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Institutional and National Discourses with Regard to German Responses to the Impact of Brexit on Higher Education

European Union
 
Higher Education
 
Brexit
 
Presenter
Tim Seidenschnur
University of Kassel
Authors
Tim Seidenschnur
University of Kassel
Jens Jungblut
Universitetet i Oslo

Abstract
The uncertainty about the future of post-Brexit Europe causes different concerns and different governance strategies in higher education. The way how actors in the academic field relate to Brexit involves both discourses and narratives which are part of the institutional field as well as narratives and discourses which relate to national concerns. On the institutional level, universities in Europe have managed to achieve a comparatively high grade of internationalization and Europeanization and serve as an example for cooperation efforts in Europe and the world (Kehm et al. 2009). Today, Brexit raises the question how university actors deal with threats to their cooperative structures and their beliefs about the advantages of intensified transnational academic cooperation. However, while the cooperation in higher education has generated a certain amount of integration over the last decades, there are also centrifugal tendencies at play that limit or threaten cooperation. They are linked to growing European competition for students or the EU’s research funding and the question of legitimacy with regard to national interest groups (Suchman 1995). This study analyses four narratives as interpretative fix points to which actors in academia refer to when they make sense of Brexit. This sense-making occurs, if decision makers at universities discuss possible effects of Brexit on European universities as well as in discussions on how universities could or should strategically respond to Brexit. We elaborate institutional as well as national discourses with regard to the four narratives (“concerns”, “hopes”, “beliefs”, and “silent opportunism”). In order to analyze those narratives we rely on interviews at German universities with actors representing different groups including people from the university leadership, academics, and administrative staff.
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