European Research Area CRN

Home » Posts tagged 'Europe of Knowledge'

Tag Archives: Europe of Knowledge

Wrapping up the UACES CRN on the European Research Area: Summary of the final workshop

Mari Elken and Jens Jungblut

On the 3rd and 4th of March 2016, the European Research Area CRN had its final workshop at the Directorate General for Research & Innovation of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. Building on the diverse activities and encompassing research that has been conducted within the framework of the CRN, the workshop had two main aims: to present the research that the CRN facilitated, and to draw lessons from the results of the presented studies which can be of use for policymakers in the European Union. The invitation from DG Research and Innovation provided a common arena for both researchers and policymakers to openly discuss the policy implications of the work of participating CRN members.


In her introduction to the workshop, Meng-Hsuan Chou (NTU Singapore) reminded the audience of the diverse activities that the CRN undertook in the last years. While this was the final event for the CRN, she announced that the network will continue its work in the form of a Standing Group of the European Consortium for Political Research—the Politics of Higher, Research, and Innovation Standing Group.


Jens Jungblut

Jens Jungblut & Pauline Ravinet (Photo credit: Mari Elken)

In the first presentation Martina Vukasovic (University of Gent, Belgium), Mari Elken (NIFU, Norway) and Jens Jungblut (INCHER Kassel, Germany) used the results from five different but related research projects to unpack the multi-level and multi-actor dynamics of higher education policymaking in Europe. The topics discussed included the growing role of stakeholder organisations for policymaking on the European level, and how these organisations shift their own positions as a result of their involvement in European debates. Additionally, conditions for Europeanisation, both with regard to the translation of European policies to national and institutional settings, and European policymaking in the area of education that goes beyond the principal of subsidiarity have been presented. Furthermore, the changing governance of the Bologna Process throughout its development and the withering political salience of the process especially for EU member countries were highlighted in their presentation. Finally, and turning to the national level, the growing importance of political parties and their preferences for national higher education policymaking has been discussed linking also developments on the national level to potential effects for European discussions. Overall, the authors highlight through their different projects that change in European higher education policy does not unfold in a linear manner and that it takes time for policy change to materialise. Furthermore, it became clear that politics increasingly matter, be it due to a growing relevance of political parties or due to increasingly important stakeholder organisations. Finally, also sectoral dynamics and actors and their expertise have an important role to play in European policymaking for higher education.


Albert Sanchez-Graells (University of Bristol Law School, UK) presented a paper that was co-authored with Andrea Gideon (National University of Singapore) that addressed the question of how far and under which circumstances UK universities are bound by EU public procurement rules. Taking the confusion in British higher education about the degree to which UK universities are bound by European rules on public procurement as a starting point, their paper analyses the legal situation both with regards to the universities’ role as buyer of goods and services but also as providers of services in teaching and research. The decreasing level of national regulations in the UK in the context of market oriented governance reforms actually led to a growing importance of European regulations that are still present and valid for the universities even after national changes in the governance arrangements. Thus, marketisation did not free the universities from public procurement rules. On the contrary, the authors concluded that both in the case of universities acting as buyers as well as in situations where universities provided services in teaching and applied research they are in theory bound by EU public procurement rules. Only in the case of basic research the universities’ activities are clearly non-economic by nature and thus public procurement rules are less relevant in these cases. The paper thus presents an interesting case where European regulations and the lack of awareness of these create risks of litigations and liabilities for British universities and partly contradict national governance reforms.

Albert & Andreas

Albert Sanchez-Graells & Andreas Dahlen (Photo credit: Mari Elken)


