ERG SES D 03, Policies of Education
In the conditions of globalisation and the knowledge-based economy governments encounter a general challenge of introducing specialist knowledge in policy decision-making. Until recently the university has been considered as the main centre for knowledge production. But increasing number of autonomous public policy research institutions identified as “think tanks” (TTs) also fill lacunas in the current system of knowledge. Research in universities is often motivated by polemics of theoretical and methodological character just remotely connected to real policy difficulties. A fundamental role of TTs consists in assisting to build a bridge between the academic universe and the sphere of government. And while universities have often been occupied with the unselfish aspiration to knowledge, TTs are explicitly striving for policy influencing.
Although the European Union (EU) aspires to become the most globally competitive knowledge based society since the adoption of the Lisbon Strategy, it is not sufficiently prepared to struggle with American superiority and increasing influence of other world leaders in the competition of ideas because of absence of unity between its twenty eight member-states and lack of institutions joining researchers of different European countries, capable to think about future of Europe together, including TTs able to determine EU interests.
But at the epoch when it is necessary to reconstruct the international political system, intellectual diplomacy becomes a key component of the strategies of the states, which is increasingly based on TTs in order to support their policy. Thus, the EU is in need of TTs, which must be used as a necessary addition to other forms of political reflection.
However, the EU’s TTs have retained a comparatively moderate presence in the policy-making in comparison with those in the United States. Although the studies of EU TTs are supporting, they do not essentially supplement the policy-making process. Due to the enlargement of the policy environment in scale, decision-makers increasingly require timely expert knowledge, new ideas and policy solutions. Taking into account the growing complexity of the EU policy process, the amount and activity of the EU TTs will continually increase. Therefore, there is a heightened necessity of academic research of the theme of the EU TTs.
In spite of existence of methodological difficulties in assessing the empirical influence of TTs, some academic studies have shown a potentially great importance of TTs in assisting the elaboration of public policies, in fostering democratic debates concerning processes of the EU decision-making, and in furthering the EU diplomatic endeavours.
With this regard, this study aims at analysing the conditions determining the potential of the knowledge produced by the EU-based TTs to exert influence on the EU policy-making process with a particular focus on the role of researchers as political entrepreneurs and their expertise in specific issue area (education).
As a conceptual framework for this research we apply following network theories:
The changing influence of TTs could be related to the type of their cooperation in policy networks. The advocacy coalition concept pays special attention to a long-range education role of analysis in changing policy orthodoxies, and outlines the importance of opinions and values as a disregarded policy-making component. Discourse coalition affirms the possible independent influence of ideas on politics. The epistemic community model concentrates on the particular importance of the experts in the policy-making process. The TT researchers act as policy entrepreneurs by fostering ideas and propelling them higher on the public action plan, and by preparing players in the political system for new ideas.
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