Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


In recent decades, higher education systems in OECD countries have expanded significantly. Increase in student numbers coincided with increase in per-student costs of higher education and diminishing fiscal base of welfare state. The subsidisation of higher education was often regressive, leading to transfer of resources from rich to poor. However governments rarely adopted policies designed to reduce the level of subsidisation by shifting costs to students.
This thesis examines policy responses to higher education massification and argues that cost-sharing measures were introduced so rarely because of electoral punishment faced by policy makers. By examining survey data from OECD countries, this thesis establishes that after changes in levels of higher education subsidisation, the support for education funding changes, as we would expect if voters noticed changes in funding. Based on an original survey experiment with sample of US residents, I also show that respondents adjust their willingness to vote for policy makers who are responsible for rising fees, provided they know about the link between rising fees and public policies.
This thesis claims that electoral responsiveness to changes in higher education funding results in blame avoidance and credit claiming by policy makers implementing changes to higher education funding. I show that, in the wake of massification, governments prefer measures that allow increases in enrolment without attracting blame. Governments were also likely to claim credit for expansion of higher education funding, as such policies were more often introduced by left-wing governments.
By presenting evidence for the existence of electoral accountability for rising tuition, this thesis provides a test for important assumptions of literature on the political economy of higher education. By collecting and analysing data on reforms that took place in higher education, this thesis also contributes to our understanding of how systems of higher education changed and why these changes occurred.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Hackett, Ursula, Supervisor
  • Collignon, Sofia , Supervisor
Award date1 Feb 2023
Publication statusUnpublished - 2023


  • Politics of higher education
  • Cost-sharing in higher education
  • Electoral accountability
  • Higher education
  • Blame avoidance
  • Thermostatic effects
  • Public opinion

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