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

Meng-Hsuan Chou and Pauline Ravinet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


This entry was initially posted on Europe of Knowledge blog.

CFP: Researching the governance of knowledge policies: methodological and conceptual challenges (2016 ECPR)

Panel: Researching the governance of knowledge policies: methodological and conceptual challenges

Research and higher education policy studies often take the state as a starting point for analysis. Single country case studies and comparisons between individual countries seem to be the most common approaches. At the same time, governance of knowledge policies increasingly takes place in the context of globalisation and regional integration, and is of interest to various international, supranational and transnational organisations. Furthermore, new linkages are developed on sub-national level – in the form of various networks and co-operation constellations. Overall, one can find new forms of vertical and horizontal coordination in the area of knowledge policies. The question then is: how meaningful this single country approach is in an increasingly interconnected world? Does this lead to ‘methodological nationalism’ and limit the scope of analysis? Are there alternative conceptual and methodological approaches to be used, and if so – what would this mean?

We invite papers that examine (empirically, theoretically) the role of the nation state as well as inter-, trans-, supra- 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.

This panel invites papers focused on questions such as: Which role does the nation state actually play in studies of higher education and research policy, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of such an approach? Which other units could we focus on if we want to avoid methodological nationalism and eurocentrism on the one hand but still on the other hand want to compare different policy designs of higher education and research policy? Are there sector-specific conceptual challenges for researching governance of knowledge in a multi-level policy context? What kind of conceptual challenges emerge in studying knowledge policies and linkages across levels and arenas? What are the appropriate approaches and designs for studying increased horizontal and vertical coordination? Where are existing conceptual blind spots? What are the consequences of this for both research design and methodology? What kind of differences in terms of methodology, research design etc. can be identified between higher education and research policy studies? What are the benefits and disadvantages of such approaches?

Papers at this panel could discuss the use of alternative entities than the nation state, including institutions, regions, networks, traditions, ideas, cultures etc. Papers for this panel could also examine the methodologies used in higher education and research policy studies – empirically and/or theoretically, including focus on comparative designs. Suggestions for innovative research designs are also welcome.

This panel is proposed for the 2016 ECPR Section (7-10 September 2016, Prague). Please contact the panel co-chairs before 24 January 2016 if you are interested in submitting a paper for this panel. 

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]

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.

Knowledge Governance in an Industrial Cluster: the Collaboration between Academia-Industry-Government

Farah Purwaningrum

My book ‘Knowledge Governance in an Industrial Cluster. The Collaboration between Academia-Industry-Government in Indonesia’ examines the diverging strands of normative, social and territorial order of the science system. The insights from one of dynamic Asian countries – Indonesia provide interesting comparisons and contrasts with higher education and innovation policies in European countries. Several key findings of my research on Indonesian science system are as follows:

Lack of coordination

The institutional space afforded by the normative order shows a fuzzy and inconsistent norms and lack of coordination between ministries in Indonesia involved in the science and industrial sector. The Ministry of Research and Technology’s (RISTEK) science policy is geared towards national innovation system. The national research agenda composed by the National Research Council (DRN) and RISTEK is centralistic. It is decided in the capital city Jakarta. DRN itself act as a unit of RISTEK. The production of knowledge is aimed at seven areas: food security, energy, technology, transportation management, information and communication technology, defense and security, medicine and health technology, and advanced materials.

Romanticizing on the past of high-technology during the former President Habibie is also evident in the vision of IPTEK (ilmu pengetahuan dan teknologi/science and technology) for the welfare and progress of civilization. IPTEK and the knowledge produced from it is viewed as a panacea. The national innovation system strategy was later on carried out as a project by RISTEK due to the apathetic response from the local government. Indeed the matter of research and development depends substantially on the regional government commitment, which can be restricted due to limited local budget capacity and clientele related matters.

