This blog is hosted on Ideas on EuropeIdeas on Europe Avatar

Latest

Comparing cross-border cooperation practices of European(ized) higher education institutions

University of Luxembourg, Photo taken by Alina Felder during her fieldwork in 2019

Alina Felder

European higher education institutions are receiving substantial attention in various areas of EU policy making. They are expected to foster excellence in research, mobility in education and cohesion through cross-border exchange. Yet, the interrelationship of these different governance sites for a Europe of Knowledge (Gornitzka 2010) appears under investigated. While higher education policy research scrutinizes the multi-level, multi-actor and multi-issue dimensions of governing the European Higher Education Area (Chou et al. 2017), research on European border regions is concerned with day-to-day cooperation practices in the so-called ‘laboratories’ of European integration (e.g. Lechevalier and Wielgohs 2013; Stokłosa 2015). Existing studies on such laboratories among higher education institutions remain at the respective cross-border cooperation level (e.g. Giband and Mary 2018).

 

Entering the laboratories of Europeanization in the area of higher education

In my work I depart from previous research by analyzing the relationship among higher education (policy) actors both at the level of cross-border cooperation and between the (sub)national and EU levels. Data was gathered through semi-structured interviews with cross-border cooperating higher education institution representatives at rector and administrative level, (sub)national political actors and higher education institution associations. The higher education (HE) institutions concerned by my research are those, which receive(d) funding through European Territorial Cooperation, better known as Interreg. Next to reasons of accessibility, the cases for comparative analysis were selected with different starting points in the support provided through EU funds. While the University of the Greater Region – involving six HE institutions from Belgium, Germany, France, and Luxemburg – was established due to Interreg funding in 2008, the International University of Lake Constance – a cooperation among 30 HE institutions from Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein and Switzerland – was already established in 1999, prior to receiving EU funding in 2009.

While in the first case, Interreg has favoured a cooperation, which would not have emerged otherwise, my analysis reveals that Europeanization also matters for the already existing cooperation structures and issues. If conceived of as an opportunity and resource, Interreg is thus used to establish new or facilitate existing cross-border cooperation. Analysing how Interreg affects the cross-border cooperation among higher education institutions, delivers insights into concrete Europeanization processes, i.e. ‘processes of a) construction, b) diffusion and c) institutionalisation of […] rules, procedures, policy paradigms, […] and shared beliefs and norms, which are […] consolidated in the EU policy process and then incorporated in the logic of domestic […] discourse, political structures and public policie’ (Radaelli 2004, p. 3).

Concerning the Europeanization of cross-border cooperating higher education institutions, such diffusion and institutionalisation manifests itself in the objectives guiding cross-border cooperation practices. Under Interreg IV (2007-2013), the University of the Greater Region was established as a project to ‘strengthen cooperation in the area of higher education’, whereas the International University of Lake Constance received Interreg funding to ‘foster knowledge transfer’ for regional competitiveness. Beyond these generic objectives, the gathered data suggests academic, economic, political, financial, and socio-cultural objectives for the cross-border cooperation among higher education institutions. Interreg serves to achieve these objectives and was thus used to establish and/ or facilitate cross-border cooperation. The required structural changes to implement the Interreg funding accordingly were moderate in both cases and the objectives stemming from the EU level could easily be accommodated.

 

Accounting for (Europeanized) objectives of cross-border cooperation

While higher education institution members more clearly distinguished between academic and economic objectives of cross-border cooperation, political actors referred to these as strongly intertwined by mentioning objectives such as the development of skilled labour force to prevent brain drain. At the same time, certain higher education institution representatives explained how the cross-border cooperation of their institutions is not only supposed to contribute to a specific economic area but also to a space to live, to study and to conduct research. Concerning the academic objectives of cross-border cooperation, proximity was mentioned as an asset for joint research projects, even though research is highly internationalised. Joint course offers were an initial goal in the beginning of both cases. Yet, organisational, legal and practical obstacles concerning different schedules, degree requirements and language barriers were unfavourable to increasing the regional mobility of students and staff. The comparatively smaller size of the University of the Greater Region and, thus, stronger administrative support has allowed maintaining the existing and establishing new joint study programs.