The second day of the workshop began with a presentation from Meng-Hsuan Chou (NTU Singapore) and Pauline Ravinet (University of Lille 2, France). They provided new insights from an ongoing project about higher education regionalism. Their project has a dual aim of contributing to knowledge in two distinct research fields: new regionalism in international relations and EU studies, as well as higher education policy studies. Both of these sets of literature have traditionally had some limitations—literature on new regionalism has had limited empirical evidence, and literature on higher education policy studies in Europe has frequently been viewed as a unique case of integration. Consequently, there is also limited understanding of the similarities and differences between regional integration initiatives in Europe, Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Analytically, their work builds on three main dimensions: constellations of actors; institutional arrangements and policy instruments; ideas and principles underpinning these structures. During their presentation they showed initial results from their ongoing empirical work. They indicate that while Bologna is widely assumed to have been ‘exported’ to other regions, the so-called Bologna diffusion narrative has been somewhat overstated. While Bologna has created momentum, it is not a stable model that is being emulated. Furthermore, a number of the initiatives in East Asia also pre-date the Bologna Process. In their presentation, Chou and Ravinet showed how regional integration processes in Europe and South East Asia employ a rather similar policy toolkit, raising important questions of the scope and nature of regional integration processes. Overall, the project provides a much-needed comparative perspective to examining regional integration processes. The discussion that followed the presentation raised important questions of the future of the Bologna Process.


Nicola Dotti

Nicola Francesco Dotti (Photo credit: Mari Elken)

In the next presentation, Nicola Francesco Dotti (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium) examined Framework Programmes (FP) participation from a geographical perspective. The starting point for the presentation was that there is a widespread assumption of uneven spatial distribution of research and development, less is known about how this geography evolves. The aim of the analysis was to identify the drivers for this spatial distribution, examining notions such as diversification vs specialisation, advanced vs. lagging regions and the role of the cohesion policy. During the presentation, insights from two separate sets of analysis were presented, examining regional distribution of FP and spatial dimensions of knowledge brokerage. The first analysis examined regional drivers in the NUTS3 regions in the time period of 1999 to 2010 across six FP themes. The key finding was that there is a link between economic development and success with FP, thus there is higher rate of participation in FP in more advanced regions. Furthermore, the relationship is also evident for regions that are growing (increase) or in decline (decrease). In addition, smart specialisation appears to have little effect in FP participation. The second analysis focused on knowledge brokers, and in particular the Brussels region. While most regions have remained rather stable in their FP performance, Brussels had significantly improved its performance in FP participation (+1,2% from FP5 to FP7). Dotti argued that despite high level of fragmentation of Brussels as a region, the high number of knowledge brokers that the Commission attracts creates a unique benefit in that it creates a very fertile market for access to strategic information, thus benefiting the region.


Amelia Veiga (CIPES, Portugal) presented a joint study, with António Magalhães and Alberto Amaral, about the Bologna Process through the lens of differentiated integration, specifically via the process of enactment. They highlight that the Bologna Process has shifted from being a means to something and has become an end in itself. As empirical evidence across Europe shows that there is persistent variation in how the process is implemented on national level, this raises questions of how to tackle this divergence if the aim of the process is convergence. In their study, they find multiple connection points between the main structure of the process, and how it has been implemented across Europe. They mapped the Bologna Process according to the heuristic of various modes of differentiated integration, and found that, in the existing literature on differentiated integration, Bologna can best be placed under Europe a la carte, being a case of a permanent process, with territorial integration process, where differentiation primarily takes place on national level. It is also placed outside of EU treaties, included members beyond the EU, and uses an intergovernmental decision-making mode. From this perspective, Veiga emphasised the necessity to analyse policy implementation as a process of enactment to further understand the tensions created by differentiated integration and the kinds of translation and interpretation processes this creates on national level. Rather than viewing policy analysis as a uniform process across Europe, this calls for more idiosyncratic analysis. Indeed, to look at what is happening on the grounds.

