Comparative Perspectives 

       Postsecondary education internationally is diverse with varying structures of organization and management. Nevertheless, they share common traditions and heritage. Similarly, the organization of higher, tertiary and postsecondary education has internationally seen changing trends from models based on collective decision making to more managerial and “top-down” models.  The governance of Australian institutions has witnessed change that correlate with a number of other countries.  The changes are often recognized for their potential in bringing about a positive restructuring of higher education as well as for their potential consequences.  Concerns often involve areas such as the role of the governing body in steering the mission of the institution, the governing body’s role in academic decision making, distinctions between governance and management, and the nature of stakeholder involvement, “including internal members, on a governing board.” The term “corporate governance” is among the catchphrases that have become common with the new approaches to university management.  The corporate perspective is commonly differentiated from “shared governance,” associated with institutional philosophy in the United States.  While the U.S. is the only country with a specific tradition of shared governance, other countries like Australia and the UK function based on similar principles.
     The U.S. High School Diploma is generally less specialized than the Australian Secondary Certificates.  The four year Bachelors degree in the United States includes a general education component unlike the Australian four year Honours degree that is again more specialized and can vary significantly between institutions (as discussed in the previous section concerning AQF).  Unlike Australia with its publicly funded institutions and few private institutions, institutional types in the United States are highly differentiated, from public to private universities, profit and non-for profit institutions. Where Australian institutions vary in terms of curriculum and standards, institutions in the United States are much more diverse in terms of mission and classification (given the Carnegie Classification System). Shared governance in the United States is widely accepted “with an understanding that the operations of boards rely on . . . academic ‘separation of powers,' albeit on reliant on the good grace of the governing body.” 3   Recent trends have put emphasis on a stronger role of the governing body, with additional pressures on governance including funding issues, accountability, the claims of weakening self-governance, politics, et. cetera.  
     The organization of Australian universities is inherited more from higher education in the United Kingdom.  The Australian Honours degree (their postsecondary diplomas) shares more in common with the basic first postsecondary degree in the UK.  The community college system in the United States also differs from technical and vocational education. The universities have independent charters (as with some universities in the United States) with independent governing structures, usually a parliamentary legislative and a council with the majority of policy-making between these two bodies.  Universities before 1992 in the United Kingdom share the majority of the same characteristics with an elected staff council, “student representatives and business and community representatives.” 4  Like in the United States, following reform movements throughout the l 990s, “there has been over the past two decades a sustained movement, particularly driven by government, to assert the primacy in governance of governing boards.” 5   Universities in Australia, similar in structure with exceptions over the board membership, faces issues related to organizational changes in the UK since the 1990s as well as change in the United States.      


1 Wikipedia. "Higher Education: University Governance," Retrieved
March 5, 2007,

2 Coaldrake, P., Stedman, L, and Little, P. 2003. "Issues in Australian University 
Governance." Brisbane: QUT.

3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.


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