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Higher education expansion and welfare regimes: contradiction and contextualisation

Jang, E. (2023) Higher education expansion and welfare regimes: contradiction and contextualisation. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00115819


Based on the observation that a considerable level of higher education expansion has occurred over the past two decades, we investigate the effects and causes of higher education expansion. Particularly, we differentiate higher education by the degree of positional characteristics inherent to education expansion and investigate 1) how higher education expansion influences the educational and economic inequalities when it reveals positional nature and 2) what causes higher education expansion to have positional characteristics. Since education is one of the welfare services provided and welfare strategies initiated by welfare states, we assume that the positionality depends on the positions on welfare provisions and strategies, which reflect and are reflected in Esping-Andersen’s well-known conception of welfare regimes. We first explore the formation of the countries according to educational welfare regimes based on the correspondence between two theoretical factors that make education positional and the underlying two dimensions of welfare regimes. We then test the effect of higher education expansion on income inequality when it is positional, given that economic equality is the important policy outcomes of the workings of welfare states. Lastly, informed by prior literature on the complementarity between education and social protections, we investigate the differences in social protections as causal factors that make higher education positional. The main findings are 1) liberal regimes correspond to the countries positional higher education; 2) the negative effect of higher education expansion on income inequality is attenuated as higher education expansion continues when it is positional; 3) weak social protections, especially low social spending and unemployment protection are the causal factors of positional higher education. This thesis contributes to comparative welfare state literature in novel ways. First, this thesis proposes an alternative theoretical framework to the mainstream neo-classical approach, which enables us to discover contradictory aspects of education expansion—expanding education seems to improve educational equality by increasing educational opportunities, but “the equal rights are to be unequal” because it does not necessarily imply a more equal economic outcome. Second, the contradiction highly depends on the contexts in which higher education is provided differently depending on the welfare strategy pursued by welfare states with different welfare regimes.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Marshall, D. and Razzu, G.
Thesis/Report Department:Department of Politics and International Relations
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:115819

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