Amelia Veiga

Amelia Veiga (Photo credit: Mari Elken)


Inga Ulnicane (University of Vienna, Austria) and Anete Vitola (University of Latvia, Latvia) then presented their joint study, with Julia Melkers (Georgia Tech, USA), on the notion of scientific diaspora. In the presentation, Inga Ulnicane first offered the results of a literature review that examined the definition of scientific diaspora as a concept, and the various roles it takes. These studies highlight the contradictory nature of the concept—as it emphasises an universalist view on science accompanied with a sense of allegiance to home country. Furthermore, diaspora can take multiple roles, being collaborative knowledge brokers, organising networks or supporting capacity building in home countries. In the presentation, Ulnicane indicated that specific scientific diaspora policies can now be identified in a number of countries, as well as international organisations, such as UNDP. As a case study, the researchers presented their analysis of scientific diaspora policies from Latvia. Latvia provides an interesting case for analysis as it has in recent times experienced a wave of emigration after joining the EU. It is also a country where there is considerable emphasis on using EU funds for capacity building and PhD education. Anete Vitola presented the results from the Latvian case study, showing a shifting policy focus on how diaspora policies were conceptualised. While initially these policies only emphasised on maintaining Latvian culture abroad, focus on scientific and business cooperation has emerged.

The final presentation of the day was from Charikleia Tzanakou (University of Warwick). She argues that knowledge policies are becoming increasingly in the forefront, thus the question ‘knowledge policies for whom’ becomes increasingly pressing. The presentation was based on a mixed methods study on examining career trajectories of Greek PhD graduates from natural sciences and engineering. Tzanakou argued that PhD graduates are a very uniquely placed group, as they are the user, output, beneficiary, and even ‘victim’ of knowledge policies. In the presentation, she highlighted that the rhetoric of ‘we need more PhD graduates’ is not met with appropriate measures for how the labour market is able to absorb them. In the study, she had found that there was considerable under-utilisation on national level, as industry was not always interested in hiring PhD graduates. Overall, the job opportunities in Greece were in many cases limited—both in academia and in industry. At the same time, the number of PhD graduates in Greece has been on the increase, among other things due to EU funding. She highlighted a number of policy implications of the analysis, in particular regarding the nature of the market of researchers in Europe: is the market really open or are we witnessing an increasingly segregated market? The presentation was followed by a lively and interesting discussion regarding the aims and organisation of PhD education in various European countries.


Overall, the workshop included a variety of topics concerning the key elements of Europe of Knowledge, highlighting the complexity of its multi-issue, multi-level, and multi-actor nature. At the same time, the experience also showed how these themes are interlinked, and how inputs from various fields are extremely relevant for advancing our collective insights on the construction of the European knowledge landscapes. The UACES CRN on the European Research Area thus provided an important arena to engage in cross-boundary work and to further the debates on knowledge policies across traditional sectoral divides within and beyond Europe. In the closing remarks, the European Commission representative Andreas Dahlen highlighted the positive experiences from the two days, expressing his wishes that this workshop could be the start for other kinds of knowledge exchange in the future. While this was the final event for the UACES CRN on the European Research Area, the network will continue to engage with scholars and practitioners in the newly established ECPR Standing Group on the Politics of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation.

Summaries & slides from the workshop


Researching the Europe of Knowledge: Insights for policymakers from the UACES CRN

3-4 March 2016

Directorate General Research & Innovation, European Commission, Square Frère Orban, 8, Brussels, Belgium

Please contact Vicente Andreo Pallares (Vicente.ANDREO-PALLARES [at] if you would like to attend. Seating is limited.

We would like to thank UACES and the Directorate General Research and Innovation, European Commission for generously supporting this event



Day 1: 3 March 2016

Welcome – Dr Meng-Hsuan Chou (NTU Singapore) – 16.00-16.15

‘Actors and Institutions in the Europe of Knowledge’ – Dr Mari Elken (NIFU), Mr Jens Jungblut (University of Oslo), Dr Martina Vukasovic (Ghent University) – 16.15-17.00

‘When are universities bound by EU public procurement rules as buyers and providers? – English universities as a case study’ – Dr Andrea Gideon (NUS), Dr Albert Sanchez-Graells (University of Bristol Law School) – 17.00-17.45


Day 2: 4 March 2016

‘The Rise of Higher Education Regionalism’ – Dr Meng-Hsuan Chou (NTU Singapore) and Dr Pauline Ravinet (University of Lille 2) – 10.00-10.45

‘Knowledge Brokerage and FP participation: a geographical perspective’ – Dr Nicola Francesco Dotti (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) – 10.45-11.30

