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CFP: ECPR 2016 section on ‘Politics of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation’

This is a global call for the ECPR 2016 ‘Politics of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation’ section (formerly Europe of Knowledge) endorsed by the proposed Standing Group of the same name.

The ECPR General Conference will be held on 7-10 September 2016 in Prague, Czech Republic.

You will find below the section abstract along with short panel abstracts and the contact details of the panel organisers. Extended CFPs for each panel will be circulated and posted on the CRN’s site in the coming weeks.

If you are interested in submitting a paper to one of these panels please contact the panel chair(s) directly (contacts are below) to discuss your ideas before the 24th of January 2016 or submit an abstract independently to the section before the formal deadline (15 February 2016) via MyECPR. Please note that ECPR only allows individuals to perform each conference function (including paper presenter) once within the academic programme, though multiple co-authorship is possible.


Section description:

Knowledge policies are at the forefront of contemporary global politics and are seen as the foundation on which societies coalesce and economies thrive. This section builds on the previous four sections on the Europe of Knowledge and invites contributions from around the world to consider the various dimensions of knowledge policy development. 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 global, multi-level, multi-issue, and multi-actor governance of knowledge policies, including failures and successes. By ‘role’, we refer to effects that ideas, actors (individual, organisational), policy instruments/mixes, and institutions have had on the governance of knowledge policies, and vice-versa. We focus on ‘roles’ to enable a multidisciplinary discussion on whether these factors share defining characteristics across different knowledge policy domains (i.e. research, higher education, and innovation), and between distinct governance levels and geographical regions. This section continues to welcome scholars from all theoretical and methodological approaches to critically discuss the reconfiguration of knowledge systems around the world.


Panel being developed:


  1. Applying complex systems theory to higher education and research policy

Co-chairs/Co-discussants: Mitchell Young (Charles University in Prague) – and Julie Birkholz (University of Ghent) –

Describing political and policy phenomena as complex has become commonplace; however, the term is often used without reference to the scientific study of complex systems. Papers in this panel may take either a qualitative, quantitative or mixed approach, but will all rigorously attempt to apply key concepts in complex systems theory to the study of higher education and/or research.


  1. Researching the governance of knowledge policies: methodological and conceptual challenges

Co-chairs/Co-discussants: Mads Sørensen (Aarhus University) – and Mari Elken (NIFU) –

Research and higher education policy studies often take the state as a starting point for analysis, which may lead to ‘methodological nationalism’ and limit the scope of analysis in an increasingly interconnected world. We invite papers that examine (empirically, theoretically) such methodologies and the role of the nation state as well as supranational and sub-national arenas in knowledge policy studies. We aim to identify sector-specific methodological and conceptual challenges and highlight alternative (multi-level) approaches and foci.


  1. Knowledge policies in cross-sectoral comparison

Chair/discussant: Pauline Ravinet (Universite de Lille 2) –

Higher education and research policies have been subjected to structured examination, but works on these issues rarely engage in a systematic comparison with policy developments in other sectors. What could we learn by doing more cross-sectoral comparison? This panel invites papers engaging in comparisons of higher education and/or research policies with other policy areas (theoretical policy design papers as well as empirical papers are welcome).


  1. Market-making of, in, and around European higher education

Chair: Janja Komljenovic (University of Bristol) –

Discussant: Susan Robertson (University of Bristol)

This panel’s focus is the study of market-making in the higher education sector; it aims to analyse the outcomes of marketizing the higher education sector and to develop conceptual grammars and analytical approaches that would allow unpacking of the complexities of marketizing processes. The panel is interested in papers that address: how markets get constructed, for whose benefit, by which actors, and with what consequences and outcomes for the sector and society at large?


  1. Transnational actors in higher education, research, and innovation

Co-chairs/Co-discussants: Tatiana Fumasoli (University of Oslo) – and Martina Vukasovic (Ghent University) –

The panel will focus on the role and influence of transnational actors (academic and university associations, experts, funding councils, students etc.) in knowledge policymaking. These actors operate across governance levels, bringing new ideas, advancing the interests of their constituencies and re-shaping the institutional arrangements of policymaking in the area of knowledge. The panel welcomes papers which explore how these emerging actors participate in the policy arena and what impact they may have on policy decisions.


  1. The politicisation of knowledge policies: actors in national arenas

Chair: Jens Jungblut (University of Oslo) –

Knowledge policies are becoming politically salient and increasingly politicised. Yet our understanding of the actors involved in knowledge policymaking in different countries, the constraints they face from their institutional environment, and their interplay and preferences is still limited. Papers are invited to investigate the roles of different actors (e.g. political parties),the interplay between them and their institutional environment across all stages of policymaking.


  1. Politics of access in higher education systems 

Chair/Discussant: Beverly Barrett (University of Houston) –

In recent years, we observe a proliferation of national and regional strategies for increasing access to higher education around the world: in Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America and Europe. Indeed, the European drive to consolidate the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) has higher educational attainment as an explicit objective. This panel invites contributions that compare and examine the extent to which these initiatives to support learning objectives and graduation outcomes are innovative and effective.


