There is a growing consensus in political science research that higher education systems are classifiable into stable distinct types that reflect dominant trends in government partisanship. There is also a large body of higher education research that argues that higher education systems are changing and converging upon a neoliberal type, which is not yet reflected in the political science literature. This paper seeks to reconcile these two positions by looking at both the development of higher education systems in the post-war period and subsequent systemic reforms that have been identified as neoliberal. There have been two main targets of reform: (a) the role the state plays in funding and targeting research, and (b) student finance regimes consisting of tuition fees and the system of financial aid. This paper provides an in-depth look at the cases of Japan and the United Kingdom, which developed into very different systems in the post-war period but have since shown slight convergence on the back of neoliberal reforms.
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