Dissertations on Private Higher Education (mostly PROPHE)

A good share of recent work on Private Higher Education that is well-informed by global literature and context, is empirically based, and is more than article length, comes in dissertations.Therefore, PROPHE posts the following overviews, with abstracts.

Click a title for overviews and abstracts

1. Private Higher Education and the Labor Market in China: Institutional Management Efforts & Initial Employment Outcomes (2007) By Yingxia Cao

2. Evolutionary Sagas of Three Private Universities in Italy: Critical Factors in Developing Institutional Responsiveness to Exogenous Change (2009)  By Fiona Hunter

3The Politics of Higher Education: Government Policy Choice and Private Higher Education in Post-Communist Countries: A Comparative Study of Hungary, Georgia, Latvia and Lithuania (2009)   By Marie Pachuashvili

4. Intra-Sectoral Diversity: A Political Economy of Thai Private Higher Education (2009)  By  Prachayani Praphamontripong Kanwar

5.Private Higher Education in Russia: The Quest for Legitimacy (2007)  By Dmitry Suspitsin

6. Typical and Top-ranked Polish Private Higher Education: Intersectoral and Intrasectoral Distinctiveness (2012) By Joanna Musial-Sadilek

7. Understanding Private Higher Education in Saudi Arabia -Emergence, Development and Perceptions (2012) By Yussra Jamjoom

(Dissertations in Progress include Makoto Nagasawa on Japan, and Mary Beth Collier on non-elite colleges in New York State.)



Overviews and Abstracts

1. PRIVATE HIGHER EDUCATION AND THE LABOR MARKET IN CHINA: Institutional Management Efforts & Initial Employment Outcomes

By Yingxia Cao

A dissertation submitted to Educational Administration & Policy Studies, State University of New York at Albany

Defense Committee:

Daniel Levy, Chair (SUNY at Albany)
Alan Wagner (SUNY at Albany)
Fengqiao Yan (Peking University)

Defended: December 2007

The proliferation of demand-absorbing and commercial private higher education institutions is one of the most extraordinary developments reshaping the landscape in the worldwide higher education of the latest decades. With the growth, however, has come considerable debates and skepticism. One key area of controversy involves efforts and performance regarding graduate employment. China is a major case epitomizing the international trends. This research thus investigates how and how well private colleges in China have managed efforts to link private higher education to the labor market.

The research finds that Chinese private colleges have made major efforts to link private higher education to the labor market and that their efforts are well received by the labor market and their graduates. A mixed methods research design triangulates and validates the findings, with both quantitative and qualitative data. The analysis of qualitative data focuses on mission, provided fields of study, educational delivery, and career services. It reveals that the private colleges not only include meeting labor market demands in their mission, they also improve student employability and bridge graduates and employers through providing job-oriented fields of study, educational delivery, career services, and networking. The analysis of self-reported quantitative data by their graduates examines employment status, starting salary, job and educational level match, job and field match, job and skills/knowledge match, job satisfaction, as well as graduate feedback on the worthiness of private higher education and satisfaction with various management efforts. Both initial employment outcomes and graduate feedback reflect positive picture about the appreciation of institutional efforts by the labor market and the graduates.

Yet the research also finds wide variations in efforts and outcomes among the colleges. In examining the outcome variations and possible related factors, it identifies two likely relevant efforts: the existence of separate offices for career services and niche-field designation. The former is positively, whereas the latter is negatively associated with various outcomes. Based on summarized effort and outcome variations, this study builds a conceptual model to distinguish serious demand-absorbing colleges from those low quality mere demand-absorbers, with eight criteria on the “effort” dimension and seven criteria on the “outcome” dimension.

Link to the dissertation from the publisher:


2. EVOLUTIONARY SAGAS Of THREE PRIVATE UNIVERSITIES IN ITALY: Critical Factors in Developing Institutional Responsiveness to Exogenous Change

by Fiona Hunter

Doctor of Business Administration (Higher Education Management)

A dissertation submitted to School of Management, University of Bath

Supervisors:  prof. Roger Dale, University of Bristol, prof. John Davies, University of Anglia Ruskin University
Internal Examiner, prof.  Hugh Lauder, University of Bath
External Examiner, prof. António M. Magalhães, Universidade do Porto


Although the Italian Higher Education System is composed mainly of publicly funded institutions, it also comprises a small but growing number of non-state universities with full degree awarding powers. They are governed to a large extent by the national regulatory framework but the majority are principally self funding institutions. 

