Abstract: The diversification of individual and public needs for higher education, information technologies in the distribution of educational products, requirements to the quality on the part of various groups of stakeholders, as well as internationalization processes determine the relevance of the development of theoretical models ensuring the competitiveness of higher education systems of different levels. Modern theoretical approaches to the interpretation of the higher education essence as a system and object of the competitiveness institutional analysis have been systematized. The definition of higher education as a system of informal (values, customs, ways of thinking, behavior, etc.) and formal (legal documents, standards, education providers, stakeholders, etc.) institutions that provide an insight in the key role of knowledge in self-improvement, its assimilation and increase for the purposes of personal and social development has been offered on the basis of competence, process and institutional approaches to the analysis of the essential characteristics of higher education. The architecture of the national higher education system has been determined on the basis of system analysis and complementarity. Its main elements and objects of competitiveness analysis are: 1) values that define the interests and needs for new knowledge and competences; 2) interests and behavior of internal and external stakeholders of higher education; 3) formal and informal education providers; 4) products and services as a result of educational providers' activity. The comprehensive analysis of interrelated internal and external goals and functions concerning the higher education strategic development leads to the conclusion that the effectiveness, quality and social responsibility are the main essential features – criteria for the analysis of higher education competitiveness at all levels of its operation and development

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