Institutional arrangements of a politicized transnational higher education sector – the example of Germany
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A specialized field within the sector of tertiary education, transnational higher education is globally on the rise. The following paper will explore a new and little researched aspect of this growing sector, namely a politicized approach to transnational higher education. The paper will focus on the way German higher education is being exported abroad, contrasting it to profit-oriented transnational higher education projects from the US, Australia and Britain, leading nations in this field (Cross-Border Education Research Team 2015, Raev 2016).
For the last 15 years or so, a rising number of transnational higher education institutions has been springing up worldwide, satisfying an ever increasing demand for internationalized higher education, not only to serve globally mobile students but as well to cater to students who prefer to stay in or close to their home countries (Redden 2009). Institutional arrangements have emerged, in which knowledge, academic culture and administrative structures cross national borders, in addition to student and teacher
mobility (Knight 2012). The literature on transnational higher education emphasizes on the development of increasingly globalized higher education markets (Knight 2011, Krauß 2006, Ziguras/McBurnie 2015), focusing on the setup of academic institutions as economic strategies for exporting universities as well as for importing host countries, like China and the Gulf States (Knight: 2011, Raev 2016). However, in the last couple of years, more politicized approaches toward the export of higher education institutions have emerged. Especially in Germany, national non-academic institutions are actively involved in planning, funding and implementing of transnational higher education projects. Political leverage allows the government to expand the scope of aims regarding those projects well beyond education and science and to use them as instruments of foreign policy and/or development policy (Tarazona 2012, Fromm 2013). Using examples from the German transnational higher education sphere, the paper aims to show how politicized national funding schemes and a mix of internal competition and cooperation create a dynamic and diverse field of transnational higher education projects. As the German transnational higher education is characterized by a multi-level institutional arrangement (Fromm 2013), partial competition and negotiation processes take place. Interactions can be seen between different federal and state ministries giving out money, on the intermediate “implementation” level between the ministerial level
and national implementing and intermediary organizations, as well as on the project level between different universities taking part in transnational higher education projects. Politicized funding and political steering combined with a system of negotiations between the different actor levels lead to a comparably high diversity of German transnational higher education projects in scope, structure and content. This diversity is made possible by the relative lack of competition vis-à-vis foreign providers of transnational higher education, due to the national funding of most of those projects, at least in the initial project phases (Tarazona 2012, Fromm 2013). This allows at the same time for politically negotiated German projects which often reflect the political aims of actors on all planning and implementation levels, distinguishing them from market-oriented projects originating in the US, Australia and Britain.