  1. Policy failures in the knowledge domain

Chair/discussant: Meng-Hsuan Chou (NTU, Singapore) –

Higher education, research, and innovation policy domains have undergone dramatic changes in recent decades. Embedded in these changes are assumptions about failure and learning, and the belief that the ‘new and novel’ would ‘right’ the ‘wrongs’. Yet our understanding of the failure-learning mechanism remains under-developed. Indeed, social scientists often conflate three distinct types of failure—politics, policy, and instruments—in their analyses. This panel invites papers that seek to identify and unpack the failure-learning mechanism, if any, operational in specific knowledge policy changes.

Interdisciplinarity in ferment

Filipa M.Ribeiro

What do subjects like personalized learning, curriculum reforms, research agendas and institutional frames have in common? Interdisciplinarity. Whether we discuss the duality of vocational versus general education or the impact of ideologies on research, interdisciplinarity is an in-between topic. Interestingly enough, it is often overlooked even if interdisciplinarity is one of the most hotly debated topics among academics and has spun a complex web of development strategies and theorizing. However, its lack of standardization continues to be an issue, namely in universities that have traditionally hermetic departments and a lack of communication embedded in the academic culture. The various definitions of interdisciplinarity converge into two main axis: 1) powerful insights found by applying intellectual resources of different disciplines to particular problems; or 2) rhetorical mechanisms that reinforce the discourses on productivity and competitiveness which, in turn, produce an ideological system that serves the economic regulation at universities, encouraging an overemphasis on research projects and courses (e.g., the proliferation of summer schools).


Favoring or disregarding interdisciplinarity?  

Interdisciplinarity is also at stake with regard to the practices put in place by the management bodies of research institutions, university departments or governing bodies to assist, seduce or repel the individual researchers. These practices include institutional restructuring, reorganisation of curricula, the implementation of information, communication technology, changing patterns in knowledge production, the changed role of education in societies, and new modes to manage and assess higher education and research. This is often explicitly phrased in prescriptive documents (e.g. strategic plans of universities and official documents that try to outline the criteria and “good practices”, whose very title already implies a simplistic outreach to interdisciplinarity) that aim to assume a given role in civil society at large. Thus, the paradox arises: there is a conventional discourse in favor of interdisciplinary research and, at the same time, much indifference or even disregard for such research (Sperber, 2003).

Interdisciplinarity demands constant proactiveness, responsiveness and the ability to adapt to changing situations. As Sperber (2003) notes, often disciplinary boundaries and routines stand in the way of optimal research and that is why a common solution is to go ahead with new research programmes, which requires hasty institutional reshaping. In addition, research shows that constraints to interdisciplinarity are posed both in scientific terms (e.g.: Collinet et al.,2013) but also in institutional terms (e.g.: Su, 2014), especially concerning governance modes (Cooper and Farooq, 2013). As a matter of fact, the idea that interdisciplinarity in higher education is related to the framework of institutions, departments and courses is not new (e.g.: Carpenter, 1995; Pirrie et al, 1999; Becher, 2001; Wall and Shankar, 2008; Dykes et al., 2009). A less debated dimension of interdisciplinarity concerns the individual and social epistemology of knowledge and science. How and why interdisciplinarity emerges at the individual level? Andersen and Wagenknecht (2013) remind that interdisciplinarity involves epistemic dependence between researchers with different areas of expertise, the combination of complementary contributions from different researchers through shared mental models and conceptual structures, and shared cooperative activity with interlocking intentions, meshing sub-plans and mutual responsiveness.


Does belonging to a department increase interdisciplinarity?

My recent article “Interdisciplinarity in ferment: The role of knowledge networks and department affiliation”, published in Technological Forecasting and Social Change, posits that social networks shape interdisciplinarity because universities are formed by networked actors whose relations are not only centred on place-based affiliation (though highly shaped by them), but also on niche knowledge and skills affiliations. However, we lack enough empirical data on the knowledge networks of researchers to better understand how these networks shape the influence between faculty structures and knowledge creation in terms of interdisciplinarity and what the optimal structure for interdisciplinarity is. In other words, the paper addresses interdisciplinarity forwards rather than backwards, exploring the relation between the present and the future through the conditions from which interdisciplinarity arises. The focus is not the processes of network structure emergence and tie formation, but rather how those networks and ties affect interdisciplinarity. Based on a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the personal knowledge networks of academics of higher education institutions from Catalonia (Spain), the study used a mixed methods approach combining the delineation of personal networks with the analysis of the ties’ content, proposing a conceptual model specifically developed for this study.

Findings suggest a strong correlation between the network members nominated in the influence generator and interdisciplinarity. In fact, a quite surprising finding is that collaborators are not the ones who most influence either interdisciplinarity or individual knowledge creation. On the other hand, stronger ties (the ones with whom respondents have more affinity, more time of interaction and higher frequency of contact) seem to be more conducive of interdisciplinary research than weaker ties (if those strong ties do not belong to the same department of the respondent). Belonging to a faculty department may increase tie strength but reduces interdisciplinarity.

This study shows that the concept of interdisciplinarity itself is changing on the emergence of new modes of knowledge creation, especially the rise of peer production, which presents a stark challenge to conventional thinking about interdisciplinarity. Indeed, interdisciplinarity should not be understood only as the traditional concatenation of different disciplines. This study offers corroboration for the claim that interdisciplinarity is more about epistemological commitments and exchanges rather than disciplinary training. It is important to see these phenomena not as exceptions or ephemeral fads, but as indications of a fundamental fact about transactional knowledge forms and their relationship to the institutional conditions of knowledge creation.