‘Differentiated Integration and the Bologna Process’ – Dr Amelia Veiga (Centre for Research on Higher Education Policies) – 11.30-12.15

Lunch – 12.15-13.30

‘Scientific Diaspora: Roles and Options for Knowledge Policies’ – Dr Inga Ulnicane (University of Vienna), Dr Anete Vitola (University of Latvia), and Dr Julia Melkers (Georgia Tech) – 13.30-14.15

‘Knowledge policies for whom?’ – Dr Charikleia Tzanakou (University of Warwick) – 14.15-15.00

Closing remarks – Dr Meng-Hsuan Chou (NTU Singapore) – 14.15-15.00

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.

The role of knowledge in European futures

Inga Ulnicane

The 22nd International Conference of Europeanists ‘Contradictions: Envisioning European Futures’ was held by the Council for European Studies (CES) at the Sciences Po, Paris, July 8-10 2015. During the three days, more than 1000 scholars from around the world discussed their research on Europe in more than 300 sessions, roundtables and plenaries.

From left: Inga Ulnicane, Nicola Francesco Dotti, Lavinia Marin, Andrea Gideon and Dorota Dakowska

From left: Inga Ulnicane, Nicola Francesco Dotti, Lavinia Marin, Andrea Gideon and Dorota Dakowska

In addition to traditional European studies topics such as welfare states, migration and democracy, several sessions dealt with themes of knowledge, research, higher education and academic governance. The session ‘The role of knowledge in European futures’ organized by the collaborative research network on European Research Area (ERA CRN) brought together contributions from political scientists, lawyer, philosopher and economic geographers dealing with European research and higher education policies. Robert Kaiser from University of Siegen and Heiko Prange-Gstöhl from the European Commission analyzed the EU’s failure to come up with a more future-oriented budget that would put research and innovation policies at its core. Inga Ulnicane from University of Vienna explored potential long-term impact of the economic crisis on old tensions in European research and innovation policies: basic vs. applied research and innovation leading vs. catching-up countries. Andrea Gideon from University of Liverpool undertook a legal analysis of the new EU framework for state aid for research, development and innovation. Lavinia Marin from KU Leuven brought in a philosophical perspective on the concept of citizenship in the Bologna process. Nicola Francesco Dotti together with colleagues from Vrije Universiteit Brussel contributed an economic geography view on the spatial distribution of the EU Framework Programme participation.

The ERA CRN session had fruitful exchanges with a session on reconfiguring the European Academy that discussed internationalization and Europeanization of higher education policies. Other sessions on education dealt with topics such as social aspects of learning in contemporary Europe, the role of political parties in higher education and vocational training policies and changing academic governance.

The plenaries and roundtables provided insights in ongoing theoretical and empirical debates in European studies. The conference highlights include a plenary on European futures with Peter A Hall and Jacques Rupnik, a discussion on varieties of capitalism with Vivien Schmidt and Jonas Pontusson and a keynote speech on economic inequality delivered by Thomas Piketty and discussed by Wolfgang Streeck. In 2016, the 23rd International Conference of Europeanists ‘Resilient Europe?’ will take place in Philadelphia, US, April 14-16.

Final programme available: CRN workshop in Cambridge (July 2015)

The final programme for the CRN’s second workshop at Cambridge is available!

Please click here to download: 2015 Cambridge workshop programme FINAL2

New Horizons in the Europe of Knowledge

Inga Ulnicane and Meng-Hsuan ChouJCERcover

What are the boundaries of the Europe of Knowledge? Does a specific conceptualisation of scientific excellence lead to a more divided Europe of Knowledge? How are diverse aims of research policy such as economic competitiveness, societal relevance and research excellence reconciled? Do universities increasingly behave like private companies? These are some of the key questions addressed in a recent special issue ‘New Horizons in the Europe of Knowledge’ published in Journal of Contemporary European Research.

The six research articles, two commentaries, three book reviews and an editorial in this special issue explore major topics in European research and higher education policies. Most contributions have been presented at conference panels organised by the Academic Association of Contemporary European Studies (UACES) collaborative research network on European Research Area (ERA CRN) in 2013. This special issue seeks to provide timely insights in knowledge policies, which have played an increasing role on national, supranational and global political agendas.


