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What is higher education regionalism? And how should we study it?

Meng-Hsuan Chou and Pauline Ravinet

Higher education is undeniably global. But this did not prevent interested policy actors, meeting on the occasion of the 650th anniversary of the University of Vienna in 2015, to emphasise the significance of the global and international dimension, as their colleagues have done at the 800th anniversary of the University of Paris nearly 20 years ago. As academics, we know that higher education has a deep relationship with globalisation: from rankings to mobility of students, faculty, and staff; from quality assurance to student-centred learning outcomes; from university governance to the digitalisation of teaching and research collaboration. It is nearly impossible to separate the two. Yet we are still lacking a clear and shared definition of ‘global’ and ‘globalisation’ among higher education practitioners, scholars, and observers—the very people who have been struck by their intensifying relationship since the very beginning, whenever that was. Our handbook chapter develops a set of conceptual tools and lenses to understand the global transformation of the higher education sector by focussing on a particular pattern of this phenomenon we call higher education regionalism (Chou and Ravinet 2015).

Scanning the globe, we see regional initiatives in the higher education sector. For instance, in Europe, we have the Bologna Process towards a European Higher Education Area, familiar to the readers of this blog. But there are many more. Indeed, there have been consistent efforts in building common areas in Africa: the African Union’s harmonisation strategy, sub-regional initiatives of the Southern African Development Community, and activities of the African and Malagasy Council for Higher Education. Similarly, in Latin America, there is the ENLACES initiative, the MERCOSUR mechanisms for programme accreditation (MEXA) and mobility scheme (MARCA). Looking East to Asia, there are the many initiatives from the AUN and the very exciting SHARE programme. These are manifestations of higher education regionalism, which we define as referring to:

[A] political project of region creation involving at least some state authority (national, supranational, international), who in turn designates and delineates the world’s geographical region to which such activities extend, in the higher education policy sector (Chou and Ravinet 2015: 368).

We derived this definition after a review of what has been written on higher education regionalism in political science and in higher education studies—two distinct sets of literature that have much to say about this phenomenon, but rarely engage each other in a fruitful conversation on the subject. From political science, we learned from scholars who examined regions, ‘new regionalism’, and European integration (Caporaso and Choi 2002; Fawcett and Gandois 2010; Hettne 2005; Hettne and Söderbaum 2000; Mattli 2012; Warleigh-Lack 2014; Warleigh-Lack and Van Langenhove 2010). From higher education studies, we obtained insights from scholars who are serious about the impact that the re-composition of space, scales, and power have on past, current, and the future state of higher education (Gomes, Robertson and Dale 2012; Jayasuriya and Robertson 2010; Knight 2012, 2013).

The lessons from our review led us to these three positions concerning the study of higher education regionalism:

  • It must be comparative. Studying higher education regionalism means comparing varieties of higher education regionalisms to consider the sector’s apparent isomorphism.
  • It must be sector-based. Studying higher education regionalism is to take serious the particular dynamics of higher education and how they interact with the wider multi-purpose regional organisation (EU, ASEAN, AU, etc.) and national needs.
  • It must be differentiated. Studying higher education regionalism means to distinguish between intra-regional initiatives (within one geographical region) and inter-regional initiatives (between at least two geographical regions).

With these points of departure, we proposed a heuristic framework to study higher education regionalism along these three dimensions:

  1. Constellation of actors central and active in these processes: this means identifying the individual and collective actors involved and mapping their interaction patterns.
  1. Institutional arrangements adopted, abandoned, and debated: this refers to identifying the institutional form and rules and the instruments considered and accepted.
  1. Ideas and principles embedded and operationalised: this points to identifying the paradigms, policy ideas, and programmatic ideas guiding the instances of higher education regionalisms.

These three dimensions require intensive fieldwork with the key actors involved, which we are currently undertaking in the Southeast Asia region. But we invite researchers—especially those examining less studied regions such as Africa and Latin America—to get in touch so that together we can contribute to the conversation about higher education and globalisation from the regional perspective.


Meng-Hsuan Chou is Nanyang Assistant Professor of public policy and global affairs at NTU Singapore and Pauline Ravinet is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Lille 2. They both acknowledge the generous support from Singapore’s Ministry of Education AcRF Tier 1 and Institut Français de Singapour (IFS) and NTU Singapore’s Merlion grant for this research.



Caporaso, J. A. and Y. J. Choi (2002) ‘Comparative regional integration’, in W. Carlsnaes, T. Risse and B. A. Simmons (eds) Handbook of International Relations (pp. 480–500) (London: Sage).

Chou, M.-H. and P. Ravinet (2015) ‘The Rise of “higher education regionalism”: An Agenda for Higher Education Research’ in J. Huisman, H. de Boer, D.D. Dill and M. Souto-Otero (eds) Handbook of Higher Education Policy and Governance (pp. 361-378) (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan).

Fawcett, L. and H. Gandois (2010) ‘Regionalism in Africa and the Middle East: Implications for EU studies’, Journal of European Integration, 32(6), 617–636.

