Entrepreneurialism, subject concentration, and the role of public funding in shaping the trajectory of European universities 

RISIS Research Seminar

NOV 11, 2021 @ 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

Presenter: Roxana Diana Baltaru, University of Warwick; Radu Dragomir Manac, University of Essex; Miruna Ivan, University of Essex 

Discussant: Iussi Kivistö, University of Tampere


Horizontal differentiation in terms of disciplines taught is currently valued in functionalist, entrepreneurial models of higher education as a strategy that universities can employ to deal with diverse expectations from students, stakeholders, and society at large.

Entrepreneurial universities are also expected to diversify financially and rely less on governmental funding. But how does funding diversification influence horizontal differentiation in terms of subject concentration? Drawing on alternative concepts of university, we problematise market-oriented expectations about how universities should be funded to thrive – specifically in relation to subject concentration. In contrast with the entrepreneurial paradigm, earlier models of higher education highlight the role of unconditional state funding in nurturing universities as holistic institutions and suggest that other sources of funding may narrow scholarship down to the specific needs of these new funders and markets.

Against this backdrop of contradictory expectations formulated by historical and contemporary models of university, we contribute with a systematic empirical investigation into whether (and if so, how) funding diversification affects subject concentration. The analysis is enabled by a selection of longitudinal, organisational-level, yearly data from the European Tertiary Education Register (ETER), from 2011 to 2016, covering approximately 450 higher education institutions (HEIs) from 10 European countries. We employ a robust predictive model with time, country, and HEI fixed effects, controlling for institutional size. We find mixed effects of funding diversification on subject concentration, depending on the source of revenue, and a persistent role of public funding in shaping the trajectory of European higher education institutions.