ECPR General Conference
Universität Hamburg, Hamburg
22 - 25 August 2018

Politics of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation

Comparative Politics
European Union
Higher Education
Policy Analysis
Public Administration
Section Number
Section Chair
Mitchell Young
Charles University in Prague
Section Co-Chair
Martina Vukasovic
Ghent University

Knowledge has become increasingly central in contemporary politics as it is understood to be the foundation on which societies coalesce and economies thrive. The seventh Politics of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (previously Europe of Knowledge) Section is interested in theoretical, empirical, and comparative contributions that investigate the role of politics and policy in the multi-level, multi-issue, and multi-actor governance of knowledge. By role, we refer to effects that ideas (including political ideologies), actors (both individual and organisational, including political parties and transnational entities), policy instruments, and institutions have on the governance, creation, dissemination, and transfer of knowledge. Panels will be oriented around one of the roles mentioned above, key empirical questions, or methodologies, and may either focus on one knowledge area or seek to integrate all three. The Section continues to welcome scholars, globally, from all theoretical and methodological approaches to critically discuss the reconfiguration of knowledge systems.

Proposed Panels:

1. Institutions in the knowledge policy domain - Novel approaches
Chair: Jens Jungblut (Stanford University)

This Panel focuses on applying neo-institutional theories to the policy domain of higher education, research and innovation. It seeks Papers pursuing new developments in neo-institutional theory, i.e. going beyond path-dependence and isomorphisms, such as studying institutional logics, focusing on actors and institutional work, or historical institutionalist accounts of longitudinal changes.

2. Differentiated integration in higher education and research
Co-chairs: Mari Elken (NIFU) and Martina Vukasovic (Ghent University)

The Panel will focus on differentiated integration in higher education and research, both with regards to European level policy formation and national and institutional level policy implementation. The Panel will explicitly tackle the multi-issue and multi-level aspects of knowledge governance in the European context. It will provide an opportunity to reflect on whether and to what extent there is a crisis in European integration in the knowledge policy domain and what are the implications of Brexit for this.

3. Global Bolognaization: Central Asian encounters with the European Higher Education Area
Co-chairs: Emma Sabzalieva (University of Toronto) and Aliya Akataeva (Satbayev University)

If the Bologna Process is to be a new global norm for higher education, it becomes critical to understand both: one, how this norm is spreading outside its original European Union home, and two, what impact the Bologna Process-inspired reforms have had in these global spaces. This Panel will focus on Central Asia, an area under-investigated in academic studies and one that falls on the periphery of the European Higher Education Area but within the Bologna Process.

4. Global knowledge governance
Co-chairs: Meng-Hsuan Chou (Nanyang Technological University), Tero Erkkilä (University of Helsinki) and Niilo Kauppi (University of Jyvaskyla)

States’ information resources and education policies have long belonged to the realm of national politics and governance. However, as current research highlights, knowledge governance is increasingly becoming global. The Panel tackles the shifts in global knowledge governance from the perspectives such as its ideas, actors, and underlying rationalities, but also considering its institutional outcomes and alternatives. We welcome Papers that explore global and transnational transformations of knowledge governance, higher education and political economy of knowledge.

5. Organizing the distribution of funding for research and innovation
Co-chairs: Sarah Glück (Zeppelin University) and Thomas König (Institute for Advanced Studies)

Research funding is one of the major intersections where science meets politics. Behind a plethora of recent policies and goals lie, often unacknowledged, huge organisational challenges: How to deal with dual legitimacy issues such as fairness and efficiency in the decision-making process? What is the influence of actors such as legislatures, scientific organisations, and audit courts? Building on last year’s Panel, on research executive agencies, we invite contributions from scholars with an organization perspective that focus on research funding agencies at both national and European level.

6. Bringing the politics of international large-scale research into play
Co-chairs: Nicolas Rüffin (WZB) and Olof Hallonsten (Lund University)

Large-scale research collaborations are necessary both to advance science and to tackle global challenges in the 21st century. International (big science) research organisations and infrastructures are inherently political. They require massive amounts of long-term funding, international political commitment, and interdisciplinary communication. However, political scientists have so far paid little attention to these types of international scientific collaboration.

7. Beyond technocracy: Politics and policies of knowledge and innovation in times of populism
Chair: Inga Ulnicane (University of Vienna)

What new challenges does the rise of populism present to policies of knowledge, technology and innovation? What role does scientific expertise play in the age of alternative facts? What impact does the political focus on strengthening national borders have on this field, which traditionally has been seen as technocratic and has for centuries benefited from the global flow of knowledge, technologies and people? This Panel invites theoretical and empirical contributions exploring and making sense of changes in knowledge and innovation policies in times of populism.


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 for the past 5 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 across multiple governance levels and involving various interest groups.

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