Gomes, A. M., Robertson, S. L. and R. Dale (2012) ‘The social condition of higher education: Globalisation and (beyond) regionalisation in Latin America’, Globalisation, Societies and Education, 10(2), 221–246.

Hettne, B. (2005) ‘Beyond the “New” regionalism’, New Political Economy, 10(4), 543–571.

Hettne, B. and F. Söderbaum (2000) ‘Theorising the rise of regionness’, New Political Economy, 5(3), 457–472.

Jayasuriya, K. and S. L. Robertson (2010) ‘Regulatory regionalism and the governance of higher education’, Globalisation, Societies and Education, 8(1), 1–6.

Knight, J. (2012) ‘A conceptual framework for the regionalization of higher education: application to Asia’, in J. N. Hawkins, K. H. Mok and D. E. Neubauer (eds) Higher Education Regionalization in Asia Pacific (pp. 17–36) (New York: Palgrave Macmillan).

Knight, J. (2013) ‘Towards African higher education regionalization and Harmonization: functional, organizational and political approaches’, International Perspectives on Education and Society, 21, 347–373.

Mattli, W. (2012) ‘Comparative regional integration: Theoretical developments’, in E. Jones, A. Menon and S. Weatherill (eds) The Oxford Handbook of the European Union (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Warleigh-Lack, A. (2014) ‘EU studies and the new Regionalism’, in K. Lynggaard, K. Löfgren and I. Manners (eds) Research Methods in European Union Studies (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan).

Warleigh-Lack, A. and L. Van Langenhove (2010) ‘Rethinking EU Studies: The Contribution of Comparative Regionalism’, Journal of European Integration, 32(6), 541–562.


This entry was initially posted on Europe of Knowledge blog.

Academic work and careers in Europe

ChangTatiana_bookcovering working conditions at European universities are studied in a recent book ‘Academic Work and Careers in Europe – Trends, Challenges, Perspectives’, edited by Tatiana Fumasoli, Gaële Goastellec and Barbara Kehm. Tatiana Fumasoli tells about the main findings presented in the book.

Q1: What have been the rationales and origins of this book?

The book explores the impact of changes in governance, work and careers in European higher education. It observes empirically how and to what extent a European higher education profession is emerging through convergence, standardization and formalization of academic careers.  The book is an output of the project EuroAC – The Academic Profession in Europe: Responses to Societal Challenges, funded by the European Science Foundations and national research councils coordinated by University of Kassel (Germany). It originates from the qualitative data gathered in 8 European countries (Austria, Germany, Finland, Croatia, Ireland, Poland, Romania and Switzerland) by the 8 national partners. Around 500 interviews were conducted with university leaders, administrators and academics.

Q2: What are the main common trends in academic work and careers in Europe?

Standardization and formalization of recruitment, promotion and evaluation, as well as of PhD supervision is everywhere apparent and an international dimension is nowadays – at least ideally – integrated in European universities, for instance in hiring, conducting research, teaching.

Competition for academic positions, research grants, publications is increasing at all levels and takes place within and across universities and countries. Such competitive pressures shape increasing differences between global players (countries, universities, academics) and regional players. Thus elite universities, research groups and academics are connecting more among themselves and less within their institutional and national settings.

Q3: What are the main differences between the eight European countries you analyze in the book?

In general the increasing institutional autonomy of universities across Europe has shaped complex dynamics that are not completely under the control of states. The stagnating or shrinking public funding has created unequal distribution of resources among universities, which hold different adaptive capacities.

Concretely, national and local practices are still important in the organization of academic careers. In this sense, the landscape of a European academic profession is still rather fragmented. The recent financial crisis has affected European countries quite differently.

Q4: Are the main policies on academic careers made at national and institutional levels or does the European Union also play a role?

There is no doubt that the EU is influencing the restructuring of academic careers and work. First, the standards of research for participating in the Framework Programs (on-going Horizon 2020) have diffused across EU members and ERA associate members. Second, the Commission has been involved in the Bologna process quite early. Third, the EU has contributed to enhance an understanding (and a legitimating role) of higher education institutions in the construction of Europe of Knowledge. This has focused the public debate also on the role of academics and their contribution to societies. Finally, the idea of a free market of knowledge is met with a certain criticism by most academics, who have to balance personal and family life with long years of uncertainty before achieving a permanent position.

Q5: What are the main messages for policy-makers and practitioners?

Europe has excellent academics in all scientific fields, however their careers and trajectories are prone to chance and to sometimes idiosyncratic choices. There is a waste of resources in forming academics, having them compete for positions, publications, research funding, that is arguably not efficient. If the knowledge society is key to socio-economic development, the role and organization of academic careers should be addressed more structurally at European and national levels.

Professional organizations like universities rely on individuals (that is academics) for producing knowledge and not on technologies, structures, routines, which can be designed. From this point of view it is astonishing how few universities and higher education systems have addressed thoroughly academic careers in order to improve their performance. There is a tension between the traditional professional control on careers and the demands for more effective use of resources that should be addressed.

Q6: What would be interesting avenues for future research? 

Academics are professionals with multiple affiliations and loyalties, as they are embedded in higher education institutions and discipline-based communities; as such they strive to protect their academic freedom and control of their teaching and research activities.