The thesis investigates the evolution of three universities in the Italian non-state sector, chosen on the basis of their mission, academic model, governance arrangements and close ties to the stakeholder community as most representative of the new more adaptive and entrepreneurial university model that is emerging in recent higher education discourse.  It seeks to identify the factors that are influencing their ability to respond to the demands of a changing higher education environment and  to understand to what extent ‘privateness’  plays a role  in their choices of strategic direction.

The investigation is theoretically informed by new institutionalism and considers in what ways private universities operating extensively within a public sector framework balance institutional autonomy, state regulation and market forces. It explores to what extent the influence of these forces is shifting in the new conditions and whether it is leading to greater convergence or divergence of response.   

The research is based on interviews with the senior management teams and supported by documentary analysis of institutional history with the aim of enabling each organisational saga to unfold in terms of institutional ability for response in a rapidly changing higher education environment.

The conclusions suggest that responsiveness lies above all in the saga itself and the institutional belief in its ability to respond to the new conditions and that privateness  plays a  decisive role not only because of greater exposure to market pressures and a greater autonomy to respond but because of a powerful desire to remain relevant institutions.  



By Marie Pachuashvili

A dissertation submitted to Central European University Department of Political Science
Budapest, Hungary

Defense Committee:
Balazs Varadi (CEU, supervisor)
Daniel Levy (SUNY Albany)
Ildiko Hrubos (Corvinus University, Hungary)
Gyorgy Gereby (Medieval Studies, CEU)

Defended: 19 October, 2009

Since the collapse of communist regime, higher education systems in countries of Central Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union have been witnessing a most profound transformation, related to diminished state involvement in funding, provision and governance of higher education. The creation and growth of private higher education institutions is one such development that greatly contributes to the changing higher education landscape. However, as we observe, the private higher education growth patterns have been largely uneven across the region, varying from
non-existent to more than a 30 percent share of the total enrollments. Apart from the size, differences are perceptible in the nature and types of privately provided education. Notwithstanding the common legacy both at the higher education and broad political-economic levels, countries exhibit a wide variation with respect to the scope and nature of the private growth as well as governmental policies accommodating newly emerged institutional forms. The aim of the research project is two-fold. By using comparative case study method, the study seeks to document salient tendencies in governmental policies towards higher education and examine their impact on the size and nature of privately provided higher education. To understand what leads to such variety in governmental policy outcomes constitutes another central objective of this empirical undertaking. The four countries thought to be most suitable for examining the dual question of what determines the differences in governmental policy approach and how these differences, in turn, shape private higher education growth patterns are Hungary, Georgia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The in-depth analysis of the four carefully selected cases has demonstrated that markedly different governmental approaches have produced equally diverse patterns of private sector growth. That is, a largely laissez-faire policy attitude characteristic of Georgia before the changes of 2003 has led to a sharp increase in small, pragmatically oriented institutions that are weak academically and mostly serve demand-absorbing function. Private sectors that are restricted in size and serve ethno-linguistic, religious or other culturally oriented goals characterize Hungary and Lithuania, where the governments have adopted the regulatory policy stance. The Latvian government's largely market-liberal approach towards private institutions has produced a sector that is one of the largest in the region and that serves public purpose by providing students with enhanced choice. Examination of the factors at national level that ostensibly determine governmental policy approach towards privately provided education, on the other hand, has shown that the wealth of a country is one of the most potent variables explaining the divide between Georgia and the other three countries. The mode of interest intermediation and ethnic-religious heterogeneity of population also proved to be powerful predictors for governmental disposition towards private education, while the explanatory power of political ideology turned out to be weaker than hypothesized in some country cases.

