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To paraphrase one of my colleagues: for all intents and purposes European integration in higher education should not exist. This is not a normative position, but rather an observation of what seems to be somewhat of a puzzle: the European Union has very limited formal competences with regards to education in general, or higher education in particular, but there nevertheless are several European initiatives in higher education that have emerged in the recent (and not so recent) years, like the Bologna Process or the Lisbon Strategy and its successor the Europe 2020 Strategy, that seem to have had significant impact on higher education systems and institutions.
Essentially, there are three dimensions to this phenomenon: (1) new initiatives (or a new governance layer, if you will) forming at the European level, (2) these initiatives having an impact on higher education in countries that are EU members or in some other ways are considered to be part of “Europe” and (3) European initiatives having an impact on developments well outside Europe (e.g. Latin America, US, or Asia-Pacific region). I will briefly discuss each of these dimensions, to provide the basis for the claim that studying the European governance layer in higher education in more detail can contribute not only to better understanding of higher education dynamics but also to better understanding of the dynamics of European integration, its causes and consequences.
Emergence of the European governance layer in higher education
Origins of the European governance layer in higher education were traced by Anne Corbett back to the early ages of the European Union; a number of key policy entrepreneurs and events that lead to what eventually became the Erasmus programme have been identified (Corbett 2005), which in turn lead to the question whether the Bologna Process is as novel as many claim it is (Corbett 2006). Furthermore, an issue of research interest is also how what essentially started as a voluntary process with an unclear governance structure grew into monitored coordination and a consolidated governance arrangement (Ravinet 2008), as well as what are the linkages between the pan-European Bologna Process and the EU Lisbon Strategy (Gornitzka 2010; Keeling 2006). In addition, the focus has also been on the strengthening of the European Commission position in the Bologna follow-up structures (despite initial attempts to exclude it) which adds a supranational element to an otherwise primarily intergovernmental arrangement (Corbett 2011) as well as on the increasing involvement of European stakeholder organizations, such as the European University Association EUA, European Students’ Union ESU, Education International EI, European Association of Institutions in Higher Education EURASHE, whose presence adds a transnational flavour (Elken and Vukasovic forthcoming).
Essentially, what can be observed is the emergence of a Europe of Knowledge based on two main pillars – Lisbon (and its successor Europe 2020) and Bologna – the first firmly grounded in the EU institutions and perhaps more focused on research (in which EU has more significant competences than in higher education), and the other having a more pan-European focus and focusing primarily on higher education (Elken et al. 2011; Maassen and Musselin 2009). Such complex governance arrangement, in which supranational, intergovernmental and transnational dynamics overlap and interact is by no means unique to higher education, given that within the EU, regardless of the sector in focus, similar complexity can be observed (Börzel 2010).
What is distinctive is the existence of both EU and pan-European elements in the European governance layer and how they interact. So far, this interaction served primarily to consolidate and legitimize both processes, but with the further enlargement of the EU (even if only in terms of awarding candidate status to more countries) and the somewhat slowed down tempo of the Bologna Process (ministerial summits now taking place every three instead of two years) it will be interesting to see whether the interaction will lead to fading out of the Bologna element of the European governance layer in higher education or those involved in the process (who also may have some vested interests in keeping it alive) will find a way to re-invent it.
Furthermore, European integration in higher education (and research) is of importance for other sectors as well, given that higher education is being exported as a policy solution to sectors such as social policy, economic competitiveness, environment and security, i.e. higher education is expected to provide solutions to problems identified in other policy sectors. So it could be argued that European integration efforts in these sectors, many of which are at the core of the EU project, will be shaped also by how integration in the area of higher education proceeds in the long run.
Impact on higher education systems and institutions within Europe
The second dimension concerns the impact the emerging European governance layer in higher education has on higher education systems and institutions, or what can be labelled as Europeanization (though see Olsen (2002) for a discussion on different uses of the term). The focus so far has been on convergence of governance approaches or legal frameworks (Amaral et al. 2012; Voegtle et al. 2011), implementation of the Bologna Process (Hoffman et al. 2008; Moscati 2009), the relationship to national policy reforms (Gornitzka 2006; Musselin 2009), the mechanisms and scope of change in the context of Bologna (Capano and Piattoni 2011; Witte 2006) or the effects of particular elements of European initiatives, e.g. the Erasmus programme (Beerkens and Vossensteyn 2011), the EU Framework Programmes for research (Primeri and Reale 2012), the European Standards and Guidelines for quality assurance in higher education (Stensaker et al. 2010) or the European Scientific Visa and the Blue Card (Cerna and Chou 2013).
Similar to Europeanization in other sectors (see e.g. Cowles et al. 2001; Falkner and Treib 2008), the impact of the European governance layer on higher education systems and institutions is notable, though it varies across countries and issues (EACEA 2012; Westerheijden et al. 2010). This variety is partly related to the characteristics of the European governance layer as such (see below) but also to the differences in the domestic contexts, primarily in terms path-dependencies when it comes to policy formation and implementation (what Falkner and Treib call “worlds of compliance”). Thus, it would be interesting to explore whether the changes primarily amount to what Vaira (2004) has labelled to be an allomorphism – convergence on the surface, diversity underneath. Furthermore, even if there is significant diversity underneath, that does not necessarily imply a weak impact of the European governance layer, but rather points to the ambiguity of some of its preferences (e.g. the social dimension highlighted in the Bologna Process) and the consequent diversity in domestic interpretations both in the process of policy formation and in the process of policy implementation.
As a knowledge intensive sector, higher education is marked by several types of autonomy – universities from the state, constituent departments in relation to their universities, professional autonomy of members of academic staff in relation to their institutions – leading to complex organizational arrangements which provide ample opportunities for translation, use and abuse of the preferences promoted in European initiatives in higher education. Moreover, the European governance layer is not the only source of external influence on higher education policy (and by extension higher education institutions). There are also more diffuse yet not necessarily less powerful global scripts (Meyer 2000) which interact in various ways with the European governance layer and with the domestic contexts.
Here lies another potential contribution of research on higher education to European studies. As Gornitzka and Maassen (2011) demonstrate with a study on autonomy and funding reforms in Denmark, Finland and Norway, even amongst the systems which can be seen to belong to the same “world of compliance”, i.e. even amongst the systems in which significant convergence can be expected, there can be differences in how the same global scripts and European preferences are interpreted and implemented. Thus, studying the different interactions between the global, European, national and local in higher education may be a fruitful exercise for understanding better the key characteristics of each of these layers of governance, and the scope of change that may come as a result of their interaction.
Impact beyond Europe
The relationship between the global scripts and the European preferences provides a good entry point to the discussion of the third dimension of interest – the impact the developments in Europe have on other areas of the world, or how European preferences may become global scripts. This is perhaps the dimension that has been least studied so far. There is some evidence of this impact in higher education, judging by the focus on the external dimension of the Bologna Process (Zgaga 2011) and the establishment of the Bologna Policy Forum taking place in parallel to the Bologna Ministerial Summit, which in 2012 in Bucharest was attended by 23 non-European countries.
Furthermore, there is evidence that the European experience has been an inspiration for other regions of the world. Chinese higher education master plan for 2020 focuses on degree structures, while 52 countries from the Asia-Pacific region in 2006 adopted the Brisbane Communiqué and developed a follow-up governance structure similar to that of Bologna. The experiences from the so-called Tuning project have been exported to Latin America, the US, Russia and Africa with active (financial) support from the European Commission though with different outcomes (in Latin America it seems not to have taken off completely) and the US has increased recognition of the three year bachelor degrees in order to facilitate mobility from Europe to the US (Westerheijden et al. 2010). While the underlying mechanisms of such developments have not been identified in sufficient detail and while there is little data on how these initiatives develop over time, a good starting point could be to analyse whether such developments can be interpreted primarily as the voluntary lesson-drawing by the countries and regions outside of Europe because of Europe’s normative power (Birchfield 2013; Hyde-Price 2006; Manners 2002; Scheipers and Sicurelli 2007) or whether Europe actually plays an active role in these processes for strategic reasons.
