Mari Elken and Jens Jungblut
On the 3rd and 4th of March 2016, the European Research Area collaborative research network (CRN) had its final workshop at the Directorate General for Research & Innovation of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. Building on the diverse activities and encompassing research that has been conducted within the framework of the CRN, the workshop had two main aims: to present the research that the CRN facilitated, and to draw lessons from the results of the presented studies which can be of use for policymakers in the European Union. The invitation from DG Research and Innovation provided a common arena for both researchers and policymakers to openly discuss the policy implications of the work of participating CRN members.
In her introduction to the workshop, Meng-Hsuan Chou (NTU Singapore) reminded the audience of the diverse activities that the CRN undertook in the last years. While this was the final event for the CRN, she announced that the network will continue its work in the form of a Standing Group of the European Consortium for Political Research—the Politics of Higher, Research, and Innovation Standing Group.
In the first presentation Martina Vukasovic (University of Gent, Belgium), Mari Elken (NIFU, Norway) and Jens Jungblut (INCHER Kassel, Germany) used the results from five different but related research projects to unpack the multi-level and multi-actor dynamics of higher education policymaking in Europe. The topics discussed included the growing role of stakeholder organisations for policymaking on the European level, and how these organisations shift their own positions as a result of their involvement in European debates. Additionally, conditions for Europeanisation, both with regard to the translation of European policies to national and institutional settings, and European policymaking in the area of education that goes beyond the principal of subsidiarity have been presented. Furthermore, the changing governance of the Bologna Process throughout its development and the withering political salience of the process especially for EU member countries were highlighted in their presentation. Finally, and turning to the national level, the growing importance of political parties and their preferences for national higher education policymaking has been discussed linking also developments on the national level to potential effects for European discussions. Overall, the authors highlight through their different projects that change in European higher education policy does not unfold in a linear manner and that it takes time for policy change to materialize. Furthermore, it became clear that politics increasingly matter, be it due to a growing relevance of political parties or due to increasingly important stakeholder organisations. Finally, also sectoral dynamics and actors and their expertise have an important role to play in European policymaking for higher education.
Albert Sanchez-Graells(University of Bristol Law School, UK) presented a paper that was co-authored with Andrea Gideon (National University of Singapore) that addressed the question of how far and under which circumstances UK universities are bound by EU public procurement rules. Taking the confusion in British higher education about the degree to which UK universities are bound by European rules on public procurement as a starting point, their paper analyses the legal situation both with regards to the universities’ role as buyer of goods and services but also as providers of services in teaching and research. The decreasing level of national regulations in the UK in the context of market oriented governance reforms actually led to a growing importance of European regulations that are still present and valid for the universities even after national changes in the governance arrangements. Thus, marketisation did not free the universities from public procurement rules. On the contrary, the authors concluded that both in the case of universities acting as buyers as well as in situations where universities provided services in teaching and applied research they are in theory bound by EU public procurement rules. Only in the case of basic research the universities’ activities are clearly non-economic by nature and thus public procurement rules are less relevant in these cases. The paper thus presents an interesting case where European regulations and the lack of awareness of these create risks of litigations and liabilities for British universities and partly contradict national governance reforms.
The second day of the workshop began with a presentation from Meng-Hsuan Chou (NTU Singapore) and Pauline Ravinet (University of Lille 2, France). They provided new insights from an ongoing project about higher education regionalism. Their project has a dual aim of contributing to knowledge in two distinct research fields: new regionalism in international relations and EU studies, as well as higher education policy studies. Both of these sets of literature have traditionally had some limitations—literature on new regionalism has had limited empirical evidence, and literature on higher education policy studies in Europe has frequently been viewed as a unique case of integration. Consequently, there is also limited understanding of the similarities and differences between regional integration initiatives in Europe, Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Analytically, their work builds on three main dimensions: constellations of actors; institutional arrangements and policy instruments; ideas and principles underpinning these structures. During their presentation they showed initial results from their ongoing empirical work. They indicate that while Bologna is widely assumed to have been ‘exported’ to other regions, the so-called Bologna diffusion narrative has been somewhat overstated. While Bologna has created momentum, it is not a stable model that is being emulated. Furthermore, a number of the initiatives in East Asia also pre-date the Bologna Process. In their presentation, Chou and Ravinet showed how regional integration processes in Europe and South East Asia employ a rather similar policy toolkit, raising important questions of the scope and nature of regional integration processes. Overall, the project provides a much-needed comparative perspective to examining regional integration processes. The discussion that followed the presentation raised important questions of the future of the Bologna Process.
