Does It Make a Difference? Relations of Institutional Frameworks and the Regional Provision of Continuing Higher Education in England and Spain

Diana Treviño-Eberhard & Katrin Kaufmann-Kuchta (2022)

Education Sciences, 12(2), 132, pp. 1-24. Open access.

Abstract. In this research, we compare interrelations between institutional settings and regional provision structures of continuing higher education (CHE) in England and Spain. The aim of the qualitative analysis is to identify and to compare country-specific linkages between national and regional policies, legal and financial regulations and their impact on providers, types of provision and target groups of CHE at the regional level. Theoretical assumptions of educational governance, environmental neo-institutionalism, and the sociology of conventions guide the analysis, based on expert interviews in England and Spain. Our research questions are: What modes of coordination of action to provide CHE are caused by national and regional regulations in England and Spain? How are these actions justified, and how do they influence regional CHE provision types and target groups in both countries? Interview-based findings show that national and regional regulations embrace hybrid modes of coordination of action regarding CHE provision in both countries. Specifically, centralised national policies in England and a mixture of centralised and decentralised legal frameworks in Spain impact regional CHE provision by universities, as does the scope of university autonomy in both countries. However, national frameworks only explain regional disparities in CHE provision to a limited extent. Less formal normative dimensions and social orders of university orientations and labour market demands also influence regional types of provision, concepts, provider cooperation, and adult CHE learners.

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