Therefore, this new way of looking on interdisciplinarity reinforces a third form of transaction in higher education institutions: social sharing and exchange. On the other hand, we produce and exchange knowledge, but we do not count this exchange in our institutional design. This, in turn, may be the reason why social knowledge creation and interdisciplinarity have been shunted to the peripheries of academic organization landscape.


Filipa M. Ribeiro is in the final year of her PhD at the University of Porto. She has a diverse background in science and medical journalism, digital media, innovation, project management  and science communication. She graduated in Communication Sciences and has a master degree on Sociology of Science. She has been doing research on Higher Education since 2009 and was a member of the Portuguese team in the ESF funded project TRUE (Transforming universities in Europe). She is also one of the co-founders and executive members of ECHER – Early Career Higher Education researchers’ network. Her current research involves topics on ubiquitous knowledge, sociology of science, social networks, interdiciplinarity and diversity in higher education.



Andersen, H., Wagenknecht, S. (2013) Epistemic dependence in interdisciplinary groups.Synthese, 190: 1881–1898. Springer.

Becher, B. (1987). Disciplinary discourse. Studies in Higher Education, 12: 261-274.

Carpenter, J. (1995) Interprofessional education for medical and nursing students: Evaluation of a programme. Medical Education ,29: 265–72.

Collinet, C., P. Terral, P. Trabal (2013) Forms and Modes of Apprehending Interdisciplinarity: a Socio-Computer Analysis of Sports Sciences. Bulletin of Sociological Methodology, 119(1): 61-78.

Cooper, A. F. and Farooq, A. B. (2013), BRICS and the Privileging of Informality in Global Governance. Global Policy, 4: 428–433.  doi: 10.1111/1758-5899.12077

Dykes, T., Rodgers, P., Smyth, M., (2009). Towards a new disciplinary framework for contemporary creative design practice. CoDesign, 5 (2) 99-116.

Pirrie, A., S. Hamilton, V. Wilson (1999) Multidisciplinary education: Some issues and concerns. Educational Research 41(3): 301–314.

Ribeiro, Filipa M. (2015) Interdisciplinarity in ferment: The role of knowledge networks and department affiliation. Technological Forecasting and Social Change. doi:

Sperber, D. (2003) “Why rethink interdisciplinarity?”. In Heintz, C. (ed.), Rethinking interdisciplinarity. Paris: C.N.R.S. and Institut Nicod.

Su, X. (2014) Academic scientists’ affiliation with university research centres: Selection dynamics. Research Policy 43: 382-390.

Wall, S., Shankar, I., (2008). Adventures in transdisciplinary learning. Studies in Higher Education, 33 (5): 551–65.


This entry was initially posted on Europe of Knowledge blog.

Are English Universities likely to stop having to comply with EU public procurement law?

Albert Sanchez Graells

One of the elements implicit in the on-going discussion about higher education reform in England concerns the extent to which changes in the funding and governance structure of HEFCE (to be transformed into the Office for Students, or any other format that results from the consultation run by BIS) can free English universities from their duty to comply with EU public procurement law.

The issue is recurring in the subsequent waves of higher education reform in England, and the same debate arouse last summer following BIS statements that the most recent reform (lifting the cap on student numbers) would relieve English universities of their duty to comply with EU public procurement law (see discussion here).

Overall, then, there is a clear need to clarify to what extent English universities are actually and currently obliged to comply with EU public procurement rules, both as buyers and as providers of services. That analysis can then inform the extent to which in the future English universities are likely to remain under a duty to comply with EU public procurement rules.

This is what my colleague Dr Andrea Gideon and myself have done in our paper “When are universities bound by EU public procurement rules as buyers and providers? – English universities as a case study“. As the abstract indicates

In this study we provide an up-to-date assessment of situations in which universities are bound by public procurement rules, as well as the combined changes that market-based university financing mechanisms can bring about in relation to the regulation of university procurement and to the treatment of the financial support they receive under the EU State aid rules. National differences in funding schemes are likely to trigger different answers in different EU jurisdictions. This study uses the situation of English universities as a case study.

The first part focuses on the role of universities as buyers. The traditional position has been to consider universities bound by EU public procurement rules either as state authorities, or because they receive more than 50% public funding. In the latter case, recent changes in the funding structure can create opportunities for universities to free themselves from compliance with EU public procurement rules.

In the second part, we assess the position of universities as providers. Here the traditional position has been that the State can directly mandate universities to conduct teaching and research activities. However, new EU legislation contains specific provisions about how and when teaching and research need to be procured if they are of an economic nature. Thus, accepting the exclusion of university services from procurement requirements as a rule of thumb is increasingly open to legal challenge.

Finally, the study assesses if and in how far universities can benefit from exemptions for public-public cooperation or in-house arrangements either as sellers or buyers. 

The full paper is available on SSRN:

We have submitted our piece of research to BIS as part of the consultation on the green paper. We hope that our research and the insights it sheds can inform the discussion on the new mechanisms for the allocation of the teaching grant to English universities (and particularly the discussion around Q18 of the consultation).

