The Policy Structure
An Agenda For The National Center
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Challenges and Opportunities
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In late 1997, Patrick Callan, president of the newly formed National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education (the National Center), invited the staff of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) to prepare a paper suggesting a research agenda that might be pursued by the new organization.

An initial version of this paper was submitted to the National Center in early February 1998. It has since been reviewed by numerous individuals and used as background material for invitational seminars convened to discuss the state of public policy regarding higher education and the need for new policy concepts and further research. While unchanged in many respects from the draft submitted in February, this version includes several substantive improvements that can be traced to discussions with friends and colleagues who are attempting to understand--and shape--higher education policymaking around the world. We are most grateful for their willingness to share their ideas and perspectives.

The paper attempts to accomplish three main tasks:

  • To make the case that the policy environment for higher education is changing and that many current policy assumptions no longer obtain. For instance: policy interests are shifting toward a concern with client needs and service and away from attention to institutions and their needs; and the tools of policy are increasingly focused on shaping institutional behavior indirectly (through creating and regulating markets), rather than directly (through regulating and controlling institutions).

  • To identify the kinds of issues that arise--and the particular types of policy questions that must be addressed--if the above assertions are true.

  • To suggest the kinds of activities that could most usefully be incorporated into the research and development agenda of the National Center.

While the paper is no longer labeled a draft, it remains a work in progress. Comments from readers that challenge the paper's assumptions, that identify issues that were missed, or that suggest particularly fruitful areas for policy research are actively sought.

Dennis Jones
Peter Ewell
Aims McGuinness


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© 1998 The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education

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