This case study explains the methods of social enquiry used in my PhD thesis. The thesis analyses the political–economic determinants of the evolution of higher education institutions in 10 countries in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of communism, where enrolments have increased up to sixfold, while funding has not kept up with this trend. The thesis shows that the evolution of higher education has been facilitated by the government and has evolved according to demands of employers. It reveals that a specific model of capitalism has emerged in these countries: a dependent market economy model as a new variety of capitalism. This case study explains the rationale of the research design and the way in which different methodologies are combined. The research methods used are specifically tailored to hypothesis formulation and hypothesis testing. A detailed case study on the political economy of Romania reveals a strong relationship between multinational companies, the government and the higher education institutions in an exploratory design. To fully explore these complex relationships between institutions, the hypotheses are formulated and partially tested through case study work. The case study work also informs the conceptual model that explains the interactions between multinational companies and the higher education institutions. The model is subsequently tested in a large-N analysis on companies and higher education institutions in 10 countries.