Dr Albert Sanchez Graells is Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Bristol Law School, and a Member of the European Commission Stakeholder Expert Group on Public Procurement (2015-18). He is a specialist in European economic law, with a main focus on competition law and public procurement. Albert is a regular speaker at international conferences and has been recently invited by the European Court of Auditors and European Commission as a specialist academic in public procurement and competition matters. He has also advised the World Bank and other international institutions regarding public procurement reform.

This post first appeared on: How To Crack a Nut


The European Commission, Expert Groups, and the Policy Process

Julia Metz


Day by day, the European Commission consults with more than 30,000 experts that convene in about 1,000 expert groups. I argue that in order to understand the ubiquity of expert groups we need to look at how and why the European Commission uses its expert groups in the policy process. In my new book ‘The European Commission, Expert Groups, and the Policy Process: Demystifying Technocratic Governance’ (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2015) I show that expert groups are important for the Commission, because they not only solve technical problems, but also function as political devices and negotiators in EU policy making.

The European Commission is at the center of the European Union’s (EU) political system. With its quasi-monopoly on the initiation of legislation it strongly influences the rules that govern the daily lives of European citizens. When drafting European legislation the European Commission consults regularly with about 1,000 expert groups. These Commission expert groups are part of the EU committee system, which is largely regarded as the embodiment of EU technocracy. As a potential bias towards technocracy is feared to decrease political or democratic considerations in the EU policy process, the Commission’s ‘technocratic shadow administration’ in Brussels has come under increased public attack. Case studies have pointed to the influential role of expert groups on the Commission’s policy proposals. Publicly, critical voices, such as the non-governmental organization ALTER-EU, have portrayed the European Commission as a ‘captive’ of industry-dominated expert groups. Also the European Parliament has repeatedly criticized an imbalanced composition of expert groups and a lack of transparency in their work. In 2011 and 2014 the European Parliament set a budget reserve on the Commission’s budget for expert groups, which was conditional to a series of reforms by the Commission, such as strengthening balanced representation of different interests in expert groups, addressing conflicts of interest of participants, and ensuring transparency in the work of expert groups.

Thus, in the public debate Commission expert groups are increasingly seen as far more than technocratic deliberation arenas or impartial providers of factual data. However, we lack systematic insights into the Commission’s daily work with its expert groups. This book challenges the myth that Commission expert groups are purely technocratic bodies by asking: How does the European Commission use its expert groups in the policy process? And, which factors explain variation in the Commission’s usage of expert groups?

Three types of expert group use

In my book I argue that if we want to understand the role of expert groups in the policy process, it is essential to investigate the motivations of the formal institution that consults these bodies. I therefore focus on the European Commission’s reasons for consulting expert groups and on how the Commission’s Directorates-General use these committees in the EU policy process. More concretely, I assume that the European Commission consults with expert groups because it depends on its environment for resources it needs when preparing legislative initiatives – and expert group can provide these resources. Thus, a resource exchange between the Commission and its expert groups takes place. Following this idea, I develop a typology of expert-group use, which is based on the most important resource that expert groups provide.

  • A problem-solving use of expert groups is most important for a technocratically motivated Commission engaged in finding efficient solutions to problems. It refers to instances in which the European Commission acquires expertise and information from its expert committees. In these cases, expert groups can be seen as a means for the Commission to manage its internal lack of expertise when addressing complex policy problems. The Commission uses expertise ‘cognitively’ (Dreger, 2014) or ‘instrumentally’ to solve policy problems (see also Boswell, 2009; Rimkuté and Haverland, 2015).
  • A substantiating use occurs when the European Commission involves expert groups to acquire and signal support for its preferred policy positions. In these cases, expert groups are used ‘argumentatively’ (Dreger, 2014) to justify the Commission’s policy choices against other actors. As opposed to the problem-solving use, the Commission’s focus lies not on efficient problem solving, but on maximizing its gains and on the preferences of other actors. Here, policy proposals are not based on efficiency concerns, rather reflect the will of powerful actors. The Commission is predominantly concerned about the positions of veto players in the European decision-making process – thus, the Council and European Parliament.
  • In the case of a consensus-building use, committees are not valued for their informative or supportive expertise, but for their institutional framework. In expert groups, relevant actors can meet, exchange (contradicting) views, and reach agreements. Here, expert groups are not seen as arenas for expertise, but as assemblies that broker out compromises, with the Commission demanding ‘consensual positions’ from its committees. Similar to the substantiating use, here the Commission’s focus is directed towards the political feasibility of policy solutions rather than towards their technical efficiency or effectiveness.

A frequent and multimodal use of expert groups

The book shows that the Commission’s administration draws heavily on expert groups when preparing legislation and indeed uses them for multiple purposes. This finding is visible in various empirical analyses. First, the book provides a quantitative overview of the Commission’s expert group system, including a network analysis, which is based on data from the Commission’s online expert group register. Here I identify patterns that indicate that not only technocratic concerns seem to motivate the European Commission when working with expert groups. The analyses further show that Commission expert groups are not all alike, rather vary substantially in their institutional frameworks. The main part of the book discusses four expert groups in the area of research and innovation policy and their role when preparing policy initiatives. These insights are then compared to the Commission’s use of expert groups across three policy areas – research and innovation, the intersection of social and internal market policy, and consumer policy. This cross-sectoral analysis uses data from a multi-annual collaborative research project on ‘Position formation in the EU Commission’ conducted at the WZB Social Science Centre Berlin, which traces the Commission’s drafting processes of 48 legislative proposals from 1999 to 2009 (Hartlapp et al., 2014).