In sum, it appears that research on higher education dynamics, either within Europe or beyond, is less and less possible without taking into account multi-level and multi-actor governance arrangements of which the European governance layer is a significant part of. Moreover, research on “all things European” could benefit from focusing more on an area which may be seen as less likely case of European integration and Europeanization, but in which significant developments involving the European governance layer nevertheless abound.
Martina Vukasovic is currently working within the Odysseus project on higher education governance at the Department of Sociology, Ghent University, Belgium. Until November 2013 she was a member of the Higher Education: Institutional Dynamics and Knowledge Cultures Research Group at the Department of Education, University of Oslo, Norway. Her PhD thesis, recently submitted for evaluation, focuses on higher education change in the several countries of the former Yugoslavia and the role the European initiatives have had in these processes.
This entry was initially posted on Europe of Knowledge blog.
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The year 2014 is significant for the Europe of Knowledge, marking the long-anticipated delivery and renewal of Europe’s ambition to become the global knowledge leader. Indeed, it is the deadline set for completing the European Research Area (ERA), as well as the official start of Horizon 2020, the main European Union (EU) funding instrument for pure and applied research. Against this backdrop, the third Europe of Knowledge section invites contributions to go beyond the ‘crisis mode’ that has occupied EU studies in recent years and to critically reflect on the evolution of European knowledge cooperation and governance. Specifically, we are interested in theoretical, empirical and comparative contributions that investigate the role of the ‘four I’s’ – ideas, interests, instruments and institutions – in the construction of the Europe of Knowledge. By ‘role’, we refer to the effects that an idea, an actor (individual or organisational), a policy instrument and an institution have on the ‘knowledge area building’ exercise. Our focus on ‘roles’ is to enable a multidisciplinary discussion on whether these factors share defining characteristics across the different knowledge policy domains (i.e. research and higher education). From a research design perspective, this entails conceptualising the ‘four I’s’ as either independent or intervening variables. Individual panels are encouraged to have a mix of papers reflecting the three thematic sectors of this section: higher education, research and science. This section continues to welcome all scholars, theoretical and methodological approaches (e.g. political science, European and EU studies, higher education studies, science and technology studies, international relations and public policy), to critically discuss the reconfiguration of European knowledge systems.
The following panels are issuing calls for papers, please send the following information to the designated contacts before 19 January 2014:
– Full name
– Postal Address
– Email Address
– The name of any co-authors
– The title of the paper
– Research discipline
– A 250-word abstract
The ‘big’ ideas in the Europe of Knowledge
Chair/discussant: Meng-Hsuan Chou (NTU, Singapore)
As Europe enters another phase in its knowledge cooperation with the launch of Horizon 2020, this panel takes a reflective approach and focuses on the role of ideas in these developments. Ideas are pervasive in all aspects of public policymaking at both the national and European levels. They act as deeply entrenched paradigmatic beliefs concerning how things should and ought to be done, as well as specific policy blueprints for resolving particular policy problems. Articulated through discourse, ideas, championed by ‘amplifiers’, may chart the pathways of integration in unexpected ways. This panel invites contributions that explore the role that ideas play in European research and higher education policy cooperation. By ‘role’, we refer to the independent or intervening effects that an idea – such as the ‘fifth freedom’, competitiveness, excellence, talent, internationalisation, ‘digital revolution’, ‘Single Market of Knowledge’ and so on – have had on constructing the Europe of Knowledge. Papers in this panel are invited to address any of these questions: What are the prominent ideas in the European Research Area and the European Higher Education Area and how have they determined the evolution of the Europe of Knowledge? Are there visible European and national champions of certain ideas and what strategies do they apply to promote them? Also, to what extent have these ideational champions collaborated with one another or do they work in isolation? How have ideas been translated into European and domestic research and higher education policies? Could we identify a consistent discourse or policy frame associated with these ideas? Similarly, could we detect an emergent actor constellation opposing the promoted ideas? And, if so, what are the alternative discourses or policy frames and to what extent have they been successful? To address these questions, we welcome comparative, theoretical and empirical approaches using documentary, survey or interview data.
Send paper abstracts to: Meng-Hsuan Chou (email@example.com), deadline 19 January 2014
Opening the ‘black-box’ of political actors in the Europe of Knowledge
Chair/discussant: Dragan Mihajlovic (BIGSSS, Germany)
Actors promote ideas and interests, and finally adopt policies in the Europe of Knowledge, but actor constellations shaping and emerging due to the overlapping boundaries of education and research remain very much a ‘black-box’. This panel invites papers to examine the role of politics and actors in the Europe of Knowledge. Potential contributions could address the following: Is there a dominant set of actors who are the driving force in the process of creating the Europe of Knowledge? Who are these actors on an individual or organisational level, what politics do they represent, and how do they reconcile the overlapping boundaries between education and research? Are they moving between the European Research Area and the European Higher Education Area? If so, are EU knowledge policies more coherent as a result of these actors’ stable interests? Or are these policies lacking coherence because these actors’ interests are in flux due to struggles in different fields? To what extent do the outcomes reflect these tensions? From another angle, contributions could also investigate: how are party politics, coalitions, political cleavages, social forces, and/or actor networks affecting policy? How do political changes over time within the member states impact EU policy formation? Papers might also take a more methodological approach: Is the world of policy making in the Europe of Knowledge virtually unknowable? How can we reveal these hidden processes? Are there prevailing ideas, interests, instruments and institutions (4Is) that political actors represent or stand for? How can we identify them and make them analytically operational?
Send paper abstracts to: Dragan Mihajlovic (firstname.lastname@example.org), deadline 19 January 2014
Converging modes of governance in the Europe of Knowledge (I): academic-oriented science
Chair/discussant: Dagmar Simon/Tim Flink (WZB, Germany)
Over the last decades, the academic-oriented science system has seen far-reaching changes triggered by other domains of society, in particular the state and business. Science is regarded as a major factor stimulating both economic innovation and for substantiating political decision-making. Researchers increasingly engage in consulting activities and collaborate with the private sector on a regular basis, allowing industry to turn ideas from the laboratory into marketable products. Hardly any policy field in modern welfare-state democracies does not rely on scientific expertise. Facing these changing demands and expectations from its institutional environment, the academic landscape has undergone such immense changes that political science should not blank out. Altogether, one can state that more than ever academic-oriented research seems to stand at the crossroads of either becoming increasingly defined by political and commercial interests or remaining autonomous in its operations, given that core scientific institutions are facing tremendous reorganization, with strategic concepts, governance modes and partnerships changing, and with new actors and actors’ constellations suddenly rising up. While increasing scepticism towards the self-regulatory capacities of science calling for more effective modes of evaluation (including peer reviewing, institutional and systemic evaluations) can be observed, there are also trends of resurrecting the legitimacy of fundamental science, borne by new (and discursive) categories of vertical and horizontal differentiation, e.g. frontier research and excellence. Will academic research, political and commercial interests become increasingly inseparable or will researchers reject or strategically cope with such demands and, thereby, even strengthen their academic and disciplinary identities? To elaborate on the interrelatedness of academic-oriented science vis-à-vis state and business interests, we invite scholars to present theoretical concepts, case studies and comparative research from different fields, such as science and technology studies, policy analysis and science policy studies, evaluation research, administrative science and global/transnational governance studies.
