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The Reclosing of the Borders in European Higher Education?

European Politics
European Union
Federalism
Governance
Nationalism
Regionalism
International
Higher Education
Katja Brøgger
Aarhus Universitet
Katja Brøgger
Aarhus Universitet

Abstract

Using the case of Denmark, this paper explores how the return of European nationalisms seem to challenge post-World War II international alliances’ attempt to harmonize European higher education systems. Some of the most significant international alliances, which are of great importance for contemporary European higher education, such as the OECD and the EU, were established to maintain peace in Europe in the aftermath of World War II. These alliances created an era of unprecedented internationalization following the war. Since the 1990s, the Bologna Process has transformed the European higher education systems through the complex construction of the so-called European Higher Education Area. This new European policy architecture was created through initiatives and ambitions such as educational harmonization, comparability, mobility, qualification frameworks and quality assurance systems (Brøgger, 2019; Lawn & Grek, 2012; Robertson, 2009). The Bologna Process and EU policy processes have since converged, recently amplified with the EU initiative ‘Towards a European Education Area by 2025’ aiming to expand the Bologna Process’s harmonization of higher education to cover the remaining levels in the education system. Meanwhile, the re-emergence of nationalist sentiments and reclosing of the borders of European nation states are challenging this harmonization of European education systems. Western-led globalization seems to have exhausted its power and is increasingly displaced by other strong economies and fast-growing consumer markets (López-Alves & Johnson, 2019). With the Bologna Process, the EU has sought to forge a fragile EU unity through education. This unity is currently challenged by the turn towards national solutions. In Denmark, this is reflected in recent higher education policy characterized by subtle alliances between economic nationalism and ethno-nationalism. With the accession of a center-right government in Denmark in 2015, higher education internationalization policies were decelerated in favor of a national primacy. Denmark is considered a country deeply integrated in international collaborations whilst also being a country that harbors deep-rooted skepticism towards international collaboration as a potential threat to a welfare system that includes access to largely free education. This paper explores how this skepticism is present within current Danish higher education policy initiatives such as the drastic reductions in the number of English-language university programs, compromising international harmonization’s intention of enabling credit transfer and student mobility (Ministry of Higher Education and Science, 2018). References: Brøgger, K. (2019). Governing through Standards: the Faceless Masters of Higher Education. The Bologna Process, the EU and the Open Method of Coordination. Dordrecht: Springer. Lawn, M., & Grek, S. (2012). Europeanizing Education. Governing a new policy space. UK: Symposium López-Alves, F. (2019). Populist Nationalism in Europe and the Americas. Past, Present, and Future. In F. López-Alves & D. E. Johnson (Eds.), Pupulist Nationalism in Europe and the Americas. New York: Routledge. Ministry of Higher Education and Science. (2018). Justering af engelsksprogede uddannelser. Robertson, S. (2009). Europe, Competetiveness and Higher Education: an evolving project. In R. Dale & S. Robertson (Eds.), Globalisation & Europeanisation in Education (pp. 65-83). UK: Symposium