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 Futures Lab 2020

Politics of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation

Comparative Politics
European Union
Policy Analysis
Public Policy
Higher Education
Section Number
Section Chair
Mitchell Young
Charles University
Section Co-Chair
Martina Vukasovic
Universitetet i Bergen

Knowledge policies are at the forefront of contemporary global politics and are seen as the foundation on which societies coalesce and economies thrive. This Section builds on the previous six Sections on the Europe of Knowledge and invites contributions to consider the various dimensions of knowledge policy development. Specifically, we are interested in theoretical, empirical, and comparative contributions that investigate the role of politics and policy in the global, multi-level, multi-issue, and multi-actor governance of knowledge. By role, we refer to effects that ideas, actors (both individual and organisational), policy instruments/mixes, and institutions have had on the governance of knowledge, and vice-versa. We focus on roles to enable a multidisciplinary discussion on whether these factors share defining characteristics across different knowledge policy domains (i.e. research, higher education, and innovation), and between distinct governance levels and geographical regions. This Section continues to welcome scholars, globally, from all theoretical and methodological approaches to critically discuss the reconfiguration of knowledge systems around the world.

Panels being developed:
1. Unbundling and reassembling knowledge production
Susan Robertson (University of Cambridge, & Jana Komljenovic (Lancaster University,
Where public and private universities used to be the key or ‘only’ social institution engaged in advanced, credentialed knowledge production and dissemination in the higher education sector, there are now multitude of actors who have entered and are constituting an increasingly differentiated sector specialising in different aspects of knowledge brokering, production, circulation, consumption and valuation. Such actors range from think tanks to NGOs and private companies. This Panel aims to consider what this unbundling and reassembling of advanced knowledge governance means for the creation of knowledge itself, its value and use. This Panel is particularly interested in Papers which present empirical findings, or which are advancing new theoretical or methodological approaches as to how to study questions of knowledge/power inherent in these processes.

2. The quality and effectiveness of governance in higher education: Unpacking the quality of governance and effects of governance changes in higher education policies
Giliberto Capano (Scuola Normale Superiore, and Jens Jungblut (University of Kassel,
Higher education is a central institution of modern societies. While it always fulfilled core societal functions, recent years saw an increase in higher education’s political salience and relevance in relation to other policy areas. Following domestic pressures or international prescriptions, in recent decades many national higher education systems have undergone structural changes in their governance arrangements, mainly designed to enhance the overall performance of universities in the fields of teaching, research and their third mission. As in other parts of the public sector, a well-functioning bureaucracy and political-administrative order are a pre-condition for higher education to fulfill its tasks. Combined with the previously described growing relevance of higher education for national development, this poses the question in how far there is a relation between the quality of governance and the effectiveness of the higher education sector of a given country. In addition, it is necessary to assess the real effects of the mantra of “reforming governance” that has been a global phenomenon. These effects include 1) political effects, addressing the distribution of authority and power in the field of higher education, 2) policy effects, addressing the mix of policy instruments and governance structures adopted, and 3) performance effects, addressing questions related to systemic efficiency or effectiveness as well as international competitiveness. The Panel invites contributions that address either the link between the quality of governance and the effectiveness of the higher education sector or the effects of governance reforms along the three dimensions outlined above. All contributions have to be conceptually well grounded and should present results of recent empirical research.

3. Policy translation, adaptation and complexity in higher education, research and innovation
Sandra Hasanefendic (VU Amsterdam, and Davide Donina (University of Bergamo,
The Panel, first of all, aims to explore the conditions which shape public policies in the higher education field and their organizational translation and adaptation. By stimulating discussions and comparisons across case studies, the goal is to understand not only how the power-sharing arrangement affect policy design and implementation, but also, and more importantly, why new policies have been translated and adapted in such heterogeneous ways across higher education organizations in Europe. Moreover, the Panel will also explore how complexity theory can advance studies in the field of higher education, science and innovation policy. The specific interest is in empirical evidence on the emergent, nonlinear and co-evolutionary nature of higher education systems and the dynamic relationships among its many parts. We welcome Papers that analyze both single and comparative case studies, which can provide lessons to (European) policy designers and university managers as well as Papers that contribute to theory building in the higher education field. Papers which explicitly or implicitly broaden our understanding of higher education systems through complexity theory perspective, and accordingly propose a comprehensive future research agenda (which contests higher education systems as linear and ordered) are particularly welcome.

