The European HE system has been a target of a number of reform initiatives, mainly attributed to the Bologna Declaration in 1999 and the Lisbon Agenda in 2000. Both of these policy initiatives emphasized the modernization of European HE. While the Bologna declaration stressed structural reforms at the start (HRK, 2014a), the Lisbon Agenda focused on supporting growth and jobs. These issues now coincide in the Bologna and the European Union policy statements (European Commission, 2011), especially following the economic crisis of 2008. Improving the quality of education and widening access to education are seen as central in attaining successful economic and societal outcomes (European Commission, 2010). Simultaneously, creating more inclusive HE according to the so-called social dimension of European HE is also perceived as a high priority (European Commission and Eurydice, 2011). Over the last two decades, HE participation has expanded rapidly in Europe, yet inclusive access to HE remains a major policy challenge. Scholars too have paid increasing attention to the relationship between different education systems and the development of inequalities in access to HE (Mayer, Mueller and Pollack, 2003; Arum, Gamoran and Shavit, 2007; Reimer and Pollak, 2010). They show that the expansion of HE results in improved access for all groups; however, the relative advantage of privileged groups remains, especially with respect to the types of institution attended and fields of study (Arum et al., 2007).
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