Liberalization agenda

Directorate of Higher Education (DIKTI) in Ministry of National Education (MENDIKNAS) are taking measures to liberalise the higher education system. However, it is temporarily halted due to the Constitutional Court Decision that regards education as a public good and secures the right to education for Indonesian citizens. The Court is a lonely guardian of the citizen rights in contrast to the liberalization agenda pursued not only by MENDIKNAS but also Ministry of Industry. The recent legal reform proposes the introduction of non-profit legal entity (Badan Layanan Umum) for the state universities in the end of 2012. Profit or non-profit character of the organization is to be dictated by empirical reality instead of normative purview.

Industrial policy is also emphasising the liberalization agenda by reliance of its fiscal policy through tax incentives rather than through standardization mechanism. The current Master-plan for the Acceleration and Expansion for Indonesian Economic Development 2011-2025 is ambitious in its plan of connecting diverging hubs in different islands in Indonesia. The capital demands of this Master-plan is considerable large namely up to 400 billion US dollars, this is six times of Indonesia’s GDP in 2010. Java Economic Corridor focuses more on services, the remaining corridors are still largely based on natural resources.

From the analysis of the clusters related policies it becomes evident that 35 clusters specified do not point out to a bounded area of cluster either in a specific area such as the one in Ceper, or in Jababeka where there is natural industrial agglomeration. The extent of the feasibility of this policy in practice is contentious first due to the patchy bottom up planning and second due to sectoral planning due to lack of coordination between ministries. The Investment related laws exhibit friendliness towards tax holidays, tax incentives and labour policy. Less is shown in terms of reliance of smart regulation as incorporated in the technical engineering standards or national standardisation norms. The automotive industry policy also shows fiscal intervention in terms of import duty and luxury tax. There is a vacuous absence of industrial policy for knowledge transfer in the automotive sector, which exemplifies the reliance of the knowledge transfer process from the principal customers.

Research system: patronage, entrepreneurship and scattered resources

Universities are the main scientific knowledge producing organizations in terms of research as well as national publication activities. The pattern I observe from the statistical inference of the allocation of Insentif (research incentive programme) RISTEK grant from 2008-2010 and from the publication of scientific national journal indicates is geographical disparity of knowledge distribution. Practices of research-based organizations indicate that the science system still represent the tension of patronage, personal linkage harnessed with good relations. These practices enact the social space of interaction between actors. Centralization still persists. Researchers cope with the lack of funding by resorting to taking up additional jobs. Some are being entrepreneurial.

Moreover, the fluid character where ministries have their budget for research creates different doors to attain research funding. This underlines the fact that the existing capacity of research is restrained, resources are scattered due to ‘shared poverty.’ Further research is evaluated in terms of completing administrative requirements in the fiscal year, which may hamper the linkage between industry and research institutes. Nonetheless there is linkage between academia and industry as exemplified in the case of Biomaterial R&D and the Toyota case. The different modes of representation of academia and in industries may inhibit the knowledge flow. The case of Polymer Technology Center indicates how an academia is becoming more entrepreneurial.

Decentralization: connecting knowledge with locality

The territorial order then asks for the progress on decentralization and how the decentralized government as encapsulated in the pemekaran (splitting of administrative regions) process partake the role in development of bonded zone, and connecting knowledge with the locality. There is a plan of developing a bonded zone which will include Jababeka, Lippo & Delta Silicon, Hyundai, EJIP, Bekasi Fajar, MM2100 and Deltamas. It is likely that the bonded zone in the Bekasi district which will have the same fate like Batam, it will be relying to the central government funding, facilitated by the West Java Province with Estate Companies.

The District Government of Bekasi is facing challenges due to bureaucratization. The bureaucratization process is interwoven in the practices of the officials in which there is a high regard for more lucrative administrative positions than for functional positions. The rapid rotation of manpower also implies the loss of knowledge in the government. Constraints in the usage of budget is visible, this is aggravated with patron-client relations between the parliament and the local government and corrupt practices in the usage of budget. Pemekaran contributes to the bureaucratization process and the rise of bureaucratic elites. Thus pemekaran allows the geographical space in a decentralized government unit for a competition for resources.