The analyses reveal that the European Commission worked intensively with expert groups across all three policy areas: in almost three quarter of the policy processes the responsible Directorates-General consulted expert groups. In addition to expert groups, the Commission services also used various other consultation channels. The book therefore shows that, rather than merely working as a technocratic institution in isolation, the European Commission responds to political demands and developments in its environment, and uses expert groups to help to manage its dependencies.

Thereby, a political mode of expert-group usage – subsuming the substantiating and the consensus-building uses – occurred just as often in the Commission as a technocratic mode. In addition, routinized behavior and traditions developed over time guide the Commission in its consultation of expert groups: the Commission’s Directorates-General displayed distinct patterns and preferences regarding the way they manage their resource dependencies with their environment and work with expert groups. While some Commission services examined in the book worked closely together with expert groups across various types of initiatives or policy areas, others did so more selectively. DG Research, for example, involved a whole battery of expert groups across several initiatives under its responsibility, while the DG for Information Society used expert groups more selectively.

Finally, while conceptually three ideal types of expert group use were constructed, empirically I found a multimodal use of expert groups. In most cases, a Directorate-General used its expert group not only in one, but in several different ways when preparing an initiative. My study can account for a multimodal use by showing that within one drafting process, several resources can be critical for the Commission, which therefore uses its expert groups in various ways. For example, while technical expertise was needed at the beginning, substantiating expertise was often needed towards the end of a process to support the Commission’s proposals against opposition in the Council and European Parliament.

Thus, when the Commission’s Directorates-General consult expert groups, they are anything but driven only by technocratic concerns (i.e., the quest for specialized knowledge), rather are also guided by political motives. Often, Commission services also anticipate political decision making in the Council and European Parliament and are aware of the political implications of their decisions.

Dr. Julia Metz is an advisor at the German Parliament. She holds a doctoral degree from the Freie Universität Berlin and has previously worked as a senior researcher at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center and at the University of Bremen, Germany. Her work covers the areas of public administration and European governance, and has appeared in, among others, the Journal of European Integration and in Policy and Society.

This entry was initially posted on Europe of Knowledge blog.


Boswell, C. (2009) The Political Uses of Expert Knowlegde: Immigration Policy and Social Research (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).

Dreger, J. (2014) The European Commission’s Energy and Climate Policy: A Climate for Expertise? (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan).

Hartlapp, M., J. Metz, and C. Rauh (2014) Which Policy for Europe? Power and Conflict inside the European Commission (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Rimkuté, D. and M. Haverland (2015) ‘How does the European Commission use scientific expertise? Results from a survey of scientific members of the Commission’s expert committees’, Comparative European Politics 13 (4): 430–449.

CFP: Knowledge Polices and the State of Inequality: Instruments For or Against? (2016 IPSA Istanbul)

Dear all,

we are inviting you to submit a paper proposal for our panel on ‘Knowledge Policies and the State of Inequality: Instruments For or Against?’ at IPSA’s 24th World Congress of Political Science (23-28 July 2016, Istanbul, Turkey). You will find the panel abstract below.

NEW Deadline for paper submission: 14 October 2015

Instructions for paper submission: HERE

Submit paper here: LINK

Please select: (1) RC30 Comparative Public Policy for Session Type, and (2) Knowledge Policies and the State of Inequality for Requested Panel.

Do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions.

Thanks and all best,

Hsuan – Hsuan [at]

Jens – j.p.w.jungblut [at]

Knowledge Polices and the State of Inequality: Instruments For or Against?


In a global market of higher education and innovation, where students have free access to massive open online courses (MOOCs) and where ideas are brought to the market to improve everyday life, inequality should be a thing of the past. Yet more than ever before, the gulf between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ are growing by the day. This panel examines how policy actors – at the local, national, regional and global levels – instrumentalise knowledge policies to increase and decrease the state of inequality between citizens, between nations, and between the world’s geographical regions (North, South, East and West). We define knowledge policies broadly to include higher education, science, research and innovation policies. As a point of departure, we assume that policymaking is a complex process, involving multiple actors across governance levels with diverse interests and preferences. Instrument choice thus reflects the policy actors’ ambitions, compromises made, and the intended effects of implementation. Put simply, instrument selection is not neutral. This panel invites contributions to assess the processes leading to instrument selection, adoption, and implementation. For example, papers can address: (a) the role of discourse and ideas such as the knowledge-based society/economy, excellence, globalism, and regionalism in these processes; or (b) how policy actors and organisations strategise and interact in knowledge policymaking to contribute to the state of inequality. All accepted papers must have a clear conceptual approach, preferably supported by empirical examples beyond a single case study.

Europeanisation, Internationalisation and Higher Education Reforms in Central and Eastern Europe

Dorota Dakowska and Robert Harmsen


Why are Central and Eastern European countries said to be particularly exposed to European and international organizations? How did the Bologna Process become a central reference in many domestic reform projects in the region?  This special issue of the European Journal of Higher Education (Volume 5, Issue 1, 2015) aims to refine our understanding of higher education (HE) transformations in a post-authoritarian context. It further contributes to debates on Europeanization and policy transfer in the field.

