European Research Area CRN

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Welcome to our Collaborative Research Network for the ERA!

The ERA-CRN seeks to establish a sustainable research network of scholars at various stages of their careers working on the construction of a European Single Market of Knowledge.

It is based at Robinson College, Cambridge, UK – host of the 41st Annual Conference of the University Association for Contemporary European Studies (UACES) and the place at which the ERA-CRN was first conceptualised!

For the presentation of our launch events, please see here.

Intellectual rationale behind the ERA-CRN:

The construction of the European Research Area (ERA) is one of the most under-studied phenomena in European integration. This is surprising given its high political salience, and the urgent call in the Europe 2020 Strategy for its completion by 2014. As researchers studying knowledge governance in Europe and the EU, we note both the lack of scholarly interest in these developments and the potential they offer for theorising, given the familiar sectoral tensions (turf battles between research, industry and higher education), as the ERA is a site of innovative governance where the ‘Open-Method of Coordination’ and ‘Community Method’ interact. As practitioners involved in implementing some of its measures, we have identified the structuring effects the ERA could have on how research will be conducted and funded in Europe and abroad. An ERA-CRN that unites scholars with different disciplinary expertise through common research interests and questions is thus long overdue.

Funding of the ERA-CRN:

The ERA-CRN has been awarded funding from UACES for the period Spring 2013 to Spring 2016 inclusive. The coordinators of the ERA-CRN would like to take this opportunity to thank UACES and the Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union for generous support.

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Organisation of the ERA-CRN:

To encourage interdisciplinary debates and reflection on the less-than-clear-cut nature of the ERA, the ERA-CRN is organised as three research clusters:

  1. ERA governance
  2. European Higher Education Area (EHEA) governance
  3. Global governance of knowledge

The ERA governance cluster addresses core questions concerning the creation of the ERA, e.g. How and why has the ERA evolved? What roles do it and the ‘fifth freedom’ (i.e. free movement of knowledge) play in European integration?

These discussions are systematically linked with those in the EHEA governance cluster which considers questions concerning boundaries between the ERA and EHEA.

Finally, the Global governance of knowledge cluster sheds light on the distinctiveness and commonalities of the European approach compared to other regional public and private efforts to tackle the changing nature of research and higher education governance.

Themes addressed by the ERA-CRN:

  • Law and ideas: the role of the ERA and the ‘fifth freedom’ in European integration; law and higher education governance and its implications for a European knowledge area;
  • Governance and effects: policy learning and coordination in multi-level European research governance; governance of the interface between the ERA and EHEA; regionalisation and internationalisation of HE and research; enduring principles (academic freedom) and performance measures;
  • Legitimacy, trust and values: in the construction of the ERA and EHEA;
  • Actor constellations and institutional arrangements: shaping and emerging due to the ERA; overlap of the ERA and EHEA; global governance of knowledge (offshore campuses; MOOCs).

Intended activities, outputs and targets of the ERA-CRN:

The main goals of the ERA-CRN are:

(a) to facilitate basic research on the ERA and the European knowledge area by bringing together scholars at all stages of the careers from a variety of disciplines, including European studies, research policy, higher education studies, law, and sociology of science and technology, and

(b) to ensure the sustainability of this CRN.

Our intended academic activities include engagement with the critical debates concerning the ERA in practice, collaborative publications, and discussions concerning all aspects of research (methodologies, theories, data collection, processing, and analysis). At the same time, we are aware that our findings are highly relevant for policy work. We will therefore ensure that we publish policy-relevant papers as well as more traditional academic contributions.

Please see Contact for ways to reach us.


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