The European dimension has become an arena where academic professional interests can be advocated and promoted. It is thus relevant to investigate how academics engage in European policy processes, how they link across Europe to other actors and arenas, and which factors empower and constrain them in protecting their professional interests. Given the increasing number of European academic associations, academies, scientific journals we should scrutinize how the integration of higher education and research at national and European level is affected.

Academics’ engagement in European policy processes will be the topic of the panel “Transnational actors in the multi-level governance of knowledge policies” in the section “The Global Governance of Knowledge Policies: Europe of Knowledge in Context” at the ECPR General Conference in Montreal, August 2015.

Dr. Tatiana Fumasoli is a Post-doctoral fellow at the ARENA Centre for European Studies, and an assistant professor at the Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Oslo. Previously she was a researcher at the Institute of Management of University of Lugano (Switzerland), where she received her PhD with a thesis on strategy of higher education institutions. Tatiana presently works in the Flagship Project, funded by the Research Council of Norway, and investigating institutional change dynamics in European universities. Her interest lies on strategic agency of political and social actors and on its implications for policy and governance of higher education and research. Her work has appeared, among others, in Higher Education, Minerva, Higher Education Policy, International Journal of Public Administration, and with Springer and Palgrave.


This entry was initially posted on Europe of Knowledge blog.


CFP: UACES CRN workshop on ‘The politics of knowledge: Europe and beyond’ (16-17 July 2015, Robinson College, Cambridge)

Workshop organisers:

Dr Meng-Hsuan Chou (NTU Singapore) – hsuan.chou [at]

Dr Julie Smith (Robinson College, University of Cambridge) – jes42 [at]

Mitchell Young (Charles University in Prague) – young.mitchell [at]


Workshop Aim

Knowledge policies are at the forefront of contemporary global politics. There is an accepted belief among policymakers that knowledge is the foundation on which societies coalesce and economies thrive. Indeed, the competition for knowledge can be said to be driving the global race for talent. For the second workshop of the UACES collaborative research network on the European Research Area, we invite contributions covering and going beyond Europe to examine the politics of knowledge policies around the world. This workshop is geared towards answering the following questions: What key themes should we address when we talk about the politics of knowledge policies? How and why are these themes crucial for our understanding of politics and policymaking in sectors such as higher education, research, and innovation?

We invite theoretical, empirical and comparative contributions that investigate the role of the ‘four I-s’ – ideas, interests, instruments and institutions – in the politics of knowledge policies. By role, we refer to the effects that ideas, actors (individual, organisational), policy instruments and institutions have had on the national, regional and global governance of knowledge policies, and vice versa. This focus on ‘roles’ is to enable a multidisciplinary discussion on whether these factors share defining characteristics across the different knowledge policy domains (research, higher education, innovation), between distinct governance levels, and within and across geographical regions.

Potential papers could explore a variety of themes. For instance, they may address how and why particular ideas (‘excellence’, ‘talent’, ‘21st century skills’, ‘knowledge-based’) find policy resonance around the world, while others fail to do so. Are some of the newly emerging ideas a repackaging of earlier ones and, if so, what accounts for their rise on the policy agenda? Papers may examine the configuration and re-configuration of actors from the public and private sectors in designing, shaping, implementing, promoting or blocking knowledge policy from above, below and through other governance channels. Contributions may investigate and compare the sets of policy instruments adopted to facilitate knowledge policy cooperation throughout the world’s different geographical regions. Here, for example, it would be interesting to identify whether there are standard sets of measures that bilateral or multilateral cooperation embrace for promoting collaboration in the knowledge policy sector. Papers may also assess the institutional set-ups introduced to facilitate knowledge policy cooperation, the mandates given and decisional powers delegated to these institutions, and the effects, if any, that these institutions have had over time.

This CRN continues to welcome scholars at all career stages, theoretical and methodological approaches to examining knowledge policy cooperation in Europe and around the world.

Workshop call for paper

We will provide accommodation, refreshments and meals for accepted presenters for the duration of the workshop. Applicants may propose more than one paper for consideration, but no one will be permitted to present or co-present more than one paper. We encourage student members of UACES to consider applying for travel funding (

Please contact any of the workshop organisers if you have any questions and please submit your proposal before the 13th of April 2015, 18.00 GMT at: 

Important Dates

13 April 2015 (18.00 GMT): extended abstract due

24 April 2015: acceptance notification

18 June 2015: workshop programme available

02 July 2015: full papers due

16-17 July 2015: workshop

CFP: Governance of Knowledge Policies (ICPP 2015)

The International Conference on Public Policy (1-4 July 2015, Milan)

Session title: “Governance of Knowledge Policies”



  • Meng-Hsuan Chou, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (
  • Jens Jungblut, University of Oslo, Norway (
  • Pauline Ravinet, Université Lille 2, France (



Session abstract:

The governance of knowledge policies has now permeated all policy levels, from the local, national, regional to the global. These processes, however, are examined in disciplinary ‘silos’ – from science and higher education (policy) studies, international relations, comparative politics, and sociology to organisational studies. At the same time, they share at least three research foci, each one echoing stimulating debates within public policy research. Firstly, this panel demonstrates the added-value that studies of knowledge policies have for improving public policy understanding of (i) discourse and ideas. Specifically, questions concerning whether, how and why certain concepts such as excellence, globalism, regionalism, innovation, and so on, catalyse policy actors’ strategies, percolate into daily practices and how they are then weaved into the fabric of policies, organisations or systems. Knowledge policies constitute fascinating cases for scholars willing to “take ideas and discourse seriously” (Schmidt, 2010), studying policymaking after the “argumentative turn” (Fischer & Gottweis, 2012), or, from a different angle, wanting to explore the rational-choice argument that ideas are merely “hooks” for interests (Weingast, 1995).