Regarding political objectives, higher education institution representatives point to the contribution of cross-border cooperation towards the internationalisation strategies of their institutions. This is especially valid for smaller higher education institutions. In this vein, political actors refer to how the cooperation across borders helps to increase the attention towards areas that are peripheral in the respective national contexts. Academic staff and political actors alike have outlined the cooperation framework as a role model, for example, for the effective implementation of innovation policies or for the successful cross-border cooperation (among higher education institutions).

In terms of financial drivers, higher education institution representatives relate to how cross-border cooperation is a means to increase access to national and/or EU funding, where pre-existing cooperation relationships are an asset to acquire funding. However, the administrative effort and high co-funding rates of EU funding weakens its role as a driver for cross-border cooperation. Finally, cultural and organisational differences appear as two sides of a coin in both cases, so that higher education institution representatives highlighted the benefits of learning from differences in the approaches to teaching, researching and providing students with advice on international and professional experiences.

 

A highly political endeavour to fulfil the increasing responsibilities of higher education

Common beliefs and interests have been essential not only in establishing, but also in maintaining cross-border cooperation. The identified objectives for cooperation suggest that these common interests are mainly of academic and political nature. Additionally, the idea to fulfil the perceived increasing responsibilities of HE institutions also played a significant role. This reflects the EU’s social investment narrative establishing a ‘linear relationship between knowledge […] and economic performance’ (Telling and Serapioni 2019, p. 401). Just as any cross-border cooperation endeavour (Scott 2014) the cross-border cooperation among higher education institutions is highly political, so that its stakeholders attempt to influence (supra)national policies for more favourable conditions and sustainable funding sources for cross-border cooperation.

 

This blog post is based on my paper published as part of the Eastern Journal of European Studies Special Issue ‘Cross border cooperation and peripheral areas in Europe’ edited by Tomás Lopes Cavalheiro Ponce Dentinho. Here you can access the article in full.

 

Alina Felder is a doctoral fellow at the Bamberg Graduate School of Social Sciences (BAGSS). In her PhD project she explores the under investigated cross-roads of EU regional policy with the area of higher education policy. The central question of her dissertation is how EU regional policy instruments influence the cross-border cooperation among higher education institutions and their attempts to shape EU knowledge policies. Her research interests thus include Europeanization processes that are induced through network modes of governance the EU is establishing and encouraging public and private actors to participate in. Next to her research, Alina regularly works in political education contexts.

 

References

Meng-Hsuan Chou, Jens Jungblut, Pauline Ravinet & Martina Vukasovic (2017) Higher education governance and policy: an introduction to multi-issue, multi-level and multi-actor dynamicy. In Policy and Society, 36:1, pp. 1-15, DOI: 10.1080/14494035.2017.1287999

Giband, David; Mary, Kevin (2018): Territorial cross-border cooperation in higher education. A case study of the eastern Pyrenean border. In Documents d’Anàlisi Geográfica 64 (3), pp. 587-601. DOI: 10.5565/rev/dag.516.

Gornitzka, Åse (2010): Bologna in Context. A horizontal perspective on the dynamics of governance sites for a Europe of Knowledge. In European Journal of Education 45 (4), pp. 535–548. DOI: 10.1111/j.1465-3435.2010.01452.x

Lechevalier, Arnaud; Wielgohs, Jan (Eds.) (2014): Borders and Border Regions in Europe. Bielefeld: Transcript.

Radaelli, Claudio M. (2004): Europeanisation: Solution or problem? In European Integration online Papers 8 (16), pp. 1-24.

Scott, James W. (2014): From Euphoria to Crisis. Cross-Border Cooperation, Euroregions and Cohesion. In: Luis Dominguez Castro und Iva Miranda Pires (Eds.): Cross-Border Cooperation Structures in Europe. Learning from the Past, Looking to the Future. Brussels: Peter Lang, pp. 81-94.

Stokłosa, Katarzyna (2015): Border Regions as Laboratories of European Integration. In: Elzbieta Opilowska and Jochen Roose (Ed.): Microcosm of European integration. The German-Polish border regions in transformation. Baden-Baden: Nomos, pp. 16-31.

Telling, Kathryn; Serapioni, Martino (2019): The rise and change of the competence strategy: Reflections on twenty-five years of skills policies in the EU. In European Educational Research Journal 18 (4), pp. 387-406. DOI: 10.1177/1474904119840558.

