22 SES 05 B, Paper Session
This paper analyses the extent to which transnational higher education networks, a new type of provision in higher education, address increasingly global challenges (such as aligning graduates’ skills to labour market requirements, integrating higher education systems, incorporating technological advances into programme design, offering interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary curricula, building expertise to tackle contemporary global issues, as well as establishing flexible accreditation systems for alternative learning paths) by scaling up processes of institutional innovation and learning.
In particular, we investigate whether there is a relationship between the role of universities within transnational higher education networks and the type of teaching innovation they are designed to deliver. Our underlying assumption is that universities play a key role within transnational networks. As fundamental institutions in contemporary societies, universities act as platforms for experimentation, provide legitimacy to new practices of teaching and learning, and possess the necessary expertise and resources for innovation to flourish and become institutionalised (Corbett 200; Drori et al 2003; Fumasoli 2015; Schofer and Meyer 2005; Zapp and Ramirez 2019).
To corroborate our expectations, we ask:
- What are the characteristics of the higher education institutions involved in transnational networks promoting innovation in teaching and learning?
- What roles do such higher education institutions play within transnational networks?
- In the governance of the network (leader, partner, etc.)
- In relation to the type of innovation (online teaching and learning, multidisciplinarity, etc.)
- With respect to the topic addressed by the network (employability, digital skills, etc.)
We do so by analysing the Erasmus Plus Strategic Partnerships and Knowledge Alliances programme, launched by the European Commission in 2014. Since then, this programme has funded almost 1,000 transnational higher education networks devoted to the generation and diffusion of innovation in higher education, and the upgrading of competences across the national systems (https://www.erasmusplus.org.uk/key-action-2). In particular:
- Strategic Partnerships (SPs) are cross border projects in which public, private, and non-governmental organisations collaborate. They aim to strengthen cooperation and networking between different organisations, promote the development, testing, and implementation of innovative practices, recognize and validate knowledge, skills, and competences, promote entrepreneurship and active citizenship and facilitate. Cross-border and inter-institutional mobility of students and staff.
- Knowledge Alliances (KAs) are cross border activities between higher education institutions and businesses aiming to strengthen and integrate national systems’ innovation capacity and to foster innovation both in higher education and business. They intend to develop new, innovative and multidisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning; stimulate entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skills of higher education teaching staff and corporate staff; facilitate the exchange, flow and co-creation of knowledge.
Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources Used Our dataset includes information about 991 transnational networks funded under the Strategic Partnerships for higher education and Knowledge Alliances for higher education calls issued in the years from 2014 to 2018. The dataset has been cleaned and has undergone partial re-coding, particularly in order to (dis-) aggregate innovation topics and types of organisations involved. We have carried out descriptive statistics and a cluster analysis. Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or Findings
Preliminary findings - Higher education institutions constitute 67.5% of the total number of participants - 86.58% of networks are coordinated by higher education institutions - Networks involving proportionally more universities tend to be more geographically widespread However: - Higher education institutions, on average, do *not* coordinate the largest networks in terms of number of participants, countries, or grant value. - Our cluster analysis indicates that higher education institutions tend to appear relatively more often as coordinators in the areas of Regional and sustainable development, ICT and digital competences, and Promoting societal wellbeing. These projects are of average size in terms of number of participating countries, partners and funding. - HEIs tend to appear relatively less often as coordinators in the area of QA and recognition of qualifications. - Networks in the areas of Promoting EU cohesion, Access and inclusion and Open and distance learning tend *not* to have higher education institutions either as coordinator or partners. We will discuss further on the roles higher education institutions take on in transnational networks of innovation in teaching and learning and what this means for higher education in contemporary societies.
References Corbett, A. (2005), Universities and the Europe of knowledge: ideas, institutions and policy entrepreneurship in European Community higher education policy, 1955-2005, Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, Drori, G., Meyer, J. W., Ramirez, F. O., Schofer, E. (2003) Science in the Modern World Polity: Institutionalization and Globalization, Stanford: Stanford University Press. Fumasoli, T. (2015) Multi-Level Governance in Higher Education Research, in Huisman, J., de Boer, H., Dill, D. and Souto-Otero, M. (Eds.) The Palgrave International Handbook of Higher Education Policy and Governance, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, ch. 5. Schofer, E., Meyer, J. W. (2005) The worldwide expansion of higher education in the twentieth century, American Sociological Review, 70, 898-920. Zapp, M. and Ramirez, F. O. (2019): Beyond internationalisation and isomorphism – the construction of a global higher education regime, Comparative Education (online 8. Jul
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