This sketches the picture of the science system in Indonesia, where the authority relations and practices of the policy that keep the order of science system arises from differing orders. They signify on the one hand, the continuities of past practices of patronage, ‘shared poverty’ and centralization, and on the other hand formally there is increasing regulatory trend to expand and liberalize even more spaces. This collaboration, competition, centralization and liberalization construe the spaces of the science system in Indonesia.

Dr. Farah Purwaningrum is a sociologist with an interdisciplinary background in law. She holds law degrees from Universitas Islam Indonesia, Yogyakarta and the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK. She completed her Dr. phil. in Rheinische Friedrich Universität Bonn, Germany in 2012. She currently holds a lectureship in sociology at the Institute of Asian Studies, Universiti Brunei Darussalam. She has a keen interest to do research in areas of science policy, science system and knowledge governance. She will present her recent research at the ERA CRN section on the global governance of knowledge policies at the ECPR General Conference in Montreal, Canada, August 2015.

This entry was initially posted on Europe of Knowledge blog.

CFP: Transnational actors in the multi-level governance of knowledge policies (ECPR 2015)

Panel title: Transnational actors in the multi-level governance of knowledge policies

  • Chair: Tatiana Fumasoli (
  • Co-discussants: Tatiana Fumasoli ( and Åse Gornitzka


Abstract: How does academia engage at the national, European and global levels to respond to the on-going pressures for excellence and relevance? This panel examines two sets of actors at the core of knowledge production and dissemination: academics and universities. Academics are professionals with multiple affiliations and loyalties, as they are embedded in higher education institutions and discipline-based communities; they strive to protect their academic freedom and control of their teaching and research activities (Freidson 2003). Universities have become increasingly relevant actors in the higher education and research fields, since reforms granting institutional autonomy have allowed them to position themselves strategically and affect the systemic level (Fumasoli and Huisman 2013).

We conceive of the ERA and the EHEA as a multi-layered system that provides opportunities for academics and universities to engage in different arenas across levels, in order to defend and lobby for their interests. The panel’s overall objective is to shed light on how such actors influence formulation and implementation of policies in higher education and research, how they contribute in the construction of the ERA and EHEA, more in general of the Europe of Knowledge.

We thus ask three distinct sets of questions:

  1. How do academics and universities take part in policy processes at European, national, regional and institutional level? What are the factors empowering and constraining them?
  2. What are the implications for ERA and EHEA of such engagement(s) at multiple levels? How is their governance impacted? How are specific policies and instruments affected?
  3. What are the consequences for national higher education and research? To what extent academics’ and universities’ strategic agency influences systemic integration at national and European levels?

To make sense of these dynamics we invite both conceptual and empirical papers that use, among others, multi-level governance (Marks 1996, Hooghe and Marks 2001, Piattoni 2010), networking governance (Gornitzka 2009), field theory  (Fligstein and McAdam 2012), and advocacy coalition (Sabatier 1998). Some relevant topics to elaborate upon are transnational interest groups, professional and disciplinary associations, strategic alliances (Fligstein 2008).


To propose a paper for this panel please contact Tatiana Fumasoli (

CFP: Governance of Knowledge Policies (ICPP 2015)

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

Session title: “Governance of Knowledge Policies”



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



Session abstract:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panel title: Ideas in the global governance of knowledge

