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ERA-CRN’s second workshop: The politics of knowledge: Europe and beyond

16-17 July 2015, Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS), Cambridge

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.

Workshop organisers: Dr Meng-Hsuan Chou (NTU), Dr Julie Smith (Cambridge), Dr Mitchell Young (Charles University Prague)

ERA-CRN’s first workshop: 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.

Papers at the workshop will be exploring a variety of themes. For instance: 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, the workshop will look at 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)

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