Secondly, another research dimension on knowledge policies is to question how the dynamics of higher education, research and science have impacted (ii) the central organisations, i.e. universities and non-university research institutes, as well as the funding and regulatory agencies. This time, knowledge policies provide almost infinite cases to tackle the issue of interaction between policies and organisations – and therefore the connection between public policy research and organisational theory (Gornitzka, 1999). Seminal works in organisational sociology and implementation theory have all been fascinated by developments in higher education. For instance, Cohen, March & Olsen (1972) introduced ‘organised anarchy’ and the ‘garbage can model of decision-making’ to conceptualise processes of organisation within universities, while Cerych & Sabatier (1986) studied implementation of higher education in Europe. Their interest, especially on the role of ambiguity in policymaking, points to the potential that researching dynamics of knowledge policymaking has for addressing questions at the policy-organisation nexus.

Finally, there is also clear shared research interest in how such policy dynamics affect (iii) groups and individuals as “difficult” members (Mintzberg 1983) of such professional organisations, e.g. asking whether and how a potential “normalization” of universities (Brunsson & Sahlin-Andersson 2000; Musselin 2007) and their global differentiation/isomorphism clash with the normative foundations of science as a profession/vocation (Merton 1973; Weber 1946) or, even earlier, with the hitherto humanistic ideals of ‘socialising’ students by education.

This session invites researchers from across diverse disciplines to examine the multi-level governance of knowledge policies and politics, focusing on any of the above-mentioned dynamics as well as the role of actors in influencing them. We propose three sections – each addressing one of the three research foci identified above. All accepted papers must have a clear conceptual approach, preferably supported by empirical examples beyond a single case study.

To propose a paper for this session, please upload your abstract by 15th January 2015 HERE.

The abstract should include the research aim, the conceptual approach, the case(s) studied as well as potential methods and data. If you have any further questions, feel free to contact Meng-Hsuan Chou, Jens Jungblut, or Pauline Ravinet.

CFP: Regionalism from above, regionalism from below: multi-level governance of higher education and research (ECPR 2015)

Panel title: Regionalism from above, regionalism from below: multi-level governance of higher education and research

Abstract: Higher education and research policies appear as fascinating cases to explore the transformations of the role of the State in a globalized economy and society of knowledge. The now classical notion of multilevel-governance actually appears extremely useful to make sense of policy change in these domains.

Higher education and research policies have been transformed, with increasing governing power both to subnational and supranational structures. The elevating role of regions in higher education and research is mirrored by regional dynamics developing worldwide. As a result of regional integration on the one hand and devolution/federalization processes on the other, regions are playing an increasingly prominent role in contemporary global politics. The empirical case of knowledge-policy governance can thus contribute to the wider conceptual debate on territorial politics, regionalism and region-building.

How have States recomposed their role in the governance of knowledge policies in this context? Strands of literature on the world regions in the globalization of knowledge policies on the one hand and on the territorial politics of knowledge on the other, do not dialogue much together. This panel will propose to connect those works around the notion of regionalism, and open a discussion about how the rise of regions, both subnational and supranational, is a major feature of the transformations of knowledge policies. A particular attention will be dedicated to the circulation of actors and policy solutions between the subnational, national, and supranational levels.

Building on both empirical and theoretical perspectives the panel will explore the facets and implications of higher education regionalism in Europe and elsewhere highlighting the following issues: What are the regional territorial politics involved in the governance of knowledge policies? How does regionalism of higher education in Europe inform our understanding of international relations and of European foreign policy in particular? What are the features and implications of the higher education multi-level governance structure in Europe? How can the European case inform our understanding of other regions? How can the study of multi level governance of knowledge in other regions help us understand better the European situation ? How does the case of knowledge policies contribute to the conceptual understanding of regionalism?