Send paper abstracts to: Tim Flink (email@example.com), deadline 19 January 2014
Converging modes of governance in the Europe of Knowledge (II): regulatory science
Chair/discussant: Rebecca-Lea Korinek/Holger Straßheim (WZB, Germany)
Regulatory science shows contradictions seemingly pertaining to the transforming of the science-policy nexus in total: the political interest in science to solve collective problems has never been higher, e.g. under the heading of evidence-based policy. However, while political and administrative actors in these areas insist on the scientific basis of regulation, regulatory science has lost credibility. Moreover, the dichotomy between academic-oriented and regulatory science has been contested, calling for more complex concepts of the science-policy-politics-nexus, its governance modes and cultural embeddedness. In discussing regulatory science vis-à-vis the state, business and society, this panel systematically links up to the second panel concerning academic-oriented science.
Send paper abstracts to: Tim Flink (firstname.lastname@example.org), deadline 19 January 2014
Comparative higher education regionalism
Chair/discussant: Marie-Luce Paris (UCD, Ireland)/Pauline Ravinet (Lille, France)
Higher education is often considered the next frontier in the ‘knowledge economy’ race to attract, train and retain the ‘best-and-brightest’. Throughout the last two decades, we see a multiplication of regional initiatives pre-dating or attempting to replicate the success of the Bologna Process. This panel invites papers to reflect on the uniqueness of the European experience as a part of the wider global phenomenon known as ‘higher education regionalism’.
Send paper abstracts to: Pauline Ravinet (email@example.com), deadline 19 January 2014
Instruments for attracting talent to the Europe of Knowledge
Chair/discussant: Lucie Cerna (OECD)
Attracting talent – students, researchers, entrepreneurs, professionals and scientists – remains a cornerstone for the Europe of Knowledge and this panel invites papers to examine the adopted instruments for this purpose. Policy instruments in the knowledge domain come in a variety of forms. They may be, inter alia, ‘hard’ (i.e. directives, regulations), ‘soft’ (standards), ‘distributive’ (framework programmes, now Horizon 2020), or even ‘networked’. Put simply, the instruments for consolidating the European Research Area (ERA) and the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) – the two central pillars making up the Europe of Knowledge – can be considered to be a veritable ‘policy mix’. This panel invites contributions that explore the role of instruments for attracting talent to the Europe of Knowledge. We are interested in papers that identify the explanatory or intervening effect that policy design and implementation have had on knowledge policy integration in Europe. Papers can address developments at the EU-level or the implementation or translation of EU instruments in domestic arenas. We welcome analyses of knowledge policy instruments in these areas: scientific mobility (e.g. knowledge networks; talent migration; scientific visa); funding; qualifications framework and so on. Papers can address any of these questions: How are these instruments developed, by whom, according to what models and with what political aims? What are the effects of policy implementation? To what extent has Europe succeeded in meeting its targets? In order to better assess developments in and outside of Europe, we also welcome a comparative approach: To what extent can we speak of EU/European approaches? Can we find similarities between EU instruments and those that have been adopted elsewhere in the world or in other regions (Asia, Latin America, Africa and so on)?
Send paper abstracts to: Lucie Cerna (firstname.lastname@example.org), deadline 19 January 2014
Instruments for research funding in the Europe of Knowledge
Chair/discussant: Mitchell Young (Charles University, Czech Republic)
Research funding instruments play a crucial role in shaping what is researched, where, and by whom. While the vast majority of research funding is controlled by national governments, the EU nevertheless has actively sought to shape the overall environment. This panel is interested in contributions that explore the effects that funding instruments have in constructing the Europe of Knowledge as well as the multi-level interaction between national and European instruments. Policy instruments come in a variety of forms. They may be, inter alia, ‘hard’ (i.e. directives, regulations), ‘soft’ (standards, Europe 2020 objectives), ‘distributive’ (framework programmes, now Horizon 2020), or even ‘networked’. We welcome analyses of any policy instruments that have shaped and are shaping research funding in Europe. This includes the broad distributive frameworks programmes, but also the specific instruments which are found under this umbrella (ERC, Societal Challenges, Marie Curie, EIT) as well as instruments related to mobility, spending levels, industrial competitiveness etc. We are especially interested in papers that identify the explanatory or intervening effect that policy design and implementation have had on knowledge policy integration in Europe, particularly those national instruments that incentivise applications to EU funding programmes. Papers can focus on developments at the EU-level or the implementation or translation of EU instruments in domestic arenas. Papers can address any of these questions: How are the instruments developed, by whom, according to what models and with what political aims? Are the national and EU instruments competing or complementing? Is there evidence to suggest that national or EU instruments are steering European research or higher education governance? Or are the pressures external to the integration process (‘internationalisation’)? What are the effects of policy implementation? To what extent has Europe succeeded in meeting its targets?
Send paper abstracts to: Mitchell Young (email@example.com), deadline 19 January 2014
Teacher Education and Training in the Western Balkans – Is it in line with the times? Is it effective?
With an aim to assist the Western Balkans in the area of education and training, as well as to increase regional cooperation, in 2012 the European Commission launched the Western Balkans Platform on Education and Training (WB PET). It includes seven Western Balkan countries: the newest EU member state Croatia, candidate countries Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia as well as potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo.
The overall objective of EU in WB PET is to assist and provide guidance to the region in reforms in the area of education and training. The EU considers investment in education and training crucial to boost growth and competitiveness. The Platform including the Ministers of Education from the region convenes annually to identify topics and areas where regional cooperation and EU assistance is desirable. The Western Balkan countries use the Platform to discuss common issues, share good practice, identify priorities and needs for further support from the EU. The EU has provided considerable project support and assistance for teacher training both within and outside the EU. At the first Platform meeting, there was a common agreement that teacher training is the most important area for the region and EU support.
In order to identify and map teacher education and training systems and trends in Western Balkans, the European Commission (EC) conducted a study to map the education and training of primary and secondary school teachers and to improve the policy dialogue between the EU and the region.
The findings of the study were presented on 19-20 November 2013 in a regional seminar on Teacher Education and Training in the Western Balkans that assembled experts, scholars and researchers, representatives of educational institutions, civil society as well as central and local government. The purpose of the conference was to bring together key actors involved in reforming the system and process of education and training of teachers in the region. The seminar introduced cases of good practice, successful projects, identification of future cooperation opportunities for the region, and what is needed in order to move forward.
Teaching is a profession demanding innovation and continuous improvement of quality of learning systems to provide greater opportunities in a knowledge-based society. Teacher educators’, mentors’ and government’s role is to actively facilitate the learning of teachers to-be, foster innovation and creativity in teaching and learning, following latest developments in EU countries. In attempt to converge towards the EU model, the Western Balkans have experienced difficulties to adopt reforms which further promote and value teaching profession and education programs for teachers in higher education institutions.
The education reforms in the region which aim to restructure teacher education and the qualification system are in various stages of implementation. The process of teacher qualification has been carried out in a conventional manner and despite the efforts the process has been rather slow and in varying degrees among countries and pedagogical institutions. The region is experiencing slow pace of introduction of some reforms like learner-centred approaches, promotion of inclusive education in prevailing areas of ethnically divided schools in most of the countries that emerged after the dissolution of Yugoslavia. The limited innovation in teacher preparation and qualification is due to limited resources of schools and municipalities, teachers’ resistance towards change and fear of coping, poor teachers’ salaries and few or no incentives for teachers to introduce innovations.