Abstract: As the ECPR and the Europe of Knowledge section enter a new phase, this panel takes a reflective approach and invites contributions from around the world on the role of ideas in knowledge policy governance. Ideas are pervasive in all aspects of public policymaking at the national, regional and international levels. They act as deeply entrenched paradigmatic beliefs concerning how things should and ought to be done, as well as specific policy blueprints for resolving particular policy problems. Articulated through discourse and championed by ‘amplifiers’, ideas may chart the pathways of regional integration and international collaboration in unexpected ways. This panel invites contributions that explore the role that ideas play in regional and international research and higher education policy cooperation. By ‘role’, I refer to the independent or intervening effects that an idea – such as the ‘knowledge-based economy’, ‘world-class’, ‘regional hub’, the ‘Rise of Asia’ or the ‘Asian Century’, free movement of knowledge/fifth freedom, competitiveness, excellence, talent, internationalisation, ‘digital revolution’, ‘Single Market of Knowledge’ and so on – have had on the regional or global governance of knowledge policies. Papers in this panel are invited to address any of these questions: What are the prominent ideas in the international governance of knowledge policies (higher education, science and research) and how have they determined the evolution of the latter’s development? Are there visible national, regional or transnational champions of certain ideas and what strategies do they apply to promote them? Also, to what extent have these ideational champions collaborated with one another or do they work in isolation? How have ideas been translated into national or regional research and higher education policies? Could we identify a consistent discourse or policy frame associated with these ideas? Similarly, could we detect an emergent actor constellation opposing the promoted ideas? And, if so, what are the alternative discourses or policy frames and to what extent have they been successful?

To propose a paper for this panel please send an abstract of 500 – 1000 words until January 20th 2015 to Meng-Hsuan Chou ( The abstract should include the research aim, the conceptual approach, the case(s) studied as well as potential methods and data. The panel chair will then assess the proposals until January 30th 2015 and propose the panel en bloc to the section chairs. If you have any further questions, feel free to contact Meng-Hsuan Chou.

CFP: Rankings and the global governance of knowledge policies (ECPR 2015)

Panel title: Rankings and the global governance of knowledge policies

Abstract: Rankings and indicators have become central policy instruments in the global governance of knowledge policies. This panel investigates a specific phenomenon – university rankings – and how it reconstructs power within and across different geographical regions. Often linked to the international market economy, university rankings are now contributing to the diffusion of policy scripts and policy convergence.

It is commonly agreed, that global university rankings are not neutral instruments for making sense of external reality: (1) Claiming to be measurements of performance and quality rankings draw from and reinforce specific understandings of these qualities. Analysis of concepts, operational choices and discourses are ways for making sense of social rankings. (2) While university rankings have certain commonalities with measurements of physical quantities, most are inherently normative in depicting one end of the scale essentially ‘good’, the other ‘bad’ in a way that for example thermometers are not. The function of university rankings thus is both descriptive and prescriptive: they not only produce stand-point depictions of academic standings, they are meant to structure and steer policy-processes at all levels of decision making towards certain ideals. (3) As gross simplifications of complex reality – they allow easy comparisons between institutional units and political and cultural regions, they allow persuasive quantitative modelling and explanatory analyses, they allow attractive graphical presentations – they are disposed to receive attention in media and stakeholder groups all over the world. As such, annually published rankings are strong means to diffuse policy ideas and ideals. (4) The normatively framed comparative logic together with the high visibility increases competitive pressure between individuals, institutions, nations, and regions.

Many issues are still unclear or under dispute. In normative and political terms, there is no agreement about the worth of rankings and ranking practice in general, whether or not it is harmful by definition to assess academic practices in standardized terms of quality and performance. While some outright denounce university rankings, others take a more positive view in allowing that rankings may be beneficial for delimited purposes or in specified settings. In empirical terms, it is unclear how wide-ranging, deep and enduring is rankings’ role in global governance of knowledge. It is not yet clear if rankings will mainly push for policy convergence or foster differentiation: will global scripts be translated into local versions?; will we see real variation in institutional profiles as actors seek competitive edge over others? Lastly, while it has become common to state that ‘rankings are here to stay’, we may wonder whether the proliferation of rankings will at some point bring their demise: is it possible to uphold authority status as supply of rankings, measurements and data-sets increases?
The panel is open to theoretical and empirical papers that examine rankings as instruments of governance or governmental practice. The themes can be those discussed above or related; different perspectives across theoretical traditions are valued.

We are looking forward to your contributions. Please submit your paper proposals (title of the paper + short abstract + your name, institution and contact information) by email ( no later than 26 January 2015 as accepted proposals will be in the final panel proposal. For further information see