This special issue brings together an international and interdisciplinary team of contributors.  Particular attention is focused on the different actors, who appropriate international norms in the cause of domestic reform, or conversely develop strategies of resistance.  The range of national and thematic case studies included, spanning both EU member states and the wider post-Soviet area, allows for the drawing of a comparatively broad-based portrait of both the ‘uses’ and the ‘users’ of international norms in domestic debates.

Central and Eastern European countries may adopt different positions facing European HE policies. Some of them eagerly adopt European policy prescriptions, while others prefer a more selective approach. In any case, the Bologna Process and the European Higher Education Area are noticed, debated or even integrated in domestic political games. This being said, Europe is neither the only nor necessarily the main external reference in these countries. The interplay between the different external factors and actors is also highlighted in this issue.


The special issue derives from an international research collaboration, launched with a conference organised at the University of Luxembourg in November 2010 and continued with a two-year research and training project funded by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Studies and Research on Germany (CIERA): ‘Rebuilding Academia: The Transformations of Central-East European Universities since 1989’ (2011-2013). The current issue derives from a workshop held in Strasbourg in 2013 (‘Bologna and Beyond: Experts, Entrepreneurs, Users and the Internationalisation of Higher Education Institutions’). Further collaborative work was made possible owing to the funding secured through the Strasbourg School of European Studies ‘Excellence project’ and the University of Luxembourg’s ‘Global-Uni’ project (2013-16).


Inside the Central European Academic Laboratory

In the introductory article Dorota Dakowska and Robert Harmsen deal with higher education (HE) transformations in Central and Eastern Europe in the context of democratization and globalization. The authors briefly survey the wider canvas of reform since 1989, probing the extent to which the countries of the region may be treated as a distinctive or a cohesive group. Diverging experiences with communism, international organizations and the European Union are highlighted, while attention is also focused on the differing degrees of marketization exhibited by academic systems across the countries of region. Notwithstanding their differences, the latter emerge as distinctive ‘laboratories of reform’, privileged sites for understanding the interplay of external and domestic influences in the reshaping of the HE sector. The introduction then turns to understanding the domestic mediation of the processes of Europeanization and internationalization, identifying a series of key factors broadly discussed in terms of structures, norms and actors.

In the first article that follows, Michael Dobbins analyses developments in Polish public higher education (HE) based on historical institutionalism and organizational isomorphism. The author argues that Polish public HE has been characterized by fragmentary state-driven attempts to inject more competition into the system and altogether relative policy inertia, despite an internal and external environment which is highly conducive to policy change and in particular marketization.

The second contribution, by Ligia Deca, focuses on the uses of international norms in the Romanian higher education reforms. By focusing on three phases of policy change, the author observes when, why and by whom the international influences were strategically used in Romanian public discourse on higher education reform. She draws a balance sheet across the two decades of higher education reforms in Romania to provide insights into wider problematics of reform, Europeanization and internationalization in a context of transition and peripherality.

In the third article, Liudvika Leisyte, Rimantas Zelvys and Lina Zenkiene explore the implementation of selected Bologna action lines in Lithuanian higher education institutions (HEIs) from an organizational perspective. Although the Bologna process is likely to be normatively accepted by institutions in the context of high uncertainty, a phenomenon of national re-contextualization can be observed depending on the type of HEIs and the competitive horizons of academic disciplines.

In the fourth contribution Renáta Králiková sheds light on the domestic translation of international models basing on the Romanian and Lithuanian case of university governing boards. First, she stresses the importance of path dependent logics that go back to the transition period in the early 1990s. Second, she confirms that actors’ perceptions of institutions influence policy translation.

The fifth article written by Olga Gille-Belova, deals with the case of Belarus, which challenges the limits of the European Higher Education Area as the country is the only one that had at the time of writing not been accepted to join the Bologna Process. The contribution examines the strategic uses of the Bologna Process. The initial refusal of the Belarusian application reveals a complex interplay between the increasing importance of ‘technical’ criteria inside the EHEA and EU external policy considerations.

In her concluding comments Martina Vukasovic identifies a number of transversal themes and highlights the interplay between international, European and domestic influences on national policy changes. She then sketches a research agenda, outlines a theoretical framework and suggests topics for further research.

Dorota Dakowska is Professor of Political Science at the University of Lyon 2. She has published on EU Eastern Enlargement, German and European political foundations and the Europeanization of Polish Higher Education. Her current research project deals with the international dimension of academic reforms in Central and Eastern Europe.

Robert Harmsen is Professor of Political Science at the University of Luxembourg, where he directs the Master in European Governance. He has published extensively in the areas of European Politics and Public Policy, and is an editor of the Brill/Rodopi European Studies series. His publications include Debating Europe (Nomos, 2011; co-edited with Joachim Schild).


This entry was initially posted on Europe of Knowledge blog.

Invitation to support the formation of the ECPR Standing group ‘Politics of Higher Education, Research and Innovation’

We are inviting you to support the formation of the Standing Group on the ‘Politics of Higher Education, Research and Innovation’ with the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR).