Despite the slow pace of reforms, there have been considerable achievements in terms of legislative, policy and institutional developments across the region. Legal frameworks are mostly in place, specialized institutions have been established and strategies, large-scale plans or projects that follow the education and qualification path of teachers have been adopted.
Several cases of good practice across the region were introduced. A representative from the Bureau of Education Services from Montenegro depicted the relevance of induction of primary and secondary school teachers and enhancement of the professional knowledge of novice teachers. The qualification model for career teachers presented at school level and mentoring scheme enables novice teachers develop professionally by observing the classes of their mentors, teaching on extracurricular activities, having their classes supervised and working on their professional portfolio. Another national initiative launched by the Ministry of Education and Technological Development in cooperation with municipalities in Serbia emphasized the role of parents cooperating with schools in Serbia. This initiative has emerged because parents – despite having high expectations from schools – do not recognize their own role and contribution to education institutions. In addition, at local level parents’ councils are involved in addressing several aspects of school community e.g., good practices, sports projects or launching Google groups for communication.
Teacher’s professional development and roles
Scholars examined teachers’ roles and their multiple identities to be taken into account in the professional development system. There is a wide range of teacher educators as the main actors that contribute directly to teacher education and qualification: academic staff teaching subject course and academic discipline, academic staff teaching educational sciences and methodologies, school-based supervisors supervising teachers to-be, school-based mentors tutoring novice teachers as well as education experts in charge of professional development of teachers’ careers.
Teacher educators have key roles to advance professional development of teachers. Albeit the common set of skills, competences and knowledge, shared expertise between these actors is minimal because their tasks and responsibilities are rather divided than mutually shared and because there is a disconnection between teacher education institutions, schools, and the business sector. In order to support development of teacher educators at policy level the Western Balkan countries should establish a systematic and self-regulated way to develop teacher training professionally, design competence standards for teacher educators, adopt national legislation on the quality of teacher educators, implement code of ethics for teacher educators, include the quality of teacher educators in accreditation programs as well as select entry criteria for the profession and progression in the profession (Snoek et al., 2011).
Currently, at EU level the existing policy documents pay limited attention to teacher educators and their professionalism. At national level government bodies and agencies are the key institutions involved in developing quality standards in many EU countries. At institutional level in most countries, teacher educators’ professional development seems to be the responsibility of individual teacher education institutions. At professional level, professionals seem to be hardly involved in the development of policies that promote their professional quality.
Need to implement a systemic approach
The legislation, regulation, national strategies and plans are designed with reference to Finnish model, as the most successful in Europe, at the same time being in line with EU policies. Nonetheless it is the gap between policies, rules, regulations and plans, and their implementation in practice which delays the impact of reforms making them ineffective. There are many difficulties associated with implementation of legal changes requiring institutional and financial support, inter-institutional communication and coordination among interested parties. This is witnessed in the limited relevance and applicability of skills and knowledge offered during professional development of career teachers, unequal access to training, limited capacity of training providers, and weak or limited quality assurance programs and procedures to evaluate teaching performance. The most cumbersome aspect is the limited budget connected with teacher education and training, not to mention, that for teacher education and training aspect in particular there is no budget allocated. Unavoidably that influences the status of the teaching profession which is relatively low and there are no mechanisms to promote the relevance of this profession in order to have qualified teachers in a knowledge-based society. The relatively low salaries and status of the teaching profession often result in the admission of poor-performing students.
In order to support the Western Balkan countries towards effective reforms for a knowledge-based society a systematic approach is needed – to ensure involvement and cooperation between all the stakeholders so that professional development is not a sole responsibility of teacher educators or educational institutions alone but of the whole system; to establish national standards across the region; to reprioritize the role of school and teachers as agents of change in the community; and to involve teachers in the development of policies that promote their professional quality.
Elona Xhaferri is a teaching assistant in the Faculty of Social Science, University of Tirana, Albania and an independent consultant in the field of education. She has conducted research in several projects related to European Integration in Higher Education and Research in the framework of NORGLOBAL programme as well as co-authored a report on Bologna Process Reform in Tempus Countries on behalf of the European Commission. Recently, Ms. Xhaferri co-authored the report on Teacher Education and Training in Albania and attended the conference organized by European Commission where she presented the main findings.
This post was initially published on Europe of Knowledge blog.
Marco Snoek, Anja Swennen & Marcel van der Klink (2011): The quality of teacher educators in the European policy debate: actions and measures to improve the professionalism of teacher educators, Professional Development in Education, 37:5, 651-664.
Integrating Science and Research into the Ministry of Economy in Austria: Better Coordination of Innovation Cycle?
After the election on 29 September 2013, Austria is facing another five years of the same coalition government under the Social Democrat Werner Faymann (SPÖ) and his junior partner, the conservative Christian People’s Party (ÖVP). While the Austrian media is almost unison in attesting this renewed government a sense of gridlock, one decision has caused an outcry and stirred even demonstrations: there will be no independent ministry for science and research anymore. Instead, the conservative Reinhold Mitterlehner will add the science and higher education agenda under the wings of his Ministry of Economy.
Among the many critics, some (the author included) have argued that this may constitute an opportunity, since the minister is a heavyweight within the government (unlike his hapless predecessor, Minister Töchterle). The majority however holds that the move is a simple sign of further economisation of the higher education sector. Almost no one outside of the government believes that the decision follows a distinct political strategy; judging on ground of the past five years, we know that the two parties in power are hardly interested in science and research at all. In the concrete context of forging the government, it seems as if science had to yield to a separate portfolio for family affairs (the number of ministries should not be extended, and family affairs is deemed more necessary by the heads of the government).
Austria: Innovation Leader or Follower?
Dismantling the ministry of science and research has a distinctive European angle. According to the European Commission’s Innovation Union Scoreboard, assessing the research and innovation performance of the EU27 Member States, in 2013 Austria is still an “Innovation Follower” – despite being one of the wealthiest and most productive economies in the Union. In 2011, the previous Austrian government (with the same chancellor, the same Vice-chancellor, and the same minister for economic affairs) has adopted the so-called FTI-Strategy (Forschung-Technologie-Innovation, Research-Technology-Innovation), which boldly proclaims to make Austria an “Innovation Leader”.
The goal to become an “Innovation Leader” is ambitious, although probably not too ambitious for a country that is faring quite well during the last years. Austria, however, has embarked on a Sonderweg, particularly in comparison with other European countries of similar size: unlike Israel, Denmark, Switzerland, or Sweden, the Austrian government is devoting more than 2/3 of public R&D money to industry-related research. The contributions for basic research and universities are far lower than in the countries just mentioned.
The problems of the basic research-funding agency, FWF, and also of the universities (that have made world media coverage in 2009/10 when #unibrennt movement against restrictions to the access to higher education spread from Vienna), can be found in this rather unique and, some would suggest, quite unfair balancing of taxpayers’ money. In any case: private industry already benefits from the expansion of investment more than the public institutions such as universities. Against this backdrop, the integration of science and research into the ministry of economy could be interpreted as another blow for the scientific community in Austria.
Looking to Europe
It is, however, noteworthy to take a closer look at the various justifications for the integration (or merger?) given by the new minister Mitterlehner early this week. Interestingly, they also refer to European issues of science policy.
The first justification by Mitterlehner for integrating the science and research agenda into the ministry for economic affairs referred to European good practice models: countries like UK or Spain had done a similar merger, so the minister. It is true that in both countries, the universities, research, and science in general belong to a larger ministry (or department). In UK, however, the institutional set-up of the executive branch is too different for easy comparison. Also, with David Willets, there is a dedicated Minister of State for Science and Universities. By and large, the Spanish solution resembles what is happening in Austria right now. If that were true, the future is bleak: for the moment at least, we can only hope that the brutally hard and ignorant path of the Spanish government towards science will not serve as a template for the Austrian government.
