Declining Public Universities: Patterns and Lessons for Public Policy and Administration: A Russian Case Study
This paper examines the patterns, and possible causes and consequences of public universities decline across nations in general and Russian Federation in particular. It is argued that decline in public higher education systems is a common feature across the Western and developing nations as well as Russia. It is further argued that this global decline was, and still is to a great extent, triggered by a worldwide marketization of the higher education systems, sweeping privatization, and ideological conservative economic theory of market supremacy that led to the major shrinkage of public sectors’ resources and even deinstitutionalization of public institutions. The purpose of the study is to elaborate on the background and possible causes and consequences of declining public universities, and to reveal basic patterns of the decline with a particular reference to the Russian public higher education institutions (HEIs). The theoretical framework with related literature is drawn from the perspectives on organization theory (e.g., organizational decline, cutback management, organizational resource interdependency theory), public choice economic theory, bureaucratic politics, and political economy of public expenditures theory. An analytical approach is proposed and applied for evaluating the dynamics and potential outcomes, using a four-step analysis that covers (1) universities’ resource base dynamics indexes to calculate and to single out the group of declining organizations; (2) a cluster analysis of dynamic characteristics of declining public universities and their performances; (3)two sample t-tests were performed for declining universities; and (4) analysis of a series of semi-structured interviews with the topmanagement of seven particular declining Russian universities.
Findings reveal that there are common causes for public universities decline, classified as intraorganizational, contextual, and technological factors. It is also illustrated that the dynamics of the performance characteristics of the declining public universities with statistically significant scores differ for the worse as compared to the control group. The findings allowed making a series of propositions for public policy and university leadership lesson-drawing, with several policy and administration implications for public higher education institutions across other nations worldwide.