23 SES 02 B, Globalization, Europeanization and Higher Education Reforms
The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) was constituted in 1996 as an informal inter-regional forum for developing dialogue and cooperation, and fostering understanding between the European Union (EU) and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). After almost two decades ASEM has expanded rapidly to 51 members consisting of 27 EU, 2 EEC member states and 10 ASEAN, 3 ASEAN+3 countries and 7 other Asian countries, the European Commission and ASEAN Secretariat. Beside political and economic issues, education has received increasing attention since the 2000s and has become an important and strategic act of cooperation by ASEM Education Ministers (Dang, 2013). Highlight of this ASEM Education Process is the exchange of ideas for higher education (HE) reform policies and cooperation at regional level.
The EU is interested in Asia as a strategic region within which to realise its Lisbon competitiveness agenda by winning ‘minds and markets’, namely recruiting talented students, developing joint curriculum, funding joint research, as well as synchronising Asian higher education systems with the Bologna Process (Robertson, 2008). However, emphasising that ASEM is a forum for dialogue and open exchange, the EU presents the Bologna Process, not as a ready-made model for transfer to Asia, but as a work-in-progress in Europe whose relevance to Asia is up for discussion; ideas are floated, good practices are shared, and all voluntarily engage in shaping the outcomes.
Many ASEAN countries have also been monitoring the Bologna Process closely and became partners in the Bologna Policy Forums. It appears that the ASEAN is inspired by the EU’s model of common market and regional higher education area to build its ASEAN Community in 2015. One of the blueprints is free movement of skilled labour, which requires better understanding of national education and qualifications systems across the region. ASEAN is looking for ways to increase convergence and build regional identity while maintaining the distinctiveness of each country’s HE sector.
These initial observations raise two questions for this paper; 1) how does ASEM facilitate the EU and ASEAN member countries’ discussions of regional policies and actions along regional interests based on existing or incipient collective identities? and 2) what are the dynamics of regionalism in the EU and ASEAN given their different political settings?
The ‘World Society’ approach developed by the Stanford sociologists (Meyer, Ramirez and Soyal 1992; Meyer et al. 1997; Meyer and Ramirez 2000; Meyer and Ramirez 2003) is useful to partly explain the convergence of policy in ASEM by demonstrating that Western model of educational structures, mass schooling model and curriculum homogeneity occur across societies via worldwide cultural and associational processes irrespective of their location, polity, level of development and other traditions. To tackle Meyer’s theoretical deficit, the ‘Critical Grammar of Policy Movements’ approach (Dale and Robertson 2012; Robertson and Dale 2013) analyses wider globalising contexts and social relations that frame, construct, circulate, receive, contextualise, materialise and institutionalise political projects in education. For instance, economic motivation, cultural exchanges, foreign policy, region-building projects are materialised through education.
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