22 SES 09 B, Management and Governance in Higher Education
Parallel Paper Session
Current paper applies the popular theory of Europeanization to the changing governance of higher education in the member states. Application of the concept of Europeanization to the soft policies has remained still modest in the research literature that can be explained by the difficulties in measuring the effect of Europeanization in areas governed via open method of co-ordination (OMC). Absence of explicit enforcement mechanisms significantly alters the process of national adaptations and questions the impact of the EU. This analytical challenge prompted reorientation of the research on Europeanization in two aspects. Firstly, it was stressed that impact of EU institutions is not straightforward but mediated by various factors such as the national political context (Zeitlin 2005, Ferrera & Sacchi 2005), “specific national culture of digesting adaptation requirements” (Faulkner 2007: 261), fit between the EU’s and domestic structures (Risse, Cowles and Caporaso 2001), and legitimacy of the EU in member states (Radaelli 2000). Secondly, domestic change becomes more important object for analysis than the EU and its tangible impact. Existing scholarship suggests that polities (i.e. national administrative structures) and politics are relatively resilient in the face of EU pressure, whereas national policies have much more deeply transformed (Bache & Jordan, 2006). However, increasing intervention of EU into educational arena raises the question whether these assumptions still hold? Typically European influence is stronger in such circumstances where domestic actors are weak or fragmented. This can explain why Europeanization is more evident in higher education than in the primary or secondary education which has well institutionalised domestic pressure groups.
We investigate this problem on the basis of the Bologna process that emerged as a voluntary network of higher education systems but within years has gradually transformed into a new form of governance, where governmental educational authorities play the leading role. One of the key issues in understanding this change is related to the multilevel governance, i.e. to the impact of European Union on domestic policy. One can see increasing intervention of the EU into higher education policy, which has lead to the various changes – both ideational and institutional, in national education policies. Thus, power relations are reconfigured among domestic policy actors. These chances allow arguing that Europeanization in education policy is not entirely soft and discursive as initially planned. Institutional changes typical to hard policy areas become evident in the field of education also.
Current paper aims to analyse to what extent this shift in governance is evident in the higher education governance of Estonia – a new member state that has been very enthusiastic in following European guidelines on reforming higher education. The explicit focus will be on the quality dimension of the Bologna process since the concerns related to the quality of higher education are today a top priority at national political arena. We assume that decision-making power has transferred from universities back to the governmental executive agencies, although the change is not yet perceived in this way by the university actors.
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