The Program for Research on Private Higher Education
Dedicated to Building Knowledge about Private Higher Education around the World
WP No.3

The New Institutionalism: Mismatches with Private Higher Education’s Global Growth


Levy, Daniel C. (2004)  "The New Institutionalism: Mismatches with Private Higher Education’s Global Growth." PROPHE Working Paper No.3. A substantially shortened revision is published as: Levy, D.C. (2006) The New Insitutionalism: Mismatches with Private Higher Education's Global Growth. In Meyer, H.D. & Rowan, B. The New Institutionalism in Education. Albany: State University of New York Press.


Spectacular contemporary growth in private higher education challenges the “new institutionalism” and its emphasis on “isomorphism.” The growth brings great inter-organizational distinctiveness and is linked to technically rational competition.

Findings about this growth and distinctiveness lead us to re-assess and revise tenets of the new institutionalism. Some tenets remain in tack in logic even as they miss on the empirical side, failing to anticipate salient tendencies such as the retreat of the state. The new institutionalism requires much less revision to help us understand the degree of isomorphism that does accompany private higher education growth.

The findings come largely from analysis of three countries (Argentina, China, and Hungary), inter-sectoral differences, and organizational goals. They extend our view of variables such as subsectors, environment, and time. They cover both the coercive and non-coercive sides of the new institutionalism’s isomorphism. And they encompass international as well as domestic tendencies.

Private higher education growth is linked to widespread changes in political–economy. These changes often reduce the centrality of the state and its public institutions while opening up possibilities for alternative organizational goals and means to legitimacy. The findings on private higher education thus allow for speculation on how the new institutionalism can be modified and interpreted in many fields undergoing robust and multi-faceted privatization.

Date Published:
Jan 2004