Modernizing Universities. Polish HEI after 1989

Anna Giza


Higher education system in Poland has undergone in the years 1989–2020 the process of profound changes. The logic and the philosophy of the reforms of the Polish HEI have stayed in the broad frame of New Public Management, thus being convergent with the public policies addressed to academic institutions in US and Europe (Ferlie, Musselin, Andresani 2008). The circumstances of implementing the NPM driven reforms were, however, very specific in Poland: on the one hand, the modernization of the HE institutions took place in the context of the profound, wholistic systemic transformation. On the other, Polish academia entered the new era with the resources, habits and traditions that had been shaped by the past experiences. The paper is the case study of the Polish HEI after 1989. I aim to identify the processes and mechanisms that have been put into motion by the solutions and regulations adopted by the public authorities – privatization, performance based funding and decentralization in the first place. In the frame of NPM, public authorities supersede planning by steering via setting the boundary conditions and payoffs matrix in such a way as to encourage – or make rational – to move in a certain, desired direction. I argue this kind of steering resulted in many negative externalities, including instrumentalization of the HEI missions and erosion of the academic ethos.


Higher Education Institutions; reforms of the higher education sector; new public management; performance based funding; instrumentalization of the universities’ mission; academic ethos

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