Category: Thematic Week

ECER 2014: The past, present and future of educational research in Europe

Ana Sofia Ribeiro dos Santos (Bielefeld Center for Education and Capability Research)

Ana Sofia Ribeiro dos Santos
(Bielefeld Center for Education and Capability Research)

This review is written by Ana Sofia Ribeiro dos Santos. She is a graduate of the Hedda Master programme, and currently undertaking her PhD dissertation research at the Bielefeld Center for Education and Capability Research and Instituto de Ciências Sociais at the University of Lisboa. Her research is undertaken as a part of EduWel, a Marie Curie Initial Training Network funded by the EU. Her dissertation is titled: Mapping vulnerability through a capabilities approach: a biographical study of first generation students in Portuguese Higher Education. 

The European Conference of Educational Researchers (ECER) is easily the largest conference on education in Europe, both by the high number of participants and its comprehensive approach of the educational field. The Conference is an initiative of the European Educational Research Association (EERA), and its 2014 edition gathered in Oporto around 2500 participants, and I was among them. Although the ECER is not a specialised higher education conference, one of its largest networks is the higher education one, and for that reason the ECER has become a relevant meeting point for the field.

This year’s conference theme was “The past, present and future of educational research in Europe”, a self reflexive call for the need to evaluate the field’s evolution and its challenges, that range from budget cuts to interdisciplinarity demands. The theme also celebrated the 20th anniversary of EERA, and to this effect a specific event was held at Casa da Música, where Prof. Lejf Moos, from Aarhus University, delivered the Presidency of the Association to Prof.Theo Wubbles, from the University of Utrecht.

For those who never been to the ECER, I will explain its organisation. The Conference is divided in 2 sections: the Emerging Researchers conference, where PhD candidates present their on-going research projects, and the Main Conference, where the 31 research networks have their presentations, what generally means that there are over 20 parallel sessions from which to choose from! The variety of the sessions in one of the strongest points of the conference, since there are tracks about vocational training, pedagogies, history of education, assessment, ICT in education, you name it. Having said that, researchers interested in higher education can not only follow its track of expertise, but also take a look at other areas and topics that may match their own research. From my own experience, network sessions from Sociology of Education and Policy Studies and Politics of Education were very inspiring, namely a symposium about Early School Leaving in Europe, whose discussant was Roger Dale, from the University of Bristol. This year, the Higher Education Network (Network 22) presented 121 papers, 9 posters, 8 symposia and 1 workshop. The contributions were divided into 5 topics




EGOS 2014: Reimagining, Rethinking, Reshaping: Organizational Scholarship in Unsettled Times

Maria Pietilä (University of )

Maria Pietilä
(University of Helsinki)

This report of the EGOS Colloquium is written by Maria Pietilä. Maria works at Higher Education Governance and Management group (HEGOM) at the Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki. She is working on her dissertation, which deals with academic leadership and governance in Finnish universities, especially related to research work and academic careers.

The 30th annual EGOS Colloquium gathered some 2100 researchers from 53 countries to the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The conference took place in July 3–5, 2014. The atmosphere in Rotterdam was of course especially lively not just because of the conference, but also because of the ongoing FIFA World Cup.

This year’s conference theme was “Reimagining, Rethinking, Reshaping: Organizational Scholarship in Unsettled Times”. EGOS, which is an abbreviation for European Group for Organizational Studies, is a scholarly association mainly for social scientists and business scholars, who have a mutual interest in organizations as study units. A central common denominator is the journal Organization Studies, which is published in collaboration with EGOS. Due to the diversity behind such a scholarly association, also the conference embraced a diversity of themes, perspectives and people from different disciplinary backgrounds. This made the conference a truly interdisciplinary one.

This year’s conference was the first EGOS I attended. The conference was structured so that the opening ceremony and the first keynote were followed by sub-theme sessions. There was yet another keynote on the second day, more sub-theme sessions, and parallel sub-plenaries. The third day ended after some more sub-theme sessions and lunch. The conference was preceded by workshops on academic reviewing, paper development, and early-career issues, but unfortunately I didn’t attend those.

The first keynote speaker was Jerry Davis, Wilbur K. Pierpont Collegiate Professor of Management at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. He talked about ‘the coming collapse of the corporation’ and succeeded in stirring at least my imagination. As the title suggests, the keynote was about the changes from a corporate-centered society (characterized by tangible products, concentrated corporate control, etc. such as in traditional manufacturing industry) towards more virtual organizations with more dispersed structures (characterized by complex networks of subscribers and producers worldwide) and the (in many cases detrimental) effects of these changes on employment and value creation at the level of national economies. This made me think where the higher education institutions stand within this development. Of course, there might be multiple answers depending on the context. Overall, it seems that higher education institutions may stand in the more traditional end of the spectrum due to their national ties and connections with national cultures. Still, the ‘virtual models’ of universities, especially related to teaching, point to the evolving, more hybrid models.




ECPR 2014: Europe of Knowledge

Mari Elken  (NIFU / Hedda)

Mari Elken
(NIFU / Hedda)

This summary of the highlights from the recent ECPR conference is written by Mari Elken who works as a researcher at NIFU, and is finishing her PhD at the University of Oslo, the Hedda coordinating institution. She is also a former Hedda Master programme graduate and current editor of the Hedda blog.

The ECPR General Conference in 2014 was held between 3-6 September at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. The conference took place just over a week before the Scottish referendum, and as such, the city was not only flooded with political scientists, but also political campaigners from both sides, even if the “yes” side seemed to be dominating the public space.