The other justification is about synergy effects: by bringing together two branches of the national administration, policy instruments should be better coordinated in the future. Mitterlehner even mentioned that his ministry would now cover the entire innovation chain (in this written statement, this was quietly exchanged to the more appropriate notion of the innovation cycle). In the same context, the minister explicitly refers to the new European research-funding programme. The ministry would now basically mirror the different facets and pillars of Horizon 2020.
It is true that the Austrian innovation and research system requires better coordination (like many other national innovation systems do). However, it is not true that the Ministry of Economy now covers all instruments, from funding basic research to industry-support. Most of the instruments directed at applied research are actually located in the Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (bmvit). And anyhow, even if all instruments were to be located under the roof of one ministry, it is doubtful that this would result in better coordination – or at least, historically, it did not, as we learned in the early 2000s, when the bmvit was actually the only principal of almost all various agents.
Merger or subordination?
Still, the reference to Horizon 2020 is quite interesting. It is a signal that this programme has become the point of reference of research policy in EU Member States. It is also an interesting remark because it may indicate that the new leadership will be more outward looking, and will focus more on the political agenda of the European Research Area. If that were the case, the new minister may indeed start to appreciate basic research as a value on its own; and, maybe as important, he may build up more pressure on the universities to reform, something that is dearly missing so far.
So, what do we learn from this trip into the narrow world of Austrian science policy? Firstly, that the Austrian Sonderweg is probably to continue, even though the institutional integration of two ministries also holds the (unlikely) promise of strengthening all ties of the innovation cycle (and particularly the weak basic research). Secondly, we come to realize that the justifications mentioned above either do not hold, or have to be seen as signs of worse to come. And thirdly, we learn that the European research policy agenda, and “Horizon 2020” in particular, has become the point of reference for science policy in a European Union member state like Austria. Is the latter good news? Much will depend whether Minister Mitterlehner will interpret the enlargement of his portfolio as a merger of two ministries, or as the subordination of science and research under the Ministry of Economy. For that, and for concrete results of this development, we will have to wait and see.
Dr.Thomas König is currently on parental leave. In 2014, he will be a Fulbright Scholar at the Center for European Studies, Harvard University.
This post initially appeared on Europe of Knowledge blog.
Panel 1 (send abstracts to Mitchell Young: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Exploring the role of ideas in the Europe of Knowledge: from paradigm to blueprints
Chair/discussant: Meng-Hsuan Chou (NTU, Singapore) and Mitchell Young (Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic)
The year 2014 is significant for the Europe of Knowledge, marking the long-anticipated delivery and renewal of Europe’s ambition to become the global knowledge leader. Indeed, it is the deadline set for completing the European Research Area (ERA), as well as the official start of Horizon 2020, the main EU funding instrument for pure and applied research. Against this backdrop this panel invites contributions that explore the role that ideas play in European research and higher education policy cooperation. By ‘role’, we refer to the independent or intervening effects that an idea – such as the ‘fifth freedom’, competitiveness, excellence, talent, internationalisation, ‘digital revolution’, ‘Single Market of Knowledge’ and so on – have had on constructing the Europe of Knowledge. Ideas are pervasive in all aspects of public policymaking at both the national and European levels. They act as deeply entrenched paradigmatic beliefs concerning how things should and ought to be done, as well as specific policy blueprints for resolving particular policy problems. Articulated through discourse, ideas, championed by ‘amplifiers’, may chart the pathways of integration in unexpected ways. How have prominent ideas in the ERA and the European Higher Education Area determined the evolution of the Europe of Knowledge? Are there visible European and national champions of certain ideas and what strategies do they apply to promote them? And how have ideas been translated into European and domestic research and higher education policies? We welcome comparative, theoretical and empirical papers addressing these questions from practitioners and scholars at all career stages.
Panel 2 (send abstracts to Diana Beech: email@example.com)
Policy instruments in the Europe of Knowledge: design and implementation
Chair/discussant: Diana Beech (University of Cambridge, UK) and Julie Smith (University of Cambridge, UK)
Policy instruments in the knowledge domain come in a variety of forms. They may be, inter alia, ‘hard’ (i.e. directives, regulations), ‘soft’ (standards), ‘distributive’ (framework programmes, now Horizon 2020), or even ‘networked’. Put simply, the instruments for consolidating the European Research Area (ERA) and the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) – the two central pillars making up the Europe of Knowledge – can be considered to be a veritable ‘policy mix’. This panel invites contributions that explore the role of instruments in the construction of the Europe of Knowledge. We are interested in papers that identify the explanatory or intervening effect that policy design and implementation have had on knowledge policy integration in Europe. Papers can address developments at the EU-level or the implementation or translation of EU instruments in domestic arenas. We welcome analyses of any knowledge policy instruments: scientific mobility (e.g. knowledge networks; talent migration; scientific visa); funding; qualifications framework and so on. Papers can address any of these questions: How are the instruments developed, by whom, according to what models and with what political aims? Are the national and EU instruments competing or complementing? Is there evidence to suggest that national or EU instruments are steering European research or higher education governance? Or are the pressures external to the integration process (‘internationalisation’)? What are the effects of policy implementation? To what extent has Europe succeeded in meeting its targets? Papers adopting a comparative approach are especially encouraged. We welcome contributions from both practitioners and scholars at all career stages.
Interested paper presenters are asked to circulate the following to the above panel chairs by 10 January 2014:
– Full name
– Postal Address
– Email Address
– The name of any co-authors
– The title of the paper
– Research discipline
– A 250-word abstract
After being in the back front of higher education policy making for a good decade – between 80s and 90s of the past century (Corbett, 2006, 2011), the European Commission got a new opportunity to establish itself as an influential actor in the European higher education sector[i]. And it managed to do so quickly and strongly. In 2001 it became a full member of the Bologna Follow Up group with voting rights (the only non-state actor) which enabled it to co-create the Bologna agenda. The Bologna Process proved to be an important drive for higher education reforms on the European continent as well as a legitimation arena for certain projects (e.g. financial support for establishing the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education EQAR, or progressing EU’s work on transparency tools like the multidimensional ranking of higher education institutions U-Multirank). In other words, the European Commission (EC) could legitimate its financial support for projects that were established based on the Bologna Process. Through it the EU financed many initiatives and programmes to progress its vision of higher education.
But besides the Bologna Process, other events and strategies turned European higher education into a strategic tool for the economy, which are circling mainly around the Lisbon agenda of 2000. In our analysis, we have integrated two approaches: the analysis of main higher education related documents of the EC and the Council of the EU released since 2000 (17 of them) and 9 interviews with various officials ranging from civil servants to external experts responsible for higher education or involved in the creation of the texts in the EC and the Council of EU. Our main approach was the Discourse-Historical Approach (DHA) and more broadly Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). In our findings we identified three categories of ideational and discursive practice of the EU that connected higher education to the knowledge economy hegemonic imaginary (Jessop, 2008; S. Robertson, 2008; S. L. Robertson, 2010). These are: (1) instrumentalisation of higher education for economic goals, (2) ideating the new governance and steering of higher education, and (3) ideational and normative convergence – towards new constitutionalism.
