Change and Legitimation: Social Democratic Governments and Higher Education Policies in Sweden and Germany

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


Higher education has become a mega-topic in both political and scientific debate. Developments in systems of higher education and changes in the governance of such systems have been discussed in the literature. Such changes are brought about by collective actors within institutional settings. The present volume considers the policies of higher education supported by Social Democratic governments in Sweden and in Germany, specifically in North-Rhine Westphalia in the latter case, from the mid-1960s to the year 2000. Empirically the study involves a qualitative analysis of policy documents in this area, such as inaugural speeches, governmental bills and recommendations of expert groups.

The analysis of these policy documents revealed various shifts in policy orientation during the last thirty years. Two shifts are discussed in particular detail, namely the shift from an input- to an output-orientation and from addressing issues of class to addressing those of gender segregation.

These policy shifts can be partly explained by an ongoing process of transformation within European Social Democracy, one discussed earlier in the literature. Conclusions of a more general nature applicable as well to political governments others than Social Democratic ones can be drawn by interpreting the shift in terms of the respective government's need of legitimation and the impact of intermediate actors on policy development.

References to the notion of equality appeared as legitimising elements in the rhetoric of the governments of both countries. Although issues of socio-economic background and of gender both pertain to matters of equal participation, the policy documents analysed dealt with the two issues separately. It is argued that this pattern can be accounted for by a strategy of ?satisficing? (Lees 2001; Simon 1965). The utilisation of expertise here is regarded as representing a strategy of ?compensatory legitimation? (Weiler 1990). The importance of formalised structures in which this strategy is embedded is emphasised as giving policies both coherence and legitimacy.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Sociology
  • Hetzler, Antoinette, Supervisor
Award date2005 Dec 7
ISBN (Print)3-89821-595-4
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2005-12-07
Time: 13:00
Place: Kulturens auditorium, Kulturen, Tegnérsplatsen, 22104 Lund
External reviewer(s)
Name: Enders, Jürgen
Title: Professor
Affiliation: University Twente, Enschede, Netherlands

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)

Free keywords

  • Social sciences
  • North-Rhine Westphalia
  • Germany
  • Sweden
  • Social Democratic governments
  • actor-centered institutionalism
  • compensatory legitimation
  • legitimation
  • policies of higher education
  • systems of higher education
  • Sociology
  • Social structures


Dive into the research topics of 'Change and Legitimation: Social Democratic Governments and Higher Education Policies in Sweden and Germany'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this