Research Projects

The politics of subsidizing private schools in international comparison

The share of pupils in private schools increased considerably in the last three decades. A significant increase is especially evident in developing and emerging countries, but also in many OECD member states the private school sector was gradually strengthened in the last years. Private schools for which states provide substantial subsidies and which receive public subsidies for more than 50% of their costs (classified as government-dependent private schools) are expanding the most rapidly.

This project examines the development of private schooling and the subsidization politics in different welfare states (currently in Australia, England, New Zealand, Argentina, Germany, Austria, Switzerland) to explore the causes of the different development of private schooling and its financing from the 1970s until today. The following question guides the analyses: How can the different development paths in the statehood of school systems in the various welfare states be explained? What are the key drivers behind the expansion of private schooling and the expansion of state subsidies? The different development paths are examined based on analyses of primary sources (including parliamentary documents and statements from parties,
teacher unions and private school interest groups) and secondary literature, which were analysed using the qualitative content analysis. For analysing the role and strategies of education policymakers for the public subsidization of private schools, the analysis is based on the perspective of historical institutionalism.

Selected project publications

Nikolai, Rita/Helbig, Marcel (2021): Private schools as drivers of social segregation: Why private schools should be regulated. On Education. Journal for Research and Debate 4 (11). DOI: 10.17899/on_ed.2021.11.9).

Nikolai, Rita (2020): Vertragsschulpolitiken in England und Neuseeland: Zur Bedeutung schulpolitischer Akteure und Ideen. Zeitschrift für Pädagogik 66 (2), 251-269 (DOI: 10.3262/ZP2002251).

Nikolai, Rita (2019): Staatliche Subventionen für Privatschulen: Politiken der Privatschulfinanzierung in Australien und der Schweiz. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Bildungswissenschaften 41 (3), 559-575 (DOI: 10.24452/sjer.41.3.1).

Nikolai, Rita/Wrase, Michael/Kann, Caroline/Criblez, Lucien (2018): Wirkungen von Bildungsregulierung im Vergleich: Rahmenbedingungen und Finanzierung von Privatschulen in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz. Zeitschrift für Rechtssoziologie 38 (2): 272–303 (DOI: 10.1515/zfrs-2018-0019).

Koinzer, Thomas/Nikolai, Rita/Waldow, Florian (eds.) (2017): Private Schools and School Choice in Compulsory Education. Global Change and National Challenge. Wiesbaden: Springer VS (DOI: 10.1007/978-3-658-17104-9).

Helbig, Marcel/Nikolai, Rita/Wrase, Michael (2017): Privatschulen und die soziale Frage. Wirkung rechtlicher Vorgaben zum Sonderungsverbot in den Bundesländern. Leviathan. Berliner Zeitschrift für Sozialwissenschaft 45 (3), 357-380 (DOI: 10.5771/0340-0425-2017-3-357).

West, Anne/Nikolai, Rita (2017): The expansion of ‘private’ schools in England, Sweden and Eastern Germany: A comparative perspective on policy development and the role of ideas in institutional change. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice 19 (5), 452-469
(DOI: 10.1080/13876988.2016.1262549).


Regional school development: Developments in school infrastructure in rural areas and the influence of actor constellations and strategies

How do demographic conditions, especially population and birth trends, affect school network planning? This project focuses on the region as a dimension for educational processes. The gap in higher educational attainment rates has narrowed considerably in European Member States over the decades, but the regional dimension has regained relevance in explaining differences in educational attainment. The aim of the project is to examine the planning and decision-making processes for school network development at the local level and their impact on educational inequalities using selected rural regions in Germany. The transformation processes at the regional level and their causes will be examined based on selected municipalities regarding the following questions: How has the school infrastructure changed since 2000 until today? What role did political, institutional, and socio-economic factors play in the changes in school infrastructure? What influence did the respective actor constellations and strategies have? What scope for design and action did school policy actors use at the municipal level? Why did regions with similar challenges (e.g., decline in pupil numbers) adopt different solutions (e.g., establishment of an integrated school form)? Why did the private school sector expand in some regions and not in others? The changes in school provision since the 2000s are traced using data from the official statistics of selected federal states. In selected municipalities, the causes for changes in the school infrastructure since the 2000s are also analysed with the help of document analyses and expert interviews with school policy actors (from political parties, associations, municipal school administration and ministries).

Project relevant publications

Hermstein, Björn/Bellenberg, Gabriele/Nikolai, Rita/Sauerwein, Markus: Governance von Bildungsinfrastruktur bei demografischer Volatilität. Lokale Bedingungen und Entwicklungen von Grundschulen mit mehreren Standorten. submitted to the journal „Die Deutsche Schule“.

„Per Mausklick durch die Schulgalaxis“ (By mouse click through the school galaxy): Together with Marcel Helbig and Markus Konrad (both Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung) I have investigated the development of the network of public and private schools in East Germany since the unification 1990 and converted it into an interactive map. Link to the map

Helbig, Marcel/Konrad, Markus/Nikolai, Rita (2019): Entwicklung der Schulinfrastruktur in Ostdeutschland und die Rolle privater Schulen. In D. Fickermann, & H. Weishaupt (eds.), Bildungsforschung mit Daten der amtlichen Statistik (DDS – Die Deutsche Schule, special issue no. 14). Münster: Waxmann, 105-120 (DOI: 10.25656/01:17792).