1. Introduction: The making of global academic markets
The political programmes imposed by the OECD, the EU and the national governments – explicitly in the so-called Bologna process, in attempts to create a European Research Area, European Higher Education Area, European Qualification Frameworks – suggest university actors to redefine conceptions about the meaning and aims of their work. They should 1) internationalise all their activities, 2) widen their tasks from research and teaching to societal and industrial service, and 3) adopt trans-national qualification and quality assurance frameworks. In Finland this is rapidly happening through a “structural reform of HE”, where universities of technology, business and industrial design in Helsinki are defined as the “Innovation university of Finland”, and the rest of the HE education is reduced into Top competence centres – universities - and Regional innovation units - polytechnics. Strikingly university actors all over Europe seem to comply and even promote this top-down process. Instead of mobilising collectively, researchers, teachers and administration staff have become individualist “rational choosers”, who develop strategic alliances nationally and transnationally, in order to win in the competition. The argument of my paper is that only through cross-cultural revision of academic work and practices by actors themselves, are they able to struggle against losing ownership of their profession.
2. Conceptual background and remarks
Firstly, I discuss the concept cross-cultural in relation to mainstream approaches (multi-)culturalism and social constructionism; and comment the methodological opposition towards natural, mathematical and technological sciences in research on education and work. As we know, laboratory – an environment for controlled intervention into and observation of natural processes -, is fundamental for collaboration in natural scientific research. Though research on education and work cannot create a laboratory for identification, analysis and modelling of its entities, it may be possible to specify features of laboratory research, which are crucial also for collaborative research.
Secondly, I question, why – despite the celebration of work-based learning and apprenticeship as crucial for linking better education and work -, universities are so reluctant towards the idea of academic apprenticeship. Still, by looking at the tradition of academic work and life, with their hierarchies, roles and career progress, one still finds striking indicators of apprenticeship-system both in continental and Anglo-Saxon types of universities. Notions about the effects from trans-national education and research policies are made. Thirdly, the levels and constraints for cross-cultural collaboration are discussed in academic learning-teaching and research processes, in planning and design of studies and research, in administrational and governance of universities. The top-down, busnocratic interpretations and implementations of “internationalisation” and “collaboration” prohibit practitioners to negotiate and experiment alternative concepts at the grass-root level. Reflections are made about the quality of collaboration, about the tensions and connections between individual, unit/collective/community, organisational and metacollective/national/trans-national levels in collaboration, and about the opposition between time-models in different pedagogical cultures.
1. “Cross-cultural collaboration in lifelong learning and work”
The arguments of the paper build on reflections on a network of teachers and researchers in Europe and Australia attempting to develop research-based study programmes about transforming relations between education, politics and work. They have tried the limits and potential of collaborative academic apprenticeship as a way of bottom-up cross-cultural mobilisation, where practitioners could develop alternative, self-directed practices compared to those imposed by the OECD, the EU and the national policy makers. The latest activity is an EU-supported CROSSLIFE planning project (2005-08), which focuses on cross-cultural collaboration in lifelong learning and work in MA and doctoral degrees. “CROSSLIFE objectives are to develop and implement a joint program based on trans-national research on cross-cultural expertise in the globalising world of work and learning. The project aims to develop a research-based study program to enhance academic and professional experts with qualitatively new capacity and competence to develop and manage educational processes at trans-national level, with focus on connections between lifelong learning, industry and work. In the project the actors are building global networks and infrastructure for research, researcher training and joint research degree programs, utilising the expertise cumulated inside the VET and culture research network and in participating universities.” The meaning of “working together in a learning structure and learning process will be examined as a part of the reflection and evaluation of the programme.”
In the centre is collaborative teaching and learning, which is embedded in a political, economical and cultural context. The teachers as well as the students experience this e.g. in field researches shared in cross-cultural setting. A precondition is that all partners are open to share experiences and change their national preconditions jointly.
What the individuals involved experience first, is their embeddedness in their academic cultural environment (including disciplinary, gender, biographical etc. specifies), which mediates even the most hegemonic global policy imperatives. While acting in the university setting, they are forced to analyse the constitution of this culture in a wider university environment, governance and administration. The attempt to create research designs and carry out case studies pushes them further to reflect on their culturally embedded approaches to worlds of education and work and finally explore their ontological and epistemological frameworks about education, work, research etc. The idea of an academic apprenticeship that integrates research and studying in universities at a cross-national level requires genuine cross-cultural planning, implementation and evaluation of activities and development of open, self-critical, context-sensitive and reflective modes of interaction. The “laboratory” for research on education and work cannot be else than the practices and processes of education and work itself. This requires mobilisation of academic practitioners to study their transformation in a planetary perspective.