Liberalisation and the public sector : the case of international students' policy in Britain and France
The spread of liberalisation across both developed and developing countries has become an increasingly important policy trend over the last thirty years. This thesis examines how liberalisation has occurred, at different speeds and in different ways, in the same sector across two different countries. It seeks to explain why, in the market for international students, liberalisation occurred to a greater extent in Britain than in France. This was despite the fact that both countries' governments had espoused very similar policies towards international students from 1979 onwards, promoting a reorientation of recruitment away from developing countries and towards developed and emerging economy countries, and encouraging higher education institutions (HEIs) to compete against each other for international students. The thesis attempts to explain this cross-national difference in the extent of liberalisation through examining which actors pushed for liberalisation, and which factors conditioned their ability to do so. In this case, governments played the most important role in propagating liberalisation, and higher education institutions generally attempted to resist liberalisation, rather than promoting it. Governments' ability to push forward liberalisation was constrained, however, by the extent of coordination of HEIs in sectoral associations, which enabled them to resist government proposals. Whilst in some cases, French governments were able to create new institutions which encouraged a commodification of international students, they proved unable to create new institutions which incentivised HEIs to compete against each other for the recruitment of international students. In contrast, British governments managed to create new institutions which led to both the commodification of international students, and competition for their recruitment. The thesis thus also counsels a more nuanced approach to liberalisation, which recognises that it can consist in different elements (in this case, in both commodification and competition). rather than representing a uniform, and unified, process across countries and sectors.