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CFP: Transnational actors in knowledge policies – ideas, interests and institutions (2016 ECPR)

Panel: Transnational actors in knowledge policies – ideas, interests and institutions

  • Co-chairs: Tatiana Fumasoli (University of Oslo) – and Martina Vukasovic (Ghent University) – 
  • Co-discussants (TBC): Åse Gornitzka (University of Oslo) and Simona Piattoni (Universty of Trento and University of Agder)

Apart from supranational and intergovernmental dynamics, European knowledge policy-making is marked also by a transnational dimension related to the involvement of non-state actors in decision-making (Elken & Vukasovic, 2014; Fumasoli, 2015b; Piattoni, 2010). These non-state actors are often organized across nation-states and include both collective actors – academic and university associations (e.g. European Academies, European University Association), students and staff unions (e.g. European Students Union, Education International), funding and quality assurance agencies (e.g. European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education) – and individuals (experts and individuals working for the collective actors).

Some of these are, in organizational studies’ terminology, meta-organizations (organizations of organizations) with complex internal structures, membership and identity (Ahrne & Brunsson, 2008). We consider meta-organizations those organizations that have institutional membership exclusively, or have institutional membership along with individual membership. In political science, such organizations are considered to be interest groups, organizations with an explicit political mandate to influence decision-makers at various governance levels (Beyers, Eising, & Maloney, 2008). They are often seen as spokespersons of the various stakeholders, expected to increase the legitimacy of decisions made (Moravcsik, 2002; Neave & Maassen, 2007). In addition, these organizations provide communication platforms and can act as sites of social learning and persuasion about appropriateness of specific ideas, norms and values, thus facilitating cross-national policy platform and socialization of actors (Checkel, 2003; Voegtle, Knill, & Dobbins, 2011). A perspective from the sociology of professions characterizes these transnational organizations as pursuing professional development, protecting their professional jurisdiction, and fostering their professional identity (Freidson, 2001; Larson, 2013). Those are traditionally structured around scientists- and scholars’ individual membership, and focus on a distinctive discipline. However these organizations might display multiple types of membership as well (Fumasoli, 2015a), and might activate themselves as interest groups, insofar they consider that their concerns need to be addressed in policy arenas (Truman, 1993 cited in Beyers et al., 2008, p. 1107).

Apart from operating across nation-states, these actors also operate across governance levels (e.g. European and national, federal and state), bringing new ideas, advancing the interests of their constituencies and re-shaping the institutional arrangements of policy-making in the area of knowledge. As such, they are uniquely positioned to influence policy formation (including agenda-setting, policy design and policy-decision), as well as policy implementation and policy evaluation.

Yet, despite their important role in governance and societal dynamics in general, such organizations have been the focus of rather limited scholarly interest thus far. The panel welcomes papers exploring how these emerging actors participate in the policy arena and what impact they may have on policy decisions across governance levels. Theoretical and methodological approaches should be clearly presented in the abstract and elaborated on in the paper.


Ahrne, G., & Brunsson, N. (2008). Meta-organizations. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Beyers, J., Eising, R., & Maloney, W. (2008). Researching Interest Group Politics in Europe and Elsewhere: Much We Study, Little We Know? West European Politics, 31(6), 1103-1128. doi: 10.1080/01402380802370443

Checkel, J. T. (2003). “Going native” in Europe? Theorizing social interaction in European institutions. Comparative Political Studies, 36(1-2), 209-231.

Elken, M., & Vukasovic, M. (2014). Dynamics of voluntary policy coordination: the case of Bologna Process. In M.-H. Chou & Å. Gornitzka (Eds.), The Europe of Knowledge: Comparing Dynamics of Integration in Higher Education and Research Policies (pp. 131-159). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Freidson, E. (2001). Professionalism : the third logic: Cambridge : Polity.

Fumasoli, T. (2015a). European academic associations: mapping their characteristics, capacity and institutional embedding – preliminary work. Paper presented at the CHEGG seminar, Ghent University.

Fumasoli, T. (2015b). Multi-level governance in higher education. In J. Huisman, H. de Boer, D. D. Dill & M. Souto-Otero (Eds.), The Palgrave International Handbook of Higher Education Policy and Governance (pp. 76-94). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Larson, M. S. (2013). The rise of professionalism : monopolies of competence and sheltered markets. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.

Moravcsik, A. (2002). Reassessing Legitimacy in the European Union. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 40(4), 603-624. doi: 10.1111/1468-5965.00390

Neave, G., & Maassen, P. (2007). The Bologna Process: An Intergovernmental Policy Perspective. In P. Maassen & J. P. Olsen (Eds.), University Dynamics and European Integration (Vol. 19, pp. 135-153). Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands.

Piattoni, S. (2010). The theory of multi-level governance: conceptual, empirical, and normative challenges. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Voegtle, E. M., Knill, C., & Dobbins, M. (2011). To what extent does transnational communication drive cross-national policy convergence? The impact of the Bologna process on domestic higher education policies. Higher Education, 61(1), 77-94. doi: 10.1007/s10734-010-9326-6


This panel is proposed for the 2016 ECPR Section (7-10 September 2016, Prague). If you are interested in participating in this panel please get in touch with the co-chairs. 

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