Institute of Education

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(De)Centralized Governance in Higher Education: How Do Different Systems Cope with Change?

(De)Centralized Governance in Higher Education: How Do Different Systems Cope with Change?

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On June 25, a cohort of experts in various strands of higher education scholarship will meet online for this year’s Session 4 by the Observatory for Higher Education Transformations, an initiative to advance HE research and networking that spans IOE alongside a number of other leading academic hubs from across the globe. This time, the open expert discussion will focus on how HE systems with centralized and decentralized governance have been navigating an environment of uncertainty and change amid the COVID-19 emergency.    


We are happy to invite you to an online expert session by the Observatory for Higher Education Transformations titled,

‘(De)Centralized Governance in Higher Education: How Do Different Systems Cope with Change?’

Friday, June 25, at 16:00 Moscow time

For a link to join the Zoom meeting, please register at    

Session in Close-up 

Recent times have perhaps seen no upheaval as sudden, drastic, and irreversible as that instigated by the global COVID-19 emergency.

Policies administered to ease off the grip of the pandemic have brought about disruptions that have cut across the socio-economic realm, so there is hardly a single individual or corporate that has remained unaffected by the pandemic aftermath.

When it comes to the organizational dimension, while many sectors witnessed their performance slip in the thick of the COVID disaster (e.g., air carriers, hospitality & events, conventional entertainment and learning vendors, etc.), some others (e.g., digital learning and entertainment, FMCG online retail, etc.) have even been able to capitalize on the new reality.

The time that the immediate challenges and longer-term implications of the COVID crisis took to sink in and receive first response varied noticeably across the economy. Whatever the case, and barring the worst scenario in which some businesses found themselves on the brink of survival or even had to close down amid tough restrictions, whether and to what extent the organizational realm has been able to steer clear from the impacts of COVID depends in good part on the regulatory models in place at different levels and the ability of actors to lead in a proactive, agile, and resilient fashion while considering relevant risks and new windows of opportunity.

In higher education, just like in any other domain, perceptions of current and impending challenges of the pandemic and the ability to come up with prompt and practicable solutions are also largely determined by the models of system-wide governance and particular patterns of power distribution down the system. In a COVID crisis environment, HE systems with more and less authority centralization have often embarked on different strategies in addressing the new challenges and risks.

While the global economy, including the educational realm, is still reeling from the effects of the COVID outburst, there is good reason to believe that the world will be able to kick the pandemic to the curb already in a short run. As such, there is all the rationale for the global community in higher education scholarship to further leverage the sharing of first-hand research evidence from across nations and expert commentary so we gain a comprehensive understanding of how HE systems with centralized and decentralized governance have been able to face and navigate the challenges of COVID-19, which of the solutions proposed have worked best, and how effective longer-term responses should be designed given the likely upcoming changes in the HE realm.

The upcoming Session will focus on the following:   

  • What do we know about the efficiency of responses to the COVID-19 crisis in centralized and decentralized HE systems?
  • Are there any distinctive challenges or solutions that came to be associated with each of these two types of governance during the pandemic?
  • Which of the two models can provide better responses given challenges and changes that HE systems are likely to face over a longer run?

The Session will open with three brief talks by the speakers, about 15 minutes each, followed by a Q&A part and a subsequent expert discussion. The Session will last about 80 minutes in total. The working language is English.


Isak Froumin

Distinguished Professor, Head of the HSE University Institute of Education

Tatiana Fumasoli

Associate Professor in Higher Education Studies, UCL Institute of Education

Barend Jan Rutger Van der Meulen

Full Professor, Head of the Center for Higher Education Policy Studies (CHEPS), University of Twente


About the Observatory

With its bedrock conception and imperatives originally formulated by IOE and Politecnico di Milano, the Observatory for Higher Education Transformations (OHET) was established in late 2020 on the ethos of empowering critical debate to underpin research-informed policy and practice in the university sector. Drawing upon diverse expertise brought by its member institutions that are a superb cohort of globally recognized hubs for social and educational R&D, OHET provides a reinvigorating cross-border venue for various stakeholders and experts to:

  • Share firsthand evidence of how university systems have been steering through headwinds of the altered reality
  • Follow the changes that have been unfolding across the system domains
  • Reflect on best-practice/most likely development scenarios going forward.               

The OHET agenda primarily focuses on the following:

  • Inequality in higher education (a challenge that has persisted through time and has only been growing more acute in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis)
  • Internationalization: hurdles and incentives
  • Student experiences and outcomes
  • Rethinking policies in higher education financing and other dimensions of sector administration
  • Fostering meaningful liaison and high-impact initiatives among stakeholders in academia.         

Check out videos of the past sessions by the Observatory experts on YouTube.