The Standing Group will facilitate research and debates on the politics of higher education, research and innovation around the world. It will do so by bringing together scholars at all stages of their careers from a variety of disciplines, including political science, international relations, European and area studies, research policy, higher education studies, law, and sociology of science and technology. Our intended academic activities include, for instance, engaging with the critical debates on the politics of higher education, research and innovation in practice, discussing all aspects of research (methodologies, theories, data collection, processing, and analysis), joint publishing, hosting workshops and applying for joint projects.

Please support the formation of this Standing Group by providing your endorsement here.

This initiative builds on the highly successful UACES collaborative research network on the European Research Area (ERA CRN). Since 2013, members of the ERA CRN have published several special issues and edited volumes on the politics of knowledge policies, organised a range of workshops and conference panels, as well as initiated several joint research projects. You can find more information about the ERA CRN here. The formation of the ECPR Standing Group on the Politics of Higher Education, Research and Innovation seeks to ensure the sustainability of the network’s research on the Europe of Knowledge as well as its expansion to include the politics of knowledge policies from around the world.

If you have any questions about the Standing Group, please contact any of the co-convenors:

Hsuan: menghsuan.chou [at]

Inga: ingaulnicane [at]

Mitchell: young.mitchell [at]

Europe of Knowledge in Context (ECPR 2015)

Beverly Barrett

Last week we convened in Montreal, Canada for the 9th general conference of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR), which took place from 26-29 August at University of Montreal. This was the first general conference of the ECPR to take place outside of Europe, and the francophone region of Quebec welcomed participants from around the world. The conference program included 59 sections, 372 panels and 1430 papers.

Mitchell Young and Meng-Hsuan Chou (Photo Credit: Mari Elken)

Mitchell Young and Meng-Hsuan Chou (Photo Credit: Mari Elken)

The Global Governance of Knowledge Policies: Europe of Knowledge in Context was the title of the Section 54. This section was organized by the UACES’s European Research Area – Collaborative Research Network (ERA-CRN) and co-chaired by Meng-Hsuan Chou (Nanyang Technological University in Singapore) and Mitchell Young (Charles University in Prague) who facilitated the nine panels among research and higher education policy scholars.

An overview of some of the panel topics includes Regionalism and multi-level governance of higher education and research. This panel made comparisons between the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) of the Bologna Process and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) higher education policies on degree compatibility, quality assurance, and recognition of degrees. Global collaboration and competition in science, technology and innovation addressed international initiatives for research policy across countries in Europe and beyond.

CRN meeting (Photo Credit: Mari Elken)

CRN meeting (Photo Credit: Mari Elken)

The panel Researching the governance of knowledge policies: methodological and conceptual challenges made further comparisons among countries engaging in research innovation and explored ways to avoid methodological nationalism. The panel Trade agreements and the supranational shaping of knowledge policies discussed the progress of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations while explaining the relationship to the services sector of higher education. Themes on higher education governance, international cooperation in education, and research policies were dominant throughout the session over three days. All panels were well-attended and led to lively, high-quality discussions.

Participants at the Transnational Actor panel (Photo Credit: Mari Elken)

Participants at the Ideas panel (Photo Credit: Mari Elken)

Next year the 10th general conference of the ECPR will take place in Prague, Czech Republic at Charles University from September 7 to 10, 2016. We welcome scholars at various stages in their careers to participate in the ECPR and the ERA-CRN workshops and activities in the future. At the moment the network is preparing an application for the ECPR Standing Group ‘Politics of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation’; if you would like to join, please sign up here.

The politics of knowledge: a summary of the second ERA CRN Cambridge workshop

Meng-Hsuan Chou

In July 2015, UACES’s European Research Area CRN held its second workshop at the Department of Politics and International Studies (POLIS) in Cambridge. Knowledge policies continue to be 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. Building on the theme of the CRN’s first workshop, which explored the diverse roles of the ‘four I’s’ – ideas, interests, instruments and institutions in the ‘knowledge area building exercise’, this workshop invited contributions to examine the politics of knowledge policies in Europe and beyond.

Participants of ERA CRN workshop July 2015 (from left to right: Hannes Hansen-Magnusson, Julie Smith, Inga Ulnicane, Mari Elken, Luis Sanz-Menendez, Laura Cruz-Castro, Pauline Ravinet, Peter Erdelyi, Hannah Moscovitz; seated: Meng-Hsuan Chou and Mitchell Young) (Photo credit: Mari Elken)

Opening the session on ‘International policies, norms and knowledge policies’, Hannes Hansen-Magnusson (University of Hamburg) proposed a way to account for knowledge in practices of responsibility. In this co-authored paper (with Antje Wiener and Antje Vetterlein), he argued that researchers should uncover meso-level norms in order to ‘increase long-term sustainable normativity under conditions of globalisation’.

Is education policy an ‘internal consolidator or foreign policy vehicle? Amelia Hadfield (Canterbury Christ Church University) and Robert Summerby-Murray (Saint Mary’s University) asked. Using the EU and Canada as their examples, they highlighted how education policy has been co-opted to serve multiple purposes—as the modus operandi for cultivating notions of statehood and belonging, and as an extension to others of prevailing national cultural norms and understanding.

Turning to the session on ‘Regions and the re-configuration of knowledge policy areas: Examples from Canada, Europe and South East Asia’, Hannah Moscovitz (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev) compared how Quebec and Wallonia used higher education as a tool for identity promotion. She found that their approaches were distinct: whereas Quebec used knowledge policies to consolidate and foster its distinct identity, Wallonia used higher education policies as a promotional tool (the image of ‘Wallonia-Brussels’) to place itself on the global higher education map.