The conference overall is huge, as usual. With over 2500 political scientists from all over the world, the event truly provides an arena for discussing the state of the art of the field. Higher education and research policy continued the tradition of being represented by a collection of panels in the Europe of Knowledge section. While this merely represents one section amongst 66, this nevertheless marks also continuity, as the section focused on Europe of Knowledge has now been present at ECPR conferences since 2011, and as such continues the success of the Europe of Knowledge section in previous years. For sure, the panels this year also included many high quality papers and interesting new avenues for research related to knowledge policies in Europe.

University of Glasgow

University of Glasgow

As usual, the main roundtables and keynotes were not directly relevant to higher education as such. The main keynote lecture was held by Iain McLean from the University of Oxford whose lecture was titled “Parliaments in Fiscal Federalism: Spending too Much, Taxing too Little?”. Furthermore, two roundtables were held, with focus on democracy and human rights.

What is typical for ECPR is that it is the paper presentations at the panels that take up most of your time. This year, Europe of Knowledge section was chaired by Mitchell Young (Charles University in Prague) and Meng-Hsuan Chou (Nanyang Technological University), and it was composed of five panels:

  • Comparative higher education regionalism (chaired by Mitchell Young, with Pauline Ravinet as discussant)
  • Converging modes of governance: academic-oriented science (chaired by Dagmar Simon, with Tim Flink as discussant)
  • Opening the “black box” of political actors in the Europe of Knowledge (chaired by Dragan Mihajlovic)
  • Regulatory science – transformations at the science-policy-public nexus (chaired by Rebecca-Lea Korinek, with Holger Strassheim as discussant)
  • The “big” ideas in the Europe of Knowledge (chair/discussant Meng-Hsuan Chou).




EAIE 2014: Stepping into a new era

Dr. Leasa Weimer (University of Jyväskylä / EMA Association)

Dr. Leasa Weimer
(University of Jyväskylä / EMA Association)

This guest entry is written by Leasa Weimer who is a post-doctoral researcher at University of Jyväskylä in Finland after having finished her PhD in at the University of Georgia. She is also the current president of the Erasmus Mundus Alumni and Students association, a network composing of about 9000 Erasmus Mundus alumni and students. In this post she shares her impessions of the recent EAIE conference. 

European Association for International Educators (EAIE) conference was held in Prague, September 16-19, 2014.

A sunny Prague welcomed over 5,000 attendees from 90 countries to the26th annual EAIE conference. The conference was abuzz with discussions focused on university partnerships, internationalization strategies, and student and staff mobility.

An expo of over 200 exhibitors (universities, providers, and country pavilions) served as the meet-up spot for networking, building future partnerships, and learning more about products and services in the international education market.

The theme this year was “Stepping into a New Era” and many speakers, dialogues, and sessions brought light to the current geopolitical environment and world events as they discussed international education. When introducing the opening plenary, the EAIE President mentioned those in the international education field who were impacted by the Malaysian flight accidents. The booth for the 2015 EAIE conference, scheduled to be in Glasgow, was lively as conference attendees stopped by to speak with the local Scottish individuals about the succession vote. Dialogue debates tackled such hot topics as international education as an initiative for peace and a united, yet divided, Europe.




EAIR 2014: Higher Education Diversity and Excellence for Society

Maria João Manatos  (ISEG and CIPES, Portugal).

Maria João Manatos
(ISEG and CIPES, Portugal).

This guest entry is written by Maria João Manatos  who is a doctoral research fellow at ISEG and CIPES, Portugal. In this post, she will give her views on the recent 36th EAIR (The European Association for Institutional Research) conference.

The 36th Annual EAIR Forum was held in the University of Duisburg-Essen, so-called open-minded (“Offen im Denken”) university. The theme of the Forum was “Higher Education Diversity and Excellence for Society”. Indeed, diversity is as an appropriate term to describe the EAIR Forum: diversity of people and professional backgrounds, diversity of topics and approaches to higher education research, diversity of experiences. This is a forum where there are not only researchers, students and professors but also members from accreditation agencies and government bodies. In fact, here lays one of the most distinguishable and remarkable characteristics of the EAIR forum: the range of people and the consequent diversity of the debate.

The Eair forum has an exceptional informal and friendly environment. All the people are extremely nice: the members of the EAIR Executive Committee, the keynote speakers, the track chairs, the Forum chairs and all participants in general. Thus, this environment really makes us feel more comfortable and more willing to present, share and discuss ideas. Moreover,  the social activities (the visit to the World Heritage Zollverein Gold Mine and the tour dinner on a boat on the Baldenneysee) were very interesting and enjoyable.

20140830_124904After the first day of Sig Sessions and Opening Plenary, the second day began with Professor Peter Scott, in the first Plenary Keynote Address. On the basis of the Forum motto, he discussed whether higher education markets promote diversity and diversification, or if, on the contrary, they promote conformity. He addressed the complex synergies between pure markets and the higher education context or between marketisation and managerialism. The discussion is always hybrid and complex. Peter Scott had the ingenious ability of raising questions, which make us reflect on the relationship between higher education markets, managerialism and diversification, which are not necessarily connected, as we may argue. In fact, there is a wide range of questions around diversity and its deficits, differentiation and conformity, requiring reflection and discussion: the (im)balance in student population, the (lack of) flexibility in course delivery, the (bias against) vocational subjects. Moreover, the market characteristics often collide with some constraints of higher education: markets promote unfettered costumer service, but students cannot always choose their course or institutions; markets promote effective price management, but fees often do not relate to the costs; there is an open market for new providers, but there are constraints caused by historical advantages and by needs to maintain academics standards. In the end, markets and differentiation no not necessarily go together.