Link to the dissertation:



By Prachayani Praphamontripong

A Dissertation Submitted to the University at Albany, State University of New York
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy
School of Education, Department of Educational Administration and Policy Studies

Defense Committee

Daniel C. Levy (Chair)
Gilbert A. Valverde
Kevin Kinser

Defense Date 19 November, 2009


Private higher education (PHE) worldwide has been a rapid development in the last several decades. The private sector will continue to grow, diversify and undoubtedly play a significant role in the political economy of higher education. Nevertheless, systematically empirical studies on the trio relationships among PHE, institutional diversity and political economy are still miniscule, especially outside the U.S.  In Thailand, studies on even public higher education utilizing international literature are rare, as is research with a macro-level empirical analysis of private-public comparison.  Thus, this study focuses on the fundamental differences among Thai private higher education institutions (PHEIs) and between private and public ones and the extent to which political economy influences their shapes and differences. The study attempts to determine and demonstrate whether, how and how much the Thai case fits Levy’s (1986b) PHE pioneering concepts on types of PHE: religious-oriented, semi-elite, demand-absorbing.

The study employs combined methods of analysis: content analysis of 24 interviews of private university presidents and national policymakers and institutional data and legislative documentation, descriptive statistical analysis and Ragin’s (2000, 2008, 2009) Fuzzy-Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA). The findings show clusters of characteristics on governance and finance in relation to different institutional types. Intra-sectorally, Thai PHEIs are different among themselves based on types of ownership and characteristics previously identified in the literature. Levy’s theory is vigorously applicable to the Thai context. Nonetheless, several deviations appear. The findings introduce a new category, serious-demand-absorbing, which incorporates elements from other types. The findings also suggest that institutional isomorphism happens due to all PHE types tending to share comparable characteristics in both governance and finance and that institutional diversity becomes a matter of degrees.  Institutional functions, e.g., size, age, mission, fields of study are catalysts in differentiation or isomorphism of different PHE types. Inter-sectorally, private and public higher education institutions are most different from one another in the law governing them, internal administration style, and government funding. Finally, political economic policies, e.g., quality assurance, the PHE Act, and student loans result in coercive isomorphism while aggressive market competition bolsters institutional diversity.


By Dmitry Suspitsin

A Dissertation Submitted toThe Graduate School in College of Education, The Pennsylvania State University

Defense Committee:
Roger L. Geiger, Distinguished Professor of Education, Thesis Co-Advisor, Co-Chair of Committee, Chair of Graduate Program in Higher Education

David Post, Professor of Education, Thesis Co-Advisor, Co-Chair of Committee

Gerald K. LeTendre, Professor of Education

Johann Baumgartner, Professor of Marketing

Defense Date
May 2007

This dissertation examines how Russia’s newly established private higher education institutions gain legitimacy conferred by the government, sponsoring organizations, the clientele, and other constituencies and stakeholders. The study describes the private institutions’ forms and sources of legitimacy; their legitimacy-management strategies; and the forces and constraints in the external environment that facilitate or impede the Russian private universities’ chances for gaining organizational legitimacy. Drawing on Burton Clark’s tripartite framework of coordination and DiMaggio and Powell’s notion of organizational field, the study presents a stakeholder model of organizational legitimation, identifying relevant societal audiences in the realms of the state, the market, and higher education community.

To this end, this largely exploratory, qualitative study employs a multiple case study approach as the primary research method. The cases are built around types of institutions categorized based on legitimation orientations, or ways of constructing institutional identities in order to gain social recognition. The institutional typology includes four types: westerners, statists, cultural revivalists, and entrepreneurs. The results of the study point to the federal government as a powerful legitimizing entity. It exercises its control through accreditation based on law and tradition. The study provides evidence on how accreditation enhances private institutions’ social security and acceptance, student enrolment, and institutional survival. Both conforming and manipulative strategies for attaining accreditation by private institutions are laid out and illustrated.

The data come from semi-structured, in-depth interviews with university presidents, deans, government officials, and researchers, as well as from extensive observations, and analysis of written documents, including print media materials, governmental laws and regulations, and institutional documents.


Program for Research on Private Higher Education

EAPS Department - SUNY at Albany
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