ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

'It’s a bit Complicated' – National-level Contestations over Higher Education as a Filter for European-level Ideas

Cleavages
Contentious Politics
Government
Policy Analysis
Political Parties
Domestic Politics
Higher Education
Jens Jungblut
Universitetet i Oslo
Jens Jungblut
Universitetet i Oslo
Download Full Paper

Abstract

In their seminal book “University Dynamics and European Integration” Peter Maassen and Johan Olsen open up several important research themes and les-sons for the on-going study of higher education policy in Europe. One of their central conclusions is that research on European higher education policy has to go beyond functional approaches to change and adopt an approach that focuses more on contestations and the competing interests of different groups of actors. This also includes moving beyond environmental determinism in the sense that European policies will simply be downloaded and applied in national environments. Instead the book suggests studying in greater detail the interaction of European processes and ideas with national realities and consequently also national policy-making arenas. Drawing on several recent studies analysing higher education policy in Europe based on party politics approaches, this paper ad-dresses this research theme by unpacking national higher education policy-making to highlight the complexity of the interaction between European policy ideas and national environments. Through focusing on political contestation at the national level the paper highlights that not all political actors equally em-brace all ideas that are promoted by the European level. Moreover, the political composition of the government can act as a filter that is open to some ideas but not others. This means that the composition of the government and the political priorities at a given point in time can influence the implementation of European policies. Furthermore, federal countries have an additional layer of policy-making as their sub-national states can have governments with different political preferences, which have to negotiate with one another which policies to adopt. This includes not only the question in which way European policies are adopted but also the more fundamental issue in which areas there is a need for national coherence and thus agreement among states and in which areas states are allowed to diverge. This process adds a new set of veto players to the already complex interactions that are at play when implementing European policies in national contexts. These processes can be seen as one of the reasons, why even after nearly two decades of Europeanization processes in higher education there is still significant divergence between national higher education systems in Europe.