In the first category – instrumentalisation for higher education for economic goals – we show that higher education turned from an untouchable field under nation states’ subsidiarity to the instrumental field for realising the Europe of Knowledge. The latter is constructed as the ultimate goal connected to economic prosperity in the global competition. Higher education is thus said to be essential means to reach European goals. The dominant discursive topic is the flow of (applied) knowledge from universities to business and society. Connecting universities to industry or enterprise is strongly promoted and proposed in different ways (spin offs, start-up companies, attracting talents from other regions, more and employable graduates, innovation). The normative background is created by pointing to many problems within European higher education which paves the way for contextual legitimacy for the proposed policy and programs. The offered ideas are thus presented as rational and feasible solutions to the outlined challenges. As if there are no other possibilities. In the mid 2000’s the discursive argument is complemented with the key word ‘excellence’ which emerges from competition and ensures attractiveness. The term ‘relevance’ appeared as a new discursive element which created an idea that it is in the public interest for universities to respond to such demands of society. In 2011 jobs became a central discursive item which further presented higher education as responsible for creating jobs, economic growth, providing appropriate skills, building human capital.
In the second category – new governance and steering – we present the discursive image or legitimation for governance reforms. The discursive strategy is to create a notion of inevitability and urgency to reform the European higher education system as ‘European universities are not fit to compete’. This is done through the messages like the ones that European universities are poorly positioned at the world rankings and lag behind their US counterparts. Consequently the ‘modernisation’ of the governance structures and financing systems are proposed in parallel to the revision of the concept of autonomy. The European Commission was advancing policy proposals in the fields of funding and quality assurance – the two strongest steering mechanisms of the higher education system. The funding is proposed to be based on multiyear contracts that would set out strategic objectives. The idea is to change it from basic to outcomes based, competitive and relevance rewarding. The funding is supposed to urgently increase, but from the private sources (i.e. industry and students). In the field of quality assurance a common European market is seen to be created with national agencies complying with the European standards and becoming members of the European register EQAR. Such agencies would operate in other European countries and higher education institutions would be free to choose. Autonomy is conceptualised as a management tool for achieving efficiency. Universities are thus expected to reform in line with the principles of the New Public Management to become more efficient, productive and economically relevant.
In the third category – towards new constitutionalism – we note that the EU indirectly creates an imaginary in which nation states alone are not able to compete at the global scale which requires regional solutions, thus creating an argument for ‘enter EU’. Moreover, higher education is compared to other economic sectors (it is mentioned that the EU has successfully supported conversion processes of steel industry and agriculture and that it is now time to modernise its ‘knowledge industry’). There are clear tendencies to shift some regulatory competences for higher education to the supranational level with the result of increasing ‘soft regulation’ such as harmonising criteria/standards, guidelines, comparisons, monitoring reports, states’ reporting etc. In other words, it is still the competence of nation states and higher education institutions to regulate and make decisions, but they do so in line with the guidelines, objectives, procedures and technologies created at the European level. Moreover, we notice institutionalisation at the European level – e.g. support for the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education ENQA, creation and strengthening of EQAR and EU transparency tools such as U-Multirank.
With such normative legitimation the ground is made fertile for reforms; solutions are proposed and presented as the only feasible and most logical; and consequently certain reforms are materialised. In addition, the EU is gaining competence and power over higher education at the regional level successfully circumventing national sovereignty. Our analysis illuminates the constructed direction of change of the European higher education. It is indeed in coherence with the hegemonic economic imaginary. It includes a variety of narratives, constructed realities, problems and proposals which seem to be obvious, rational and appropriate courses of action. What societal effects this will have in the future is still to be seen.
Janja Komljenovič is a Marie Curie PhD fellow at University of Bristol, UK.
This post has been initially published on “Europe of Knowledge” blog.
Corbett, A. (2006). Key Moments of the European Political Debate on Higher Education The Politics of European University Identity. Political and Academic Perspectives. Proceedings of the Seminar of the Magna Charta Observatory, 14 September 2006. Bologna: Bononia University Press.
Corbett, A. (2011). Ping Pong: competing leadership for reform in EU higher education 1998–2006. European Journal of Education, 46(1), 36-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3435.2010.01466.x
Jessop, B. (2008). The cultural political economy of the knowledge-based economy and its implications for higher education. In B. Jessop, N. Fairclough & R. Wodak (Eds.), Education and the knowledge based economy in Europe (pp. 13-39). Rotterdam: Sense.
Komljenovič, J. and Miklavič, K. (2013), ‘Imagining higher education in the European knowledge economy: Discourse and ideas in communications of the EU’, in Zgaga, P., Teichler, U. and Brennan, J. (eds.) The globalisation challenge for European Higher Education: Convergence and Diversity, Centres and Peripheries. Bern: Peter Lang, pp.33-54.
Robertson, S. (2008). Embracing the global: crisis and the creation of a new semiotic order to secure Europe’s knowledge-based economy. In B. Jessop, N. Fairclough & R. Wodak (Eds.), Education and the knowledge based economy in Europe (pp. 89-108). Rotterdam: Sense.
Robertson, S. L. (2010). The EU, ‘regulatory state regionalism’ and nre modes of higher education governance. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 8(1), 23-37.
[i] This text is a summary of findings that are discussed in depth in Komljenovič, J. and Miklavič, K. 2013, where we analyse how the European Commission and other EU bodies created an economic imaginary around higher education.
This entry looks at institutional changes in the relationship between vocational education and training (VET) and higher education (HE) in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland[i]. It is quite common for foreign observers to praise these three countries for the quality of their VET systems. All three countries are part of the “collective skill system cluster” (Busemeyer and Trampusch 2012) and are renowned for their extensive dual apprenticeship training systems at upper-secondary level. Dual apprenticeship training distinguishes itself from vocational training in most other European countries as it integrates training in schools and companies on the basis of extensive mediation and coordination between the state, employers, and labor representatives. In this “dual corporatist” model, practical vocational training plays a more dominant role than academic, general education – at least when compared to the two other “classic” training models, the “liberal market economy” model (e.g., in the United Kingdom) and the “state-regulated bureaucratic” model (e.g., in France) (Greinert 2005).
However, in recent years Austria, Germany, and Switzerland have also faced increasing criticism regarding the lack of permeability they provide between VET and HE. That is, as well as having an extensive system of dual apprenticeship training, there is also a historically evolved strong institutional divide between the fields of VET and HE in all three countries. In analyzing the case of Germany, Baethge (2006) has referred to this institutional divide as an “educational schism.” In fact, it can be argued that the education systems of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland are made up of two separate organizational fields, one for VET and one for HE. Over the past decades this institutional divide has been increasingly called into question. For example, the demand for skills in the workplace has changed towards more general analytical skills and away from narrowly defined job-specific skills, which challenges the main emphasis of vocational education and training practices. Furthermore, the rise in the level of average skill requirements in the service economy and knowledge society, as well as the rise in young peoples’ educational aspirations, call for greater permeability between the fields of VET and HE.
Given that the above-mentioned educational schism hinders individuals’ mobility between the respective organizational fields, institutional changes in the relationship between the fields of VET and HE that would lead to increased inter-sectorial permeability are central to enhancing educational and social mobility and life chances. In Austria, Germany, and Switzerland children are usually sorted into vocationally-oriented or academically-oriented school tracks at a very early stage (in some cases by the age of ten). An increase in institutional permeability between VET and HE would reduce the impact of entering a specific educational pathway at an early stage on the range of alternative educational pathways feasible at a later stage and, hence, contribute to the “de-endogenization” of individual life courses. This is all the more relevant since some parts of the VET systems in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland are struggling to provide young people with training opportunities or decent chances on the labor market. In addition, the institutional divide between VET and HE is being increasingly challenged by recent developments at the European level. European education and training reforms, like the Bologna and Copenhagen processes, have been gaining in strength incrementally but forcefully, and have also been demanding greater mobility between VET and HE (Powell et al. 2012). In this context, one of the key tools is the European Qualification Framework (EQF), which was formally adopted by the European Parliament and Council in April 2008. One of the basic goals of the EQF is to increase permeability between VET and HE, as it subsumes both under one qualification framework on the basis of a review of all qualifications available within a national education system by the relevant national stakeholders.
