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Article

Marketisation of higher education and dual-track tuition fee system in post-Soviet countries

The marketization of higher education in the 15 countries that were formally part of the USSR has established a system model that is distinctive within world higher education, the dual-track tuition system. The foundations of this model were established in the economic liberalization of late Soviet period which facilitated a common pattern in higher education across the post-Soviet countries. Although a private sector has been established, the primary mode of marketization has taken place within the public sector. This remains dominant but has been split into two heterogenous segments in terms of funding and student selection. National systems, and individual institutions, have become divided between state-subsidized higher scoring students, and fee-paying lower performing students, creating different valuations and behaviours for the two segments. National standardized testing is an important instrument of marketization, shaping student selection and institutional differentiation and legitimating the unequal social outcomes that result. Empirical comparison across the 15 countries demonstrates a high level of privatisation of costs, largely because of private funding within public sector. This system model, which is incoherent and fosters a large-scale commitment to non-excellence, reflects a larger duality within post-Soviet societies and polities which remains unresolved. Higher education is riven between the Soviet egalitarian legacy of higher education as a public good, and the post-Soviet moment of the late 1980s and 1990s in which policy shaped by Anglo-American neoliberal thinking set out to turn education into a consumer choice on the basis of an abstract formula of the ideal market.