To propose a paper for this panel please send an abstract of 500 – 1000 words until January 20th 2015 to Pauline Ravinet ( and Hannah Moscovitz (

CFP: Ideas in the global governance of knowledge (ECPR 2015)

Panel title: Ideas in the global governance of knowledge

Abstract: As the ECPR and the Europe of Knowledge section enter a new phase, this panel takes a reflective approach and invites contributions from around the world on the role of ideas in knowledge policy governance. Ideas are pervasive in all aspects of public policymaking at the national, regional and international 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 and championed by ‘amplifiers’, ideas may chart the pathways of regional integration and international collaboration in unexpected ways. This panel invites contributions that explore the role that ideas play in regional and international research and higher education policy cooperation. By ‘role’, I refer to the independent or intervening effects that an idea – such as the ‘knowledge-based economy’, ‘world-class’, ‘regional hub’, the ‘Rise of Asia’ or the ‘Asian Century’, free movement of knowledge/fifth freedom, competitiveness, excellence, talent, internationalisation, ‘digital revolution’, ‘Single Market of Knowledge’ and so on – have had on the regional or global governance of knowledge policies. Papers in this panel are invited to address any of these questions: What are the prominent ideas in the international governance of knowledge policies (higher education, science and research) and how have they determined the evolution of the latter’s development? Are there visible national, regional or transnational 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 national or regional 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 propose a paper for this panel please send an abstract of 500 – 1000 words until January 20th 2015 to Meng-Hsuan Chou ( The abstract should include the research aim, the conceptual approach, the case(s) studied as well as potential methods and data. The panel chair will then assess the proposals until January 30th 2015 and propose the panel en bloc to the section chairs. If you have any further questions, feel free to contact Meng-Hsuan Chou.

The Politics of Cooperation in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy

Darius Ornston

The shift to innovation-based competition has rekindled interest in the political economy of cooperation. Scholarly literature frequently characterizes innovation as an interactive process. New technologies, business models and social practices are rarely developed in isolation, but emerge within a dense network of enterprises, sub-contractors, end users and knowledge-generating institutions. But while scholars of innovation have extensively documented how cooperation can facilitate (and inhibit) innovation, its origins remain understudied. How is cooperation created? Under what conditions is it sustained? And when and why does it break down? Political science, which is primarily concerned with the logic of collective action, offers valuable tools to understand these dynamics, but they are too seldom applied to science, technology and innovation policy.

A recent special issue of the Review of Policy Research, published in September of 2014, represents an effort to foster greater dialogue between the two disciplines in order to understand the politics of cooperation in innovation. Papers were drawn from the Fifth Atlanta Conference on Science and Innovation Policy, an emerging forum for bridging the gap between scholars and practitioners of innovation policy. In Atlanta, and the special issue that followed, contributors explored the politics of cooperation in a variety of contexts, from the municipal level to the global, from advanced, industrialized economies to emerging markets and from highly coordinated European economies to their more pluralistic North American counterparts.


Exploring the Boundaries of Cooperation in Innovation

The first article, by Edurne Magro, Mikel Navarro and Jon Mikel Zabala-Iturriagagoitia, explores the politics of cooperation in innovation policy making. Magro, Navarro and Zabala-Iturriagagoitia illustrate how recent scholarship on innovation systems has led public sector actors to manipulate a growing number of instruments across multiple policy domains and jurisdictions. Focusing on Basque region, however, they find that actually existing levels of coordination rarely match our ambition to pursue systemic innovation policies. The article thus highlights the importance of resolving coordination failures in the public sector, suggesting that this task may be best accomplished through informal mechanisms.

Bryn Lander’s article, “The Role of Institutions and Capital in Intersectoral Collaboration” focuses on the private sector, and the Vancouver bio-medical industry in particular. Lander examines why some actors cooperate in innovative activities, while others do not. She demonstrates that cooperation is an attractive way for actors to access complementary forms of capital. Collaboration, however, is more likely to occur when actors are embedded within similar institutions. Lander finds that cognitive, cultural, and normative institutions are more important in this respect than formal rules or resources, with important implications for policy makers.

Shih-Hsin Chen examines how actors collaborate in newly industrializing societies. In her contribution, she challenges the widespread perception that recent industrializers such as Taiwan compete by applying imported technologies, “catching up” in established fields. Instead, she documents increasing collaboration between indigenous Taiwanese enterprises and knowledge-generating institutions as Taiwan approaches the technological frontier in biotechnology. This increase in cooperation did not occur spontaneously, but was actively cultivated by policy makers in an effort to bolster indigenous innovation.

Brian Sergi, Rachel Parker and Brian Zuckerman explore the prospects for cooperation beyond national borders. Globalization has increased interest in international collaboration as a strategy to access foreign expertise and capital. At the same geographic, social, and institutional distance pose formidable barriers to deeper cooperation. Sergi, Parker and Zuckerman illustrate how governments can reduce these obstacles, identifying an important if neglected role for the international offices of national research funding agencies.

I conclude the special issue on a cautionary note, highlighting the fragility of cooperation. More specifically, I argue that while Finland leveraged private-public, inter-firm, and industry-labor collaboration to enter new industries, high-technology competition has not had a reciprocal effect on cooperation. While high-technology enterprises may be more likely to cooperate with international partners, their domestic relationships have weakened over time. As a result, policy makers seeking to preserve postwar solidaristic ties through an innovation-based “high road” strategy should carefully consider the ways in which high-technology competition eroded cooperation in Finland.


Lessons Learned: How Cooperation Is Created and Sustained

Considered collectively, three major points emerge from this investigation of cooperation. First, while each of the authors support the literature on innovation by identifying the benefits of collaboration, they are also quick to note that it does not emerge spontaneously within either the government or the private sector. Innovative actors face formidable barriers to cooperation and policy makers can play an important role in helping actors navigate these obstacles at the local, national and global level.

