Tag: conference review

Conference review: Higher Education as a Critical Institution – the CHER 2016 Conference


Miguel Antonio Lim  (University of Manchester)

Now that next year abstract deadlines are coming up, it is just about time for reflections of what the conference season had to offer in 2016. 

This guest entry is written by Miguel Antonio Lim. He is Lecturer in Education and International Development at the University of Manchester. His research interests include the sociology of evaluation, international higher education, and professional expertise. He has worked on research projects around global university rankings and audit culture in higher education. Miguel has previously been EU-Marie Curie Fellow at Aarhus University and Executive Director of the Global Public Policy Network Secretariat. He has worked for the Asia Pacific Center at Sciences Po-Paris and taught at the London School of Economics.

The 29th Consortium of Higher Education Researchers (CHER) conference took place on the 5th-7th September at Cambridge University around the theme: ‘The University as a Critical Institution?’ While CHER is among the most popular and important research-oriented conferences in the field of higher education, the organizers noted an increased participation at the 2016 conference to almost 200 delegates.

CHER 2016 was marked by the strong presence of higher education researchers from around the world. There was a babble of languages spoken throughout the coffee breaks. Colleagues working in the UK, Russia, China, the USA, Germany, Italy, and the Nordic countries, among others, presented work about their various regions.

Apart from the geographical breadth of the conference, CHER 2016 also showcased a wide variety of disciplinary and methodological approaches towards the study of higher education. These were particularly apparent in the sessions of the conference in which Sue Wright, an anthropologist, and Vicky Boliver, a social policy scholar (using statistical methods) delivered their keynotes.

Conference review: Only connect – Collaboration, cooperation and capacity building through HE partnerships – EAIR 2016

Isabel Roessler  (CHE)

Dr. Isabel Roessler

In this report, Isabel Roessler writes about the 38th annual EAIR Forum. Isabel works at the German CHE – Centre for Higher Education and focus upon her research on Third Mission, applied research and the reform processes of the HE system.

About 200 participants from all over the world joined the 38th annual EAIR Forum in Birmingham. The conference was organised by the Birmingham City University and took place from the 31 August 2016 to 3 September 2016. This year the tried and trusted remained and a new “idea” stand the test.

The title “Collaboration, Cooperation and Capacity Building through HE partnerships” indicates that the conference deals with the work beyond the traditional boundaries and confines Higher Education. Teaching and research as the traditional missions of universities do not cover the whole spectrum of activities: Higher education institutions cooperate with a diverse range of external partners form outside and inside academia. They cooperate inter-departmental as well as inter-institutional, collaborate with local communities, with industrial and commercial sectors of the economy and organisations like NGO, NPO or foundations. Hence, this conference focused on the partnerships of HEI in and with Higher Education.

As usual the EAIR started with a number of special interest groups on Wednesday: “Impact of Quality insurance”, “Graduate School Management and Accreditation of PhD Programmes”, “Widening Access to Higher Education” and “Student as co-designers: creating contemporary curriculum” and in addition “How to get published”.

In the evening, the opening keynote was about “Students and Serial Killers: The Legacies of Clarice Starling”. No doubt, the conference promised to become special. The keynote of Thursday morning addressed directly the title of the conference: “Partnerships and collaboration – lessons from another setting”. Right after the keynote the sessions started. Plenty of presentations were given in six different tracks. The first track concentrated on “Working in partnerships with students: the importance of experience and engagement”. Familiar the track “Learning and teaching in higher education: the perfect partnership?” Participants with a stronger interest in innovation choose the track “Innovative higher education practice through partnership work”. The other three tracks were about “Emerging quality partnerships”, “Creating impact through higher education research partnerships” and “Higher education governance in an age of collaborative working”. In total 86 presentations and five keynotes. The not yet mentioned keynotes in a nutshell: “Higher education and its stakeholders: Protecting ‘the commons’” (Maarja Beerkens), “Internationalising initial teacher education – A case of partnership working across boarders” (Bärbel Diehr), and “Cultural Intelligence – the next big thing for HE” (Marie Mohan).

IPSA2016: Knowledge Policies and the State of Inequality – Instruments For or Against?

Dr. Jens Jungblut  (INCHER, Kassel)

Dr. Jens Jungblut
(INCHER, Kassel)

In this post, Jens Jungblut writes about the recent 24th IPSA World Congress of Political Science and the panel on higher education at the conference. 

The 24th World Congress of Political Science organized by the International Political Science Association (IPSA) took place from July 23 until July 28 2016 under the title “Politics in a World of Inequality”. The conference was held in cooperation with the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan (Poland) and around 3000 participants, mainly from political science, were attending it.

Originally the conference was supposed to take place in Istanbul, but due to the security situation as well as the contentious relationship between the Turkish political scientists and the Turkish government the IPSA and the local Turkish organizers decided earlier this year to move the conference to Poland. In light of this and due to the recent events in Turkey the topic of academic freedom was a reoccurring theme at the conference being addressed both in the opening as well as closing ceremonies and in the context of a special roundtable.

Members of the ECPR Standing Group on Politics of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation organized a panel at the conference under the title “Knowledge Policies and the State of Inequality: Instruments For or Against?”. The panel examined how policy actors instrumentalize knowledge policies to increase and decrease the state of inequality between citizens, between nations, and between the world’s geographical regions. As a point of departure, the panel assumed that policymaking is a complex process, involving multiple actors across governance levels with diverse interests and preferences, and that instrument choice thus reflects the policy actors’ ambitions, compromises made, and the intended effects of implementation.

Review: ICPP conference featured multiple panels on higher education policy

ICPPIn this post, we share some experiences from the recent International Consortium for Public Policy (ICPP) conference. The 2nd ICPP conference was held in the beginning of July (1