The main objective of this study is establishing patterns of higher education funding policy change in Western Europe in the period from 1980s to 2000. Patterns of change are traced using the typology of welfare state regimes developed by Esping-Andersen (1990). The main assumption is that key institutional features of a welfare regime govern reform trajectories in higher education funding policies. The study shows that regularities within regimes do exist, and they broadly conform to the welfare regime typology. However, countries do not completely conform to the types. This is partly due to the deficiency of an ideal-type classification, but more importantly it seems due to the fact that higher education funding policy cannot be fully explained by using the social policy lens.