Changing research and higher education policies in Europe and beyond

In the editorial, Meng-Hsuan Chou and Inga Ulnicane explore the historical expansion of the Europe of Knowledge including both supranational (EU Framework Programmes) as well as intergovernmental (the Bologna Process and research infrastructures such as CERN) initiatives. They demonstrate that the shifting policy, political and geographical boundaries of European knowledge policies include interactions among diverse policy fields, governance levels and world regions.

The first three articles focus on changing concepts, ideas and values in European research policy. Mitchell Young examines how the concept of excellence has changed from the 7th Framework Programme to Horizon 2020. He argues that the framework programmes go beyond their explicit role as a funding distribution instrument to serve discursive and regulatory functions, as his study of specific conceptualisations of excellence demonstrate. Inga Ulnicane analyses the ideational development of the European Research Area initiative from its launch in 2000. She finds that over time the main aims of the ERA initiative have expanded from initial focus on economic competitiveness to also include ‘big ideas’ of research policy such as Grand Challenges and excellence. Andrea Gideon brings in the legal perspective to discuss blurring boundaries between the public and the private in research policies in Germany, the Netherlands and England. She suggests that commodification of research could subject universities to EU competition law.

The following three articles turn to European higher education policy. Mari Elken analyses vertical, horizontal and internal tensions in the European Qualifications Framework. She finds that while the impact of EQF has been uneven and its implementation proceeded with various speed, it nevertheless is a successful instrument that has been gaining widespread acceptance across Europe in an area where coordination previously had been met with resistance. Amélia Veiga, António Magalhães and Alberto Amaral apply the concept of differentiated integration to understanding the Bologna process as an instrument for building the European Higher Education Area. They underline the role of national and institutional factors in explaining inception and evolution of the EHEA. Laura Cruz-Castro and Luis Sanz-Menéndez analyse changes in human resource policy in Spanish universities. Their results reveal that some universities are more responsive to changes in resource environment than others, and that compliance is not the only strategic response.

The two commentaries provide insights from practitioners. Thomas König reflects on his earlier experience as a scientific advisor to the then President of the European Research Council, which is considered a success story of the EU research policy. He explains how the ERC reconciles the key tensions between scientific and administrative expectations. Julie Smith shares her experiences on what it means to be an academic in the Europe of Knowledge. Coming from a world-leading British university, she highlights the role of research networking, funding and assessment.

Finally, three recent books in the field of European research and education studies are reviewed. The first is a book by Lukas Graf on the hybridization of vocational training and higher education in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.  The second is a book edited by Tero Erkkilä on global university rankings and the challenges they present to European higher education. The third book reviewed is on European research and higher education governance edited by Meng-Hsuan Chou and Åse Gornitzka.


An emergent research agenda

The contributions to this special issue reveal a number of exciting future research avenues.  Heterogeneity of actors and policy initiatives in the Europe of Knowledge suggests further need to focus on experimentation and differentiated integration including its various models of multi-speed Europe, flexible integration, and variable geometry. Contributions on the role of ideas and values in knowledge policies suggest that it would be interesting to delve deeper into the cognitive dimension of these policies and their interaction with quantitative assessment and actors’ interests. Finally, the changing global landscape of knowledge policies with new initiatives from emerging countries, private actors and national agencies indicates an urgency to examine the opportunities and challenges of regional initiatives such as the Europe of Knowledge in a global context.

The ERA CRN will continue to address these topics in the forthcoming publications, its 2015 workshop and conference panels. We look forward engaging with scholars and practitioners interested in these topics.


Inga Ulnicane and Meng-Hsuan Chou are guest editors of the special issue ‘New Horizons in the Europe of Knowledge’. Dr. Inga Ulnicane is Assistant Professor at the Institute for European Integration Research, University of Vienna, Austria. Dr. Meng-Hsuan Chou is Nanyang Assistant Professor in Public Policy and Global Affairs at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.


This entry has been 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