In consideration of the variety of contemporary dynamics in skill formation sketched above, the following question arises: How do the relatively similar skill formation systems in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland deal with the aforementioned challenges to the rigid institutional divide between VET and HE and with what implications for institutional permeability between these two organizational fields? Baethge (2006, on Germany) argues that the separate institutionalization of and the resulting divide between VET and HE stem from the pre-industrial era and are rooted so deeply in the social structure of society, as well as the mode of diversified quality production, that all efforts at reform over the 20th century have failed to transform it. From this perspective, there seems to be little prospect for transformative change in the divided relationship between VET and HE.
However, based on document analysis and, most importantly, several dozen expert interviews carried out with key stakeholders in all three countries between 2010 and 2011, the key finding from my fieldwork in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland is that all three countries are increasingly relying on hybridization – a specific combination of organizational and institutional elements from the two organizational fields of VET and HE – to introduce gradual institutional reforms within their long-established skill formation systems. However, due to specific factors in the respective national institutional contexts, hybridization is realized in distinct organizational forms: (1.) the dual study programs in Germany, (2.) the berufsbildende höhere Schule (higher vocational school with higher education entrance qualification, BHS) in Austria, and (3.) the Swiss organizational configuration of universities of applied sciences that directly build on dual apprenticeship training and a vocational baccalaureate.
(1.) Dual study programs combine in-company work experience with tertiary studies at vocational academies (Berufsakademien), cooperative universities (Duale Hochschulen), universities of applied science, or universities. That is, there are always at least two learning environments. Furthermore, in dual study programs, students and firms are bound by a training, part-time, practical training, or internship contract and students earn a salary. Dual studies are usually offered at Bachelor degree level. (2.) The berufsbildende höhere Schule (BHS), which takes one year longer than the general academic schools to complete, offers a five-year course that is open to everyone who has successfully completed the eighth school grade. The BHS leads to a double qualification, namely an academic baccalaureate and a VET diploma. The academic baccalaureate provides access to HE, while the VET diploma grants the right to exercise higher-level occupations. After three years of relevant professional experience, graduates from the BHS of engineering, arts and crafts and the colleges of agriculture and forestry can apply for the title “Engineer” (Standesbezeichnung Ingenieur). (3.) The Swiss universities of applied sciences were deliberately designed for vocationally trained people and are legally obliged to be practice oriented. Crucially, their governance entails elements of traditional processes in VET. Swiss universities of applied sciences are directly linked to dual apprenticeship training via the vocational baccalaureate. The Swiss vocational baccalaureate, which is regarded as the ideal path (“Königsweg”) into a Swiss university of applied sciences, builds a bridge between dual apprenticeship training and universities of applied sciences. In sum, the Swiss hybrid organizational configuration of university of applied sciences, dual apprenticeship and vocational baccalaureate combines learning processes from both VET and HE and links upper-secondary VET with post-secondary HE (see Graf 2013 for details).
Indeed, I found that these hybrid organizational forms – which signify a puzzling phenomenon considering conventional theories on skill formation in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland – represent a form of institutional permeability. However, they also signify a new premium sector, for example in terms of social prestige and labor market prospects. Furthermore, these hybrids are quite unique in international comparison. This is mainly because they build on a level of parity of esteem between VET and HE that cannot be found in more school-based VET systems like in France or VET systems that are more oriented towards “learning-on-the-job” like in the UK or the US. As the above-mentioned hybrid organizational forms are located at the nexus of the traditional organizational fields of VET and HE, their development reflects – and can provide a novel perspective on – institutional dynamics in both of these fields.
Graf, L. (2013) The Hybridization of Vocational Training and Higher Education in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Opladen, Budrich UniPress. Open Access: http://dx.doi.org/10.3224/86388043
Powell, J. J. W., Bernhard, N. & Graf, L. (2012) The Emerging European Model in Skill Formation: Comparing Higher Education and Vocational Training in the Bologna and Copenhagen Processes. Sociology of Education, 85(3): 240-258.
Dr. Lukas Graf works at the Institute of Education and Society (University of Luxembourg). Previously Lukas was a research fellow at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center where he studied the changing relationship between vocational training and higher education in international comparison.
[i] The post draws on a recent book: Graf, L. (2013) The Hybridization of Vocational Training and Higher Education in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Opladen/Berlin/Toronto, Budrich UniPress.
Diana Jane Beech
A high-level round table of important players in the European Research Area took place earlier this month to discuss the ethics and values that should lie at the heart of the forthcoming Horizon 2020 programme. At stake is the future of European research.
The European Research Area, or ERA, is bracing itself for a major change on the ‘horizon’. On 1 January 2014, the way the European Union (EU) selects and supports science projects will be superseded by the ‘Horizon 2020’ framework programme.
Equipped with a long-range budget of over €70 billion, Horizon 2020 can already lay claim to being Europe’s largest research programme.
With ‘Excellent Science’ clearly earmarked as one of its three priority areas, Horizon 2020 specifically seeks to raise the level of excellence in Europe’s science base and to foster a steady stream of world-class research, primarily to create new jobs and growth in Europe, and to secure the EU’s long-term competitiveness.
Over the course of the next seven years, then, hundreds of thousands of researchers and entrepreneurs in the EU – together with their partners across the globe – will receive funding to carry out frontier research of the highest quality in both academia and industry.
The intention is to open up new and promising fields of innovation, while working to overcome many of the world’s ‘grand challenges’ such as pandemics, climate change, security threats, and food and energy shortages.
Values and ethics
The strategic importance of science to the EU’s political agenda is clear.
Yet, while European officials and stakeholders in the research area are busily counting down to the launch of Horizon 2020, has anybody spared sufficient thought for what the role and place of values and ethics will be in the EU’s new research programme?
Until now, the focus of policy discussions has been firmly fixed on the potential of the new framework programme to break down barriers to create a genuine single European market for knowledge. Little thought has been given to defining and maintaining the ethical boundaries of European research that are so vital to its future flourishing and success.
A select group of leaders in Europe’s research and innovation community are, however, beginning to change all this and put attention back on the ‘big’ questions inherent to European science.
As recently as 5 November, some 30 ‘big names’ in the ERA got together in a high-level roundtable – the first of its kind dedicated to discussing the most pressing questions of values and ethics in the construction of ERA policy.
Forming part of a wider research project run by the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge, in the UK, the workshop was generously hosted by the Norwegian Mission to the EU under the auspices of Science Business.
The purpose of the day was to bring together leading figures from academia and industry, with members of the European parliament and scientific advisors, to reflect on the core values that are needed to drive European innovation in the ‘right’ direction for the future – and, ultimately, to draft an ethical charter for European research.
ERA’s moral purpose
Acknowledging the fact that Europe’s larger pot of public funding for research brings with it an increased number of ethical quandaries, participants were asked to think seriously about what sort of projects the EU should be funding, under what terms, and for whose benefits. At issue in the debate were the broader values of European science, and not merely its economic or social value.
As such, discussions brought to the fore some of the biggest questions surrounding the nature of Europe’s growing ‘knowledge economy’, as participants grappled to define the moral purpose of the ERA: Where is it going? Where should it be going? And what is needed to keep it on the ‘right’ track for the future?
Specific questions were asked about Horizon 2020 funds. In particular, participants debated whether the money should be used to support excellent research wherever it may be in the EU, or whether it should be distributed among the EU-28 and its respective research communities according to shared principles of fairness and equality.