4. Research Executive Agencies - Independent Organizations or the Extension of Research Policymakers?
Sarah Glück (Zeppelin University, and Lisa Kressin (Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies, DZHW,
On national but also on EU level the number of research executive agencies, responsible for the implementation of great research and innovation programs like Horizon 2020 are growing and become an integral part of the landscape of research programme implementation but also have their say in the development and the agenda setting process of new research foci and programme structures. So far their role and practices have been widely under-researched and little is known about their inherent social orders, their entanglements with research communities and their interdependences with national governments or the European Commission. As intermediary organizations research executive agencies are more and more collecting a valuable base of knowledge about the processes surrounding research and innovation programmes, they are at the same time competitors, which are partly government institutions, partly independent enterprises, these situations raise questions for legitimacy of this kind of knowledge governance and who has access to the resulting knowledge base?

5. European integration in the knowledge domain – Taking stock and forward outlook
Peter Maassen (University of Oslo, and Martina Vukasovic (Ghent University,
The Panel will focus on the process and outcomes of European integration in the knowledge domain, in particular higher education and research. The discussion will be structured around the research agenda outlined in one of the most cited volumes on the issue (Maassen & Olsen, 2007) which, amongst other, highlighted the need to go beyond environmental determinism and strategic choice and treating Europe as sui generis, and suggested to focus on complex ecology of processes, institutional frictions and contestations, as well as to consider European integration in relation to the transformation of the social pact between society and university. The Panel will be organized around conceptual contributions which (1) take stock of the research done on this topic in the last 10 years, (2) consider the extent to which research responded to the agenda outlined in the volume and developments in ‘mother disciplines’ (i.e. European studies, comparative politics), and (3) propose extensions or refinements of the research agenda for the future.

6. Policy tools and ambiguity
Ivar Bleiklie (University of Bergen, and Nicoline Frølich (NIFU,
The Panel will focus on how changes in university organizations, higher education policies and politics interact. In particular we will focus on how the transformation of universities into more centralized organizations with stronger leadership and internal hierarchies, with varying external relationships and complex dependencies that characterise universities as ‘penetrated hierarchies’, affect the interplay between universities’ organizational strategies and governments’ choice of policy tools. This includes the process of translation of ambiguous policy tools into academic institutions. The Panel welcomes empirical and theoretical contributions to the contemporary discussion of policy, governance and organisational change in higher education. Papers addressing questions related to new organizational and hybrid forms, both within universities and in terms of the political apparatus through which policies are developed and implemented are welcome. Papers focusing on policy and organizational issues related to the ambiguity of core concepts through which higher education policies and university organizations are interpreted, e.g. specialization, academic autonomy, academic leadership and managerial control, are welcome. Papers may pursue more specifically strands in the literature aiming to identify: a) forms of organisation through which public policy is conducted, b) the politics behind selection of policy instruments, c) policy instruments as generic types and inventories of policy instruments.

The following Panel is co-organized with the Standing Group on Teaching and Learning Politics, and Paper proposals should be submitted to the Section 'Advances in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education'.

Transformation of the Political Studies Profession: What does it mean to be an active academic in the current era?
Meng-Hsuan Chou (Nanyang Technological University, and Jacqui Briggs (University of Lincoln,
As living artifacts amidst transformative changes in the higher education sector, how do academics in the political studies profession make sense of their multiple, often contrasting, roles? What strategies do they apply to prioritise the many demands, while remaining an effective and efficient scholar, educator, administrator and disciplinary expert? Indeed, what does it mean to be an active academic in today’s academia?


Mitchell Young is Assistant Professor at Charles University focusing on European integration in higher education and research, public management, and policy tools for evaluating and funding research. He is a Co-Convenor of the ECPR Standing Group on ‘Politics of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation’ and has Co-Chaired an ECPR Section on this topic for the past 4 years.

Martina Vukasovic is a postdoc researcher at the Centre for Higher Education Governance Ghent (CHEGG) at Ghent University. Her research focuses on the knowledge policy and politics on the supranational, regional and national levels.

Panel List

Code Title Details
P115European Integration in the Knowledge Domain – Taking Stock and Forward Outlook View Panel Details
P275Policy Translation and Adaptation in Higher Education Systems and Organizations View Panel Details
P276Policy, Governance and Organisational Change in Higher Education View Panel Details
P332Research Executive Agencies – Between Independent Organizations and Governments View Panel Details
P421The Quality and Effectiveness of Governance in Higher Education: Unpacking the Quality of Governance and Effects of Governance Changes in Higher Education Policies View Panel Details
P446Unbundling and Reassembling Knowledge Production View Panel Details
Share this page