Second, the interdisciplinary dialogue in this special issue yields important lessons for political scientists, who often characterize cooperation as a profoundly path-dependent process with complex, institutional prerequisites. The contributors, by contrast, identify an important role for collaboration within pluralist, market-oriented societies, historically statist economies and even at the global level. While hardly approaching the commitment to social cohesion that characterized postwar West European economies such as Finland, the special issue suggests that policy makers can foster cooperation in a wide variety of environments.

How do they do so? The articles in the special issue illuminate a third feature of cooperation, the power of informal institutions. Ideational and cultural differences pose a significant barrier to cooperation, not only internationally but also nationally and locally. At the same time, inter-personal relationships can enable actors to navigate complex policy-making environments and compensate for geographic distance. To this end, several contributors suggest that the development of personal relationships may prove a more effective way to promote collaboration than formal rules or financial incentives.

Dr. Darius Ornston is assistant professor in the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, Canada. In addition to his book, When Small States Make Big Leaps (Cornell University Press, 2012), his research on the politics of high-technology competition has appeared in Governance, Comparative Political Studies and West European Politics.

This entry was initially posted on Europe of Knowledge blog.

Scientific mobility: an alternative to established narrative

Chiara Carrozza

I spent part of my morning browsing The Researchers’ Report 2014 developed in line with the key priority of ensuring the “free circulation of knowledge” in the European Research Area (ERA), and a relevant part of it focuses on the progresses made at both European and national level in removing or alleviating some of the well-known obstacles to scientific mobility.


Photography credit: Tobi Gaulke (, “Waiting for check-in”.

In common with a substantial body of scientific literature on the topic, studies such as this new report – while certainly offering relevant information for the policy and scientific community – convey a quite deep-rooted narrative of scientific mobility: a phenomenon that can be grasped within the dichotomy movement-stasis; pivoting on the nation state; associated to a stylized image of the academics (flexible, rational, independent, driven by professional ambition); governable by manoeuvring pull and push factors and, last but not least, which should be invariably regarded as “something good”, both at micro and macro level. Scientific mobility is depicted as a uniform phenomenon, mostly variable – and measurable – along its quantitative dimensions, both at the individual (duration) and at the collective scales (flows and stocks).

On the contrary, the experiences of academic migrants reveal a panorama that is much more nuanced, from the qualitative point of view: academic mobility can be strategized, materialised, institutionalised and performed in a wide variety of ways (Robertson 2010: 642; see also Cantwell 2011). It can be multi-directional or unilateral and it often repeats many times in different forms: joint research projects, special mobility programs, academic exchange or time-limited work under fixed-term contract. (Ivancheva and Gourova 2011, 187; see also Ackers 2005).

Some researchers are mobile some of the time, whilst for others, moving has become a routine part of their life and they are constantly mobile around the world. In this perspective, the nation-state is not seen as either losing or attracting mobile researchers. Neither is the mobile researcher positioned as being either settled or on the move. Such either/or categorizations are seen as inadequate since the understandings of “home and away” have become increasingly complex (Teferra, 2005 230). While early stage researchers are often encouraged to engage in international mobility to increase career prospects, some authors (Ackers 2008; Lawson and Shibayama 2013) have argued that – in the context of the change of academic careers and trajectories – scientific mobility appears increasingly detached from its original objectives and can be better viewed as a compulsory career step, often with uncertain benefits on career progression (Cruz-Castro and Sanz-Menendez, 2010).

A proposal for an alternative framework

In order to make sense of the complex assemblage of political agendas, policy initiatives and personal experiences around scientific mobility, an alternative approach[i] can be developed following Cresswell’s work about the politics of mobility (2010). Cresswell defines mobility as the entanglement of three dimensions: movement, representation, and practice; movement is the fact of physical movement getting from one place to another; representation of movement is what gives it a shared meaning; and, finally, practice refers to the experienced and embodied practice of movement (ibid. p. 19).

The movement dimension – corresponding to the analysis of the fluxes of “movers” and their features (age, gender, nationality, stage of career, disciplines…) – has been widely investigated by the scientific literature on the topic. The practice dimension – corresponding to the analysis of the professional, social and political practices related with being a mobile researcher – although less often than the previous one, has also been a subject for investigation; to some extent, its combination with analyses about movement is at the basis of the policy approach of the push and pull factors. The representation dimension – exploring for example how mobility is discursively and materially constituted, what narratives have been constructed about mobility, how are mobilities represented in public discourse – appears instead largely neglected in the case of scientific mobility.

Cresswell (2010) reminds that just as there has been a multitude of efforts to measure and model mobility so there has been a plethora of representations of mobility: as adventure, as condemn, as education, as freedom, as modern, as threatening – each of them almost “naturally” associated to a different social phenomena involving some kind of moving.

Exploring representation and practices of scientific mobility

While I think that it would be particularly valuable to develop an analysis that reconnects and simultaneously addresses all three levels, I am particularly interested in exploring the intersection between representation and practice. The reason for this arises from the simple fact that, sometimes, mobile practices conform to the representations that surround them, while at other times there is a dissonance between representation and practice.