Questions were also raised about the wider purpose of the money – specifically whether it should be used to promote research that generated ‘pure’ knowledge, or to support only those projects that clearly demonstrated European ‘added value’ such as the creation of new jobs, products and services.
Dichotomies of modern-day research dominated discussions, and participants debated at length the issues raised by private gain versus public good, trust versus accountability, and freedom versus solidarity.
Central to all of these issue clusters were questions of responsibility. For example, what responsibility, if any, do ERA policy-makers have to ensure that Europe’s research outputs are used for the good of the wider society?
To what extent do researchers receiving EU funds, and their institutions, share this responsibility? And how do we ensure a basic level of scientific integrity, particularly in the light of Horizon 2020’s emphasis on collaborations across borders, disciplines and sectors?
The detailed results of the round table are due to be published in an official report by Science Business at the end of this month. The results will form the basis of a new charter for European research that seeks to ensure the aims of Europe’s new framework programme remain as holistic as its intended approach.
The future and success of European science policy is about much more than science itself. It stems from a rich post-war history of scientific diplomacy continually bringing people together for purposes of peace and prosperity and the common good.
To move effectively into the future, then, Horizon 2020 needs to embrace this value-driven approach, not simply developing Europe’s science, but developing Europe’s con-science as well.
* Dr Diana Jane Beech is a research associate at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge, UK, where she is currently working on a project exploring the role and relevance of values in the European Research Area, or ERA. She is also an active member of the ‘Voice of the Researchers’ multipliers group and the communications coordinator of a collaborative research network dedicated to the study of the ERA.
Today mobility across national borders is seen as increasingly important for competitive labor market, excellent research and higher education. Free movement of people is one of the four freedoms constituting the EU Single Market. Facilitating mobility of researchers is among the core aims of the European Research Area, while the ERASMUS programme supports student mobility.
However, international mobility requires specific mechanisms and instruments that would allow people to properly set up in their new homelands – find places to study and work. That is why the key issue related to the development of the European mobility is the ability to compare and recognize qualifications for the needs of lifelong learning and labor market. It should be stressed that the transparency of qualifications systems and recognition of qualifications is very important in the context of mobility not only within the EU but also around the world.
For some years we can observe various instruments introduced by the EU, supporting the process of building the European Area of Skills and Qualifications. The European Area of Skills and Qualifications can be understood as a citizen and business friendly EU area where the skills and qualifications are easily compared and recognised. The aim of building this area is directly connected with enhancing personal development of learners, and thus the development and mobility of the European society, as well as strengthening the EU Single Market. The EU has developed a number of instruments designed to facilitate the mobility of Europeans (some of them are: the Professional Qualifications Directive (Directive 2005/36/EC), the European Qualifications Framework (EQF), Europass, European credit transfer systems (ECTS and ECVET), the multilingual classification of European Skills/Competences, Qualifications and Occupations (ESCO)).
It is not easy to assess how coherent the EU institutions have been when recommending all the lifelong learning and qualification policy instruments to the Member States and to what extent those instruments have facilitated the European mobility and contributed to the concept of building the European Area of Skills and Qualifications. Calendini and Storai (2002)[i] indicate that the difficulties in the mutual recognition of qualifications by the Member States do not stem from the technical or methodological difficulties, but are associated with differences between the European societies and the differences between various national approaches. They describe concept of the European market for qualifications as problematic one and unlikely to become a reality, because of the weaknesses of the plans for harmonization of national education sectors. Moreover, Calendini and Storai argue that the construction of a coherent system of qualifications is complicated, because of many organizations with conflicting interests and different classifications. The only available tool of action in the opinion of the authors is a consensus on a level of a common European definition of qualifications.
In the light of the ongoing reforms of the European qualifications systems and the European strategies for education and skills, the question on the EU ability to build an internal European Area of Skills and Qualifications remains unanswered. It is worth asking the question about the compatibility of the EU instruments impact on the construction of a European Area of Skills and Qualifications. The other question mark concerns the possibility to build the European area of skills and qualifications, taking into account the differences between the education systems, methods of training and quality assurance systems.
Economic changes in Europe and the needs of the labour market will certainly play a significant role when looking for the answers. For the time being I echo Calendini and Storai opinion that solutions concerning the skills and qualifications in various countries will more or less vary. Close cooperation with the social partners, trade unions, education and business sector actors need to be conducted both on the level of the EU and Member States. The well-functioning common area of skills and qualifications cannot be achieved by implementation of the EU directive or regulation; to be successful it needs cooperation among stakeholders.
Marta Ponikowska is an analyst at the Educational Research Institute, Warsaw, Poland. Her research focusses on Law and Education.
Governance of the Europe of Knowledge
10-11 April 2014
Robinson College, Cambridge
Workshop aim: The year 2014 is significant for the Europe of Knowledge, marking the long-anticipated delivery and renewal of Europe’s ambition to become the global knowledge leader. Indeed, it is the deadline set for completing the European Research Area (ERA), as well as the official start of Horizon 2020, the main European Union (EU) funding instrument for pure and applied research. Against this backdrop, this workshop invites papers to go beyond the ‘crisis mode’ that has occupied EU studies in recent years and to critically reflect on the evolution of European knowledge cooperation and governance. Specifically, we are interested in theoretical, empirical and comparative contributions that investigate the role of the ‘four I’s’ – ideas, interests, instruments and institutions – in the construction of the Europe of Knowledge. By ‘role’, we refer to the effects that an idea, an actor (individual or organisational), a policy instrument and an institution have on the ‘knowledge area building’ exercise. Our focus on ‘roles’ is to enable a multidisciplinary discussion on whether these factors share defining characteristics across the different knowledge policy domains (i.e. research and higher education). From a research design perspective, this entails conceptualising the ‘four I’s’ as either independent or intervening variables.
Potential papers could explore a variety of themes. For instance, questions may include but are not restricted to: Do ideas and concepts such as the ‘fifth freedom’ impact policy cooperation in the same way in the research domain as in the higher education sector? Or do they reveal different properties (e.g. normative vs. strategic)? If so, to what extent does this difference account for the development we currently observe? Another avenue of investigation is to identify the actor constellation and institutional arrangements shaping and emerging due to the overlap between the ERA and the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) (e.g. doctoral education). Can we see a dominant set of actors moving between the ERA and the EHEA? If so, are EU knowledge policies more coherent as a result of these actors’ stable interests? Or, conversely, are policies in the knowledge domains radically different because these core actors’ interests change when moving from sector to sector? To what extent does the implementation of adopted policy instruments for the ERA and EHEA contribute to destabilising or strengthening the Europe of Knowledge? More broadly, possible papers could also address whether the European experience is unique or part of a wider global phenomenon known as ‘higher education regionalism’?
Workshop organisers: Dr Diana Beech (Cambridge), Dr Meng-Hsuan Chou (NTU), Dr Julie Smith (Cambridge)
Workshop call for paper: We will cover accommodation for selected participants for the duration of the workshop; refreshments and meals will be provided. If you are interested, please send the following to Meng-Hsuan Chou (hsuan.chou [at] cantab.net) and Julie Smith (jes42 [at] cam.ac.uk) before the 9th of December 2013, 18.00 GMT:
(1) Paper title
(2) Extended abstract (700 words)
(3) Thematic focus of the paper (ideas, interests, institutions or instruments)
(4) Your name, email and contact details
(5) Current institutional affiliation and position
9 December 2013 (18.00 GMT): extended abstract due
15 December 2013: acceptance notification
20 December 2013: workshop confirmation from accepted contributors
14 March 2014: workshop programme available
28 March 2014: full papers due
10-11 April 2014: workshop