ECPR General Conference
Charles University in Prague, Prague
7 - 10 September 2016

Policy Failures and Achievements in the Knowledge Domain

Policy Analysis
Public Policy
Panel Number
Panel Chair
Meng-Hsuan Chou
Nanyang Technological University – NTU
Panel Discussant
Pauline Ravinet
Institut d'Études Politiques de Lille
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09/09/2016 11:00
Building: Faculty of Arts Floor: 1 Room: FA131
Higher education, research, and innovation policy domains have undergone dramatic changes in recent decades. Embedded in these changes are assumptions about failure and learning, and the belief that the ‘new and novel’ would ‘right’ the ‘wrongs’. Yet our understanding of the failure-learning mechanism remains under-developed. Indeed, social scientists often conflate three distinct types of failure—politics, policy, and instruments—in their analyses.

The consequences of failure also remain an on-going question. Do all failures lead to sizeable policy change or to less dramatic reforms or tinkering? Or to no actions at all? While spectacular policy failures are historically memorable, the subtle failures that trigger incremental changes, or indeed the acknowledgement of their very existence, are less examined. For instance, what are the modes of institutional change? To what extent do these changes lead to reform?

The above observations raise several questions about failures and learning, as well as achievements, in knowledge policymaking which scholars of public policy, comparative politics, international relations, and social sciences in general have only begun to address. These include, but are not limited to: why do some policy failures lead to institutional collapse or abandonment of policy ideas, while others do not? Indeed, why are some policy ideas more sticky than others? To what extent do policy failures shape the institutional design of international, regional, and national, and sub-national decision-making? Is there a cycle of failure and learning involved in the everyday functioning of political and knowledge institutions (e.g. universities and research institutes)? And, if so, how do we first detect and then determine which ‘failure-learning’ mechanism is weak and which one is robust?

Paper List

Access to Higher Education for Refugees in France View Paper Details
Failures in the context of soft policy coordination of higher education policy in Europe View Paper Details
Unacknowledged failure. Liberal education in Poland View Paper Details
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"Aristocracies … may preserve themselves longest, but only democracies, which refresh their ruling class, can expand" - Hugh Trevor-Roper

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