In an article about mobility practices of Italian early stage researchers (Carrozza and Minucci, forthcoming) we noted how the use of the term “mobility” was frequently associated to a universe of meanings different from those associated with the notion of “emigration”. On the one side, when asked about their opinion on scientific mobility in general, respondents recalled the rhetoric of the European research policies (defining mobility as a right, as the freedom to build a satisfying career by gathering professional and personal experiences in different workplaces and cultures, as a source of value for both the researcher and the European society as a whole); on the other, they often contradicted this framing when asked to talk about their personal experience, struggling to recognize the traits of what they understand to be “mobility” in their own situation.

Of course, these findings need to be contextualized by considering the well-known weaknesses of the Italian research system and labour market, where our respondents are trying (or tried in the past, before moving somewhere else) to build up an academic career. However, this is not the point. The point is – or might be – that both the idea and the lived experience of mobility, although largely dissonant in the case of our respondents, are both real: scientific mobility exists beyond the experience of academic migration.

In this respect, even if this requires a detour from the usual paths of scientific mobility’s research, connecting the two dimensions of representation and practice can further our understanding of the power of the European discourse on scientific mobility – as well as into its inherent contradictions – and offer us a way to explore mobility as one of the grand ideas of the Europe of Knowledge.

Chiara Carrozza is post-doctoral research fellow at the Centre for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra, Portugal. She adopts interpretive approaches to policy analysis, and works on the co-evolution between knowledge production and governance production. She is interested in research practices and the meanings and values conveyed by policy discourses about research and technology. She has recently published in the Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning, Higher Education Policy (in press), Critical Policy Studies (in press).


This post follows a presentation given at the panel The ‘big’ ideas in the Europe of Knowledge, at the ECPR General Conference held in Glasgow, 3-6 September 2014. I would like to thank the discussant Meng-Hsuan Chou, for the interesting and valuable comments on the presentation, as well as the other presenters and the audience of the panel.


This entry was initially posted on Europe of Knowledge blog.



Ackers, L. (2005) ‘Promoting scientific mobility and balanced growth in the European Research Area’, Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research 18(3): 301-17.

Ackers, L. (2008) ‘Internationalisation, mobility and metrics: A new form of indirect discrimination?’, Minerva 46(4): 411–435.

Cantwell, B. (2011) ‘Transnational Mobility and International Academic Employment: Gatekeeping in an Academic Competition Arena’, Minerva 49: 425–445.

Carrozza, C. and Minucci, S. (forthcoming), ‘Keep on movin’? Research mobility’s meanings for Italian early stage researchers’, Higher Education Policy.

Cresswell, T. (2010), ‘Towards a politics of mobility’, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28(1):17–31.

Cruz-Castro, L. and Sanz-Menendez, L. (2010) ‘Mobility vs. job stability: Assessing tenure and productivity outcomes’, Research Policy 39(1): 27-38.

Deloitte Consulting (2014), The Researchers’ Report 2014. Final Report, available at

Ivancheva, L. and Gourova, E. (2011) ‘Challenges for career and mobility of researchers in Europe’, Science and Public Policy 38(3): 185–98.

Lawson, C. and Shibayama, S., (2013), ‘Temporary Mobility. A Policy for Academic Career Development’, Working Paper 21/13, Cognetti de Martiis, Dept. of Economics and Statistics, or

Robertson, S.L. (2010) Critical response to Special Section: international academic mobility, published by the Centre for Globalisation, Education and Societies, University of Bristol, Bristol BS81JA, UK at:

Teferra, D. (2005) ‘Brain Circulation: Unparalleled Opportunities, Underlying Challenges, and Outmoded Presumptions’, Journal of Studies in International Education 9 (3): 229–250.

[i] This work in progress is being developed in collaboration with Tiago Santos Pereira at the Centre for Social Studies (CES) of the University of Coimbra.

Organising scholarly networks: workshop programme

Organising scholarly networks

18 December 2014, Gaskell Building Rm 210, Brunel University London


10.00:                 Coffee

10.30-11.30:       Keynote 1: Louise Ackers (Salford)

11.30-13.00:       Panel 1: Scientific Diplomacy

  • Tom Rusbridge (Sheffield): ‘England in Europe: Scholarly mobility in the sixteenth century’
  • Meng-Hsuan Chou & Tamson Pietsch (Nanyang Singapore & Brunel/Sydney): ‘Organising scholarly networks: a literature review’
  • Rasmus Gjedssø Bertelsen (Aalborg): ‘Arctic Science Diplomacy: accommodating a rising Asia’
  • Commentator: Julie Smith (Cambridge)

13.00:                  Lunch

14.00-15.30:       Panel 2: Impacts and effects

  • Branwyn Poleykett (Cambridge): ‘Being mobile, making meaning: studying exchanges of scientific ‘capacity’ between Denmark and East Africa’
  • Lisa Scordato, Trude Røsdal, Agnete Vabø, Siri Aanstad & Rachel Sweetman (Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education): ‘The impact of academic mobility programmes’ on strategic knowledge exchange’
  • Inga Ulnicane (Vienna): ‘What role does mobility play in international research collaboration?’
  • Commentator: Julie Smith (Cambridge)

