Varieties of academic capitalism: A conceptual framework of analysis

Jose Joaquin Brunner, Julio Labraña, Emilio Rodríguez-Ponce, Francisco Ganga


This article proposes a conceptual framework for the analysis of varieties of academic capitalism. The central thesis maintains that these varieties arise from the specific characteristics that in each country organize the the three vertical blocks that make up national systems of higher education (HE): (i) its grounding political economy structure, (ii) the organizational field and the coordination dynamics between universities, and (iii) the systems’ governance modalities, its policy paradigm and instruments. Each variety of academic capitalism is characterized by the degree of privatism in these three blocks and their constituent elements. Thus, in the case of the political economy regime, the level of private presence in the provision and financing of a system plays a determining role and, therefore, the degree of marketization, commodification, commercialization and financialization of higher education. In the case of the organizational field, the impact of these previous processes on the entrepreneurialization and managerialism of participating institutions and on the competition and coordination of HE is of particular interest, as well as the degree of freedom and regulation that prevail in the relevant HE markets. Finally, the governance of academic capitalism depends in each case on the paradigms that guide public policies, the selection of policy instruments, and the way in which stakeholders participate in the governance structure. A brief summary and identification of future research lines for further studying varieties of academic capitalism complete this article.


Universities; academic capitalism; markets; privatization; privatism


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Copyright (c) 2021 Jose Joaquin Brunner, Julio Labraña, Francisco Ganga, Emilio Rodríguez-Ponce


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