has moderate and increased importance in Europe.