Logics, thresholds, strategic power, and the promotion of liberalisation by governments: a case study from British Higher Education

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Liberalisation has become an increasingly important policy trend, both in the private and public sectors of advanced industrial economies. This article eschews deterministic accounts of liberalisation by considering why government attempts to institute competition may be successful in some cases and not others. It considers the relative strength of explanations focusing on the institutional context, and on the volume and power of sectoral actors supporting liberalisation. These approaches are applied to two attempts to liberalise, one successful and one unsuccessful, within one sector in one nation – higher education in Britain. Each explanation is seen to have some explanatory power, but none is sufficient to explain why competition was generalised in the one case and not the other. The article counsels the need for scholars of liberalisation to be open to multiple explanations which may require the marshalling of multiple sources and types of evidence.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-323
Number of pages21
JournalPublic Policy and Administration
Issue number4
Early online date4 Aug 2011
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012

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© The Author(s) 2011


  • liberalisation, policy trend, private sector, public sector, advanced industrial economies, deterministic accounts, competition, higher education, Britain, institutional change, institutional logics, thresholds



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