Pauline Ravinet (Photo credit: Mari Elken)

Pauline Ravinet (Photo credit: Mari Elken)

Offering another comparative perspective, Meng-Hsuan Chou (NTU Singapore) and Pauline Ravinet (Université Lille 2) discussed the rise of what they called ‘higher education regionalisms’ around the world. They showed how the supranational and national policy actors in Europe and South East Asia articulated their ambitions to establish common higher education areas in similar ways, but ultimately they adopt very different institutional arrangements for achieving their goals. Chou and Ravinet argued that there are varieties of ‘higher education regionalisms’ around the world and encouraged researchers to examine them empirically.

In the session ‘Studying Europe’s open labour market for researchers’, Inga Ulnicane (University of Vienna) presented the research design for a study for on the European Research Area. Her study will combine academic research and published studies to identify the shortcomings and gaps in priority areas of the ERA such as effective national research systems and transnational cooperation and competition.

Peter Erdelyi (Photo credit: Mari Elken)

Peter Erdelyi (Photo credit: Mari Elken)

In the penultimate session—‘Knowledge policy instrumentation: from failure to reform?’—Péter Erdélyi (Bournemouth University) discussed the rise and fall of UK’s Business Link, a policy instrument the government adopted for furthering its knowledge economy. In this co-authored paper (with Edgar Whitley), he showed the implementation challenges associated with Business Link the UK government faced in its attempts to address market failures impeding the growth of SMEs.

Examining the relationship between ideas and instruments, Mitchell Young (Charles University in Prague) argued that policy instruments embed politics. Using the cases of the new Swedish and Czech performance-based funding tools, along with EU’s framework programmes, he showed how studying policy instruments reveal the ideas and narratives steering politics.

Is there standardisation in higher education? Mari Elken (NIFU and University of Oslo) asked. Taking the case of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and its subsequent translation through National Qualifications Framework (NQF), she showed how the EQF has generated standardisation pressures across Europe. The most surprising element, Elken revealed, has been the voluntary nature of the instrument.

Closing the workshop with the session ‘The institutional design and implementation for excellence’, Thomas König (Institute for Advanced Studies, Vienna) presented three aspects concerning peer reviewing: (1) how it is defined; (2) when it entered the world of research funding; and (3) how the notion is applied in academia and research funding. He showed that peer review plays a very different role in research funding than in academia. In research funding, peer review is used to legitimise funding decisions and is greatly valued for its procedural flexibility.

Finally, in a co-authored paper (with Alberto Benitez-Amado), Luis Sanz-Menendez and Laura Cruz-Castro (both CSIC Institute of Public Goods and Policies) analysed the participation of Spanish universities in the European Research Council (ERC) funding calls. Studying a representative sample of eighteen universities across Spain, they found that Spanish higher education institutions did not respond to the calls in the same way. Put simply, there is no homogeneity in how Spanish universities approach ERC funding calls.

The European Research Area CRN would like to thank UACES and POLIS (University of Cambridge) for their generous support in the hosting of this workshop.

Governance of knowledge policies (ICPP, Milan, Italy)

Martina Vukasovic

The 2nd International Conference on Public Policy was held in Milan, 1-4 July 2015, on the premises Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. What was initially envisaged to be a three day conference, prolonged due to significant interest, gathered around 1300 participants from 63 countries, who presented and discussed approx. 1200 papers in 260 parallel sessions. In addition, 6 plenary sessions, including one focusing on the relationship between public policy and various disciplines (anthropology, economics, planning, political science, sociology, international relations, and philosophy). The conference was structured around 18 different topics, within which panels on particular issues were organized, sometimes including more than one paper session.

Jens Jungblut (photo credit: Mari Elken)

Jens Jungblut (photo credit: Mari Elken)

Concerning knowledge policies, they were the focus of four panels. ERA CRN network organized a panel on Governance of knowledge policies, structured around three elements and comprising nine papers: (1) discourse and ideas, (2) central organizations (i.e. universities or research institutes) and (3) groups and individuals within these central organizations (academic and research staff and students). In addition, panels focused on patterns and pathways of convergence and divergence in higher education, higher education policy in Asia and governance of higher education between historical roots and transnational convergence pressures.

Walter Ysebaert and Tatiana Fumasoli (photo credit: Mari Elken)

Walter Ysebaert and Tatiana Fumasoli (photo credit: Mari Elken)

Other panels of potential interest for those studying knowledge policies in multi-level multi-actor contexts included those focusing on defining policy problems, the work of policy analysts, horizontal policy coordination between different public policy sectors, global-local dynamic in public policy, global policy convergence, and multilevel implementation. Also, panels focused on advancing theoretical tools for analysing policy (e.g. Advocacy Coalition Framework or the Multiple Streams Framework, or discussing methods for policy analysis.

During the conference, the general assembly of the recently established International Public Policy Association was organized, focusing on strategic issues, relationships with existing networks and future events. The 3rd ICPP conference will take place in 2017, most likely in Singapore. In the meantime, those interested in public policy can consider participating in the 1st Regional Conference on Public Policy, 10-11 June 2016, in Hong Kong.