Higher education in post-transition countries of Central and Eastern Europe
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This "three-paper format" dissertation seeks to explore and provide assessment of the issues related to higher education systems in post-transition countries of Central and Eastern Europe. There is a dearth of research studies conducted using specific country-level indicators and sophisticated quantitative, as well as qualitative methods in order to explore the state and the impact of higher education in these countries. The first study utilizes the World Bank data on 28 European countries spanning 30 years, and employs a quasi-experimental design called Difference-in-Difference statistical estimation in order to shed light on the impact of a political transition from the socialist to democratic systems on the financing of higher education in Central and Eastern Europe. The second study also utilizes the World Bank country indicators, relying on the OLS regression with panel data and country fixed effects to assess the impact of the labor force with tertiary education on these countries' economic outcomes. The third, qualitative study relies on document analysis and in-depth, open ended interviews with university and government officials in a post-transition and a recent EU entrant country, Croatia. This study seeks to provide insights into these officials' perception of the importance and role that higher education plays in Croatia's national economy. The findings from these research studies aim to inform and influence the future public policy formation regarding the higher education sectors in post-transition European societies, thus contributing to the development and prosperity of the region. The main theoretical contribution of this dissertation is a new use of the traditional marginalism concept in the theory of economics, which attempts to explain the discrepancy in the value of goods and services by reference to their secondary (marginal) utility or “usefulness”. This dissertation argues that marginalism can be applied to the higher education setting, where it can be particularly helpful in explaining the issues and problems related to higher education systems in the post-transition countries. The new theoretical framework is termed academic marginalism.
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