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73 Working Paper

The Role of Ideas in the Emergence of Convergent Higher Education Policies in Europe: The Case of France

2000 – Christine Musselin


How do ideas influence public policy ? French higher education is a good case in point. It seems reasonable to think that the recent evolution French universities underwent resulted from the diffusion of the convergent discourse held by most European countries on the need for increased university autonomy and more self regulation. But no empirical evidence proves that this diffusion process occurred in the French case. Nevertheless, if the recent contractual policy in France can not be understood as the product of the emergence of new beliefs, of a new vision of the (European higher education) world, it certainly gave rise to the development of a new or paradigm. This leads us to revisit the relation of ideas and public policy in two ways. First in arguing that the causal link between them is not as unidirectional as generally stated. Second that change does not always happen through a paradigmatic revolution, but rather through an incremental process.