The implementation of the Bachelor and Master reform in German universities happens at a surprisingly rapid pace. Apparently, a higher education system which by most observers is characterized as being reluctant to change can quickly embrace the Bologna process, which aims at a common European higher education area until 2010. In this article the main driving-forces underlying the rapid reform process are identified with the help of some conceptual tools from the new institutionalism in organizational analysis and based on qualitative empirical research. According to my analysis, the process can only be explained by the strong interactions within an 'organizational field'. Among the organizations involved, the state as a coercive actor seems to be the single most important driving-force. In addition, one can witness a stronger role for accountability and leadership in universities and the emergence of new regulatory actors like accreditation agencies. As the Bachelor and Master reform is rather implemented in a 'top down' way, 'bottom up' competitive processes among universities play a weaker role than expected. The 'competitive groups', in which universities position themselves with regard to students are mostly regional. This opens up further questions with regard to the effects of the Europeanization of higher education.
organizational field competition Bologna process German universities higher education reform