15.30:               Coffee

16.00-17.00:     Keynote 2: Heike Jöns (Loughborough)

17.00:                Drinks

18.30:                Dinner for speakers

For further information, and if you wish to attend, please contact the organisers:

Dr Tamson Pietsch (Brunel/Sydney) tamson.pietsch [at]

Dr Meng-Hsuan Chou (Nangyang Technological University) hsuan.chou [at]


We acknowledge the generous support of the following institutions:

Society for Research into Higher Education

Nanyang Technological University Singapore

The University of Sydney

Brunel University London

Higher Education and World Politics

Isaac Kamola

PS coverIn recent decades the world has witnessed massive expansion of higher education. The total number of universities is continuing to expand, as is the total percentage of the world’s population receiving college degrees.[1] Many governments, most notably in the Middle East and Asia, are spending large amounts of money on higher education in the hopes of creating new opportunities and pathways for economic development. However, even as politicians recognize universities as important sites of international trade, economic development, geopolitical strategy, and elite socialization, higher education nonetheless remains fairly absent from scholarly conversations about international relations and world politics.  While there is a growing body of policy-focused research on the “globalization of higher education,” and an equally sizable literature on particular challenges facing various national and regional higher education systems, there has been less of an interest in broader question: How might we begin to think universities as themselves locations of world politics?


Universities as significant political actors

For those interested in this question, we would like to bring your attention to a symposium—“Higher Education and World Politics”—recently published in PS: Political Science and Politics (July 2014).  Originating with a series of panels organized at the International Studies Association’s general meetings (2011 through 2014), this symposium is itself a transnational conversation among scholars in North and South America, Asia, and Europe concerning how the social science literature—and that of international relations and world politics in particular—might better understand and theorize universities as significant political actors.


Drawn on cases from different regions in the world, the pieces in this symposium draw upon various regional analyses to make broader claims about how to begin thinking about the multiple and varied ways in which universities not only affect international relations but are themselves locations of world politics. The first piece, by Isaac Kamola, pushes back against the claim that African universities lag behind a globalizing trend, arguing instead that their colonial and postcolonial histories actually make them exemplars of “the global university.” Neema Noori’s piece examines how norms of academic freedom travel (or fail to travel) to the Middle East via branch campuses and private American-style universities.


A contribution on European policy formation by Meng-Hsuan Chou studies the numerous challenges faced by those working towards the integration of European higher education, and the mobility of scholars in particular. In her chapter on post-communist Serbian universities, Martina Vukasovic argues that treating universities as single international actors ignores the fact that universities are not homogenous entities but rather institutions constituted by individuals and groups that—especially during times of great political contestation—often find themselves in competition against each other. Salvador Peralta and Thiago Pacheco’s piece offers a detailed analysis of why leftist parties in Latin American, many of which came to power on a platform of education reform, have proven unable to enact sweeping changes due to domestic and international constraints. Rasmus Bertelsen rounds out the symposium with a historical account of the Christian-American missionary universities created in the Middle East, and the role they played in extending reverse soft-power—namely, giving host countries an avenue by which to inform American policy towards the region.


Higher education and the production of “the global”

Taken as a whole, these cases offer important insights into the various ways in which universities might be thought of as important actors in world politics. First, universities are seen as playing an important material role circulating people, money, ideas, and field expertise. While much of the conversation about “globalization” focuses on locations such as cities, financial hubs, international institutions, and production facilities, this symposium offers a number of compelling reasons why universities should also be added to this list.


Secondly, while there is much talk about interconnection among universities, the world of higher education is also incredibly heterogeneous and asymmetrical. International ranking schemes like the Times Higher Education Rankings and Academic Rankings of World Universities (Shanghai Jiao Tong University), after all, frame universities as firms competing within a highly competitive “global” playing field. The world of higher education, therefore, might be understood as a point of tension between the isomorphic trends towards a “world culture” of higher education, on one hand, and a diversity of lived realities, national and statist agendas, historical and cultural settings, and cultural terrains, on the other. In other words, universities might be thought as points of considerable “friction”[2].


And, finally, just as universities reproduce existing social and power inequalities, they also provide important opportunities for resistance and transformation. Universities around the world have historically served as institutions the open a space for thinking the world differently and for cultivating domestic and global contestation.


It is our hope that this contribution begins a more widespread conversation among social scientists about the role our colleagues, our students, and our institutions play in the making of world politics. Doing so will not only provide a more robust understanding of universities as political and economic institutions, but also expands the conceptual contours of what counts as “world politics.”


Isaac Kamola is an assistant professor of political science at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, the United States. His research examines how the material transformation of post-Cold War higher education in the U.S. and Africa inform how the world came to be imagined as “global.” His scholarly work has appeared in International Political Sociology, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, Journal of Higher Education in Africa, Third World Quarterly, Polygraph, and Transitions as well as numerous edited volumes.

This entry has been initially posted on Ideas on Europe blog platform.


[1] I would like to thank Neema Noori for his help writing this post and editing the symposium in PS.

[2] Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 2005. Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection. Princeton: Princeton University Press.