|The present paper analyzes the national and international influences which have shaped the politics, policies and polity of French higher education over the past 25 years. The main focus of the study is placed on the various steering instruments and means of influence of international organizations, in particular the EU and OECD, as well as the capacity of the nation state to produce policy change. Of particular significance in this context are institutional veto points and historically embedded guiding principles of higher education. The analysis reveals that French higher education policy finds itself in a state of tension between continuity and change. On the one hand, one can observe a gradual transition towards greater autonomy for and competition among universities, which has been intensified in the past 10 years by processes of internationalization such as the Bologna Process as well as the far below-average performance of French universities in international rankings. On the other hand, the preservation of the guiding educational principle of equal opportunity has slowed down the reform dynamics.
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