Tale of two countries : new public management reforms in Universities in the UK and China
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New Public Management (NPM) has been one of the dominant paradigms in public management since the 1980s. Its various elements have been adopted by many countries around the world in their public sector reforms. This research examines the most influential models of NPM and draws out the recurring elements among them. These elements are then employed to build the theoretical framework of how NPM may be related to the reforms in higher education sectors in two countries with highly contrasting contexts: the United Kingdom and China. The UK is an industrialized country that has been one of the pioneers in implementing NPM reforms in its public sector; whilst China, being a socialist country where its public sector has long been under the tight control of the government, is among the developing countries as one of the "late adopters" of NPM techniques in its public management reforms. The aim of this study is to examine the extent to which NPM reforms in these two countries shared any commonalities and divergences. Multiple cases studies are adopted as the main research method. Four universities are chosen: two in the UK and two in China. A comparative analysis of issues relating to the application of NPM techniques in the reforms in these two countries is provided. The NPM elements adopted during the reform processes in the four case studies are analyzed respectively according to the theoretical framework. The conditions under which various NPM elements have been introduced during the reforms are examined and the extent to which they have been applied in the higher education sector in both countries is explored. Results indicate that there has been a translation of NPM techniques from its original country (the UK) to the Chinese socio-economical and political environment. It has been found that although some of the NPM elements such as delayering and devolution of power are shared by both countries, divergences still exist in many aspects of their organizational changes. Meanwhile, the elite and non-elite group of universities in both countries have chosen different pathways in their reforms, which I have significant impacts on the outcomes. The implications of these case studies for future research on public sector management are discussed in the conclusion.