 

COMMENT

Recent Articles

Evidence to do what? Emergence of Knowledge Exchange as an Academic Practice in UK Higher Education

Published on by | No Comments

Justyna Bandola-Gill The quest for usable science is one of the defining challenges for contemporary universities. One of the key drivers of this change is the rise of the so-called impact agenda, in which research funding is directly linked to the socio-economic value of produced knowledge. This change in research funding – and the financial […]

Constructing a Eurasian higher education region: “Points of correspondence” between Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Central Asia

Published on by | Comments Off on Constructing a Eurasian higher education region: “Points of correspondence” between Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Central Asia

Natalia Leskina China, Russia and their regional projects intersecting in Central Asia – Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) – have been in the limelight recently. Despite the fact that educational component pays an important role in both the EAEU and BRI, the information about their educational initiatives remains scarce. That […]

Government Regulation & Its Effects On Higher Education Performance: What’s The Deal?

Published on by | Comments Off on Government Regulation & Its Effects On Higher Education Performance: What’s The Deal?

Danagul Yembergenova In today’s world of higher education, it should come as no surprise that the goal is always to move up – in any way possible. In other words, increase enrollment, increase prestige, increase retention and graduation, increase funding, increase interest, etc. With that in mind, what would you say if we told you […]

Emerging Security Technologies and EU Governance: Actors, Practices and Processes

Published on by | Comments Off on Emerging Security Technologies and EU Governance: Actors, Practices and Processes

What role do technologies play in European integration? How EU governance of security technologies is changing and how does it differ from other major players? These and other questions are examined in a recent book Emerging Security Technologies and EU Governance: Actors, Practices and Processes, edited by Antonio Calcara, Raluca Csernatoni and Chantal Lavallée. In […]

Big Science and Research Infrastructures in Europe

Published on by | Comments Off on Big Science and Research Infrastructures in Europe

What are Research Infrastructures and what roles do they play in the European integration process? These and other questions are addressed in recently published book Big Science and Research Infrastructures in Europe, edited by Katharina Cramer and Olof Hallonsten. In this Q&A with Europe of Knowledge blog, they explain origins, key concepts and findings of […]

Virtual ECPR Knowledge Politics and Policies 2020

Published on by | Comments Off on Virtual ECPR Knowledge Politics and Policies 2020

What is the role of knowledge today when almost every aspect of our lives is affected by the global pandemic? What changes does this radically new situation bring to politics and policies of science, technology and higher educattion?  These and other questions were discussed at the Knowledge Politics and Policies Section of the first virtual […]

Germany’s Science Production Engines: Research Universities and Institutes Competing for Research Funding, 1950–2010

Published on by | Comments Off on Germany’s Science Production Engines: Research Universities and Institutes Competing for Research Funding, 1950–2010

Jennifer Dusdal As the world’s third largest producer of scientific knowledge, scientists in Germany publish more articles than those in any other country, except for the U.S. and China. Germany is the birthplace of both the modern research university and the independent extra-university research institute. Germany’s dual-pillar research policy, developed over the twentieth century, we […]

Responsible University: Exploring the Nordic Context and Beyond

Published on by | Comments Off on Responsible University: Exploring the Nordic Context and Beyond

What is the ‘responsible university’? What does it mean for universities to address the Sustainable Development Goals? And what is specific about universities in the Nordic countries? These are some of the questions addressed in a new book ‘Responsible University: Exploring the Nordic Context and Beyond’, edited by Mads P. Sørensen (Aarhus University, Denmark), Lars […]

Higher Education in the 21st Century: Changes and Challenges Ahead

Published on by | Comments Off on Higher Education in the 21st Century: Changes and Challenges Ahead

What are the major changes and transformations affecting higher education worldwide? And what are the challenges for higher education systems and institutions in the 21st century? Encyclopedia of International Higher Education Systems and Institutions is a major reference work providing comprehensive answers to these and other questions. Over the past years, many researchers from around […]

Rescaling a Think Tank Model at European Level

Published on by | Comments Off on Rescaling a Think Tank Model at European Level

Tatyana Bajenova In the recent article Rescaling expertise in EU policy-making: European think tanks and their reliance on symbolic, political and network capital (Bajenova 2019) that appeared in the Globalisation, Societies and Education Journal, Tatyana Bajenova has examined the strategies which think tanks (TTs) employ to influence EU decision-making. Unlike some recent studies of European […]

  • wordpress com stats
  • Recent Posts

  • Tags

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • UACES and Ideas on Europe do not take responsibility for opinions expressed in articles on blogs hosted on Ideas on Europe. All opinions are those of the contributing authors.