In the next presentation, Nicola Francesco Dotti (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium) examined Framework Programmes (FP) participation from a geographical perspective. The starting point for the presentation was that there is a widespread assumption of uneven spatial distribution of research and development, less is known about how this geography evolves. The aim of the analysis was to identify the drivers for this spatial distribution, examining notions such as diversification vs specialisation, advanced vs. lagging regions and the role of the cohesion policy. During the presentation, insights from two separate sets of analysis were presented, examining regional distribution of FP and spatial dimensions of knowledge brokerage. The first analysis examined regional drivers in the NUTS3 regions in the time period of 1999 to 2010 across six FP themes. The key finding was that there is a link between economic development and success with FP, thus there is higher rate of participation in FP in more advanced regions. Furthermore, the relationship is also evident for regions that are growing (increase) or in decline (decrease). In addition, smart specialisation appears to have little effect in FP participation. The second analysis focused on knowledge brokers, and in particular the Brussels region. While most regions have remained rather stable in their FP performance, Brussels had significantly improved its performance in FP participation (+1,2% from FP5 to FP7). Dotti argued that despite high level of fragmentation of Brussels as a region, the high number of knowledge brokers that the Commission attracts creates a unique benefit in that it creates a very fertile market for access to strategic information, thus benefiting the region.
Amelia Veiga (CIPES, Portugal) presented a joint study, with António Magalhães and Alberto Amaral, about the Bologna Process through the lens of differentiated integration, specifically via the process of enactment. They highlight that the Bologna Process has shifted from being a means to something and has become an end in itself. As empirical evidence across Europe shows that there is persistent variation in how the process is implemented on national level, this raises questions of how to tackle this divergence if the aim of the process is convergence. In their study, they find multiple connection points between the main structure of the process, and how it has been implemented across Europe. They mapped the Bologna Process according to the heuristic of various modes of differentiated integration, and found that, in the existing literature on differentiated integration, Bologna can best be placed under Europe a la carte, being a case of a permanent process, with territorial integration process, where differentiation primarily takes place on national level. It is also placed outside of EU treaties, included members beyond the EU, and uses an intergovernmental decision-making mode. From this perspective, Veiga emphasised the necessity to analyse policy implementation as a process of enactment to further understand the tensions created by differentiated integration and the kinds of translation and interpretation processes this creates on national level. Rather than viewing policy analysis as a uniform process across Europe, this calls for more idiosyncratic analysis. Indeed, to look at what is happening on the grounds.
Inga Ulnicane (University of Vienna, Austria) and Anete Vitola (University of Latvia, Latvia) then presented their joint study, with Julia Melkers (Georgia Tech, USA), on the notion of scientific diaspora. In the presentation, Inga Ulnicane first offered the results of a literature review that examined the definition of scientific diaspora as a concept, and the various roles it takes. These studies highlight the contradictory nature of the concept—as it emphasises a universalist view on science accompanied with a sense of allegiance to home country. Furthermore, diaspora can take multiple roles, being collaborative knowledge brokers, organising networks or supporting capacity building in home countries. In the presentation, Ulnicane indicated that specific scientific diaspora policies can now be identified in a number of countries, as well as international organisations, such as UNDP. As a case study, the researchers presented their analysis of scientific diaspora policies from Latvia. Latvia provides an interesting case for analysis as it has in recent times experienced a wave of emigration after joining the EU. It is also a country where there is considerable emphasis on using EU funds for capacity building and PhD education. Anete Vitola presented the results from the Latvian case study, showing a shifting policy focus on how diaspora policies were conceptualised. While initially these policies only emphasised on maintaining Latvian culture abroad, focus on scientific and business cooperation has emerged.
The final presentation of the day was from Charikleia Tzanakou (University of Warwick). She argues that knowledge policies are becoming increasingly in the forefront, thus the question ‘knowledge policies for whom’ becomes increasingly pressing. The presentation was based on a mixed methods study on examining career trajectories of Greek PhD graduates from natural sciences and engineering. Tzanakou argued that PhD graduates are a very uniquely placed group, as they are the user, output, beneficiary, and even ‘victim’ of knowledge policies. In the presentation, she highlighted that the rhetoric of ‘we need more PhD graduates’ is not met with appropriate measures for how the labour market is able to absorb them. In the study, she had found that there was considerable under-utilisation on national level, as industry was not always interested in hiring PhD graduates. Overall, the job opportunities in Greece were in many cases limited—both in academia and in industry. At the same time, the number of PhD graduates in Greece has been on the increase, among other things due to EU funding. She highlighted a number of policy implications of the analysis, in particular regarding the nature of the market of researchers in Europe: is the market really open or are we witnessing an increasingly segregated market? The presentation was followed by a lively and interesting discussion regarding the aims and organisation of PhD education in various European countries.
Overall, the workshop included a variety of topics concerning the key elements of Europe of Knowledge, highlighting the complexity of its multi-issue, multi-level, and multi-actor nature. At the same time, the experience also showed how these themes are interlinked, and how inputs from various fields are extremely relevant for advancing our collective insights on the construction of the European knowledge landscapes. The UACES CRN on the European Research Area thus provided an important arena to engage in cross-boundary work and to further the debates on knowledge policies across traditional sectoral divides within and beyond Europe. In the closing remarks, the European Commission representative Andreas Dahlen highlighted the positive experiences from the two days, expressing his wishes that this workshop could be the start for other kinds of knowledge exchange in the future. While this was the final event for the UACES CRN on the European Research Area, the network will continue to engage with scholars and practitioners in the newly established ECPR Standing Group on the Politics of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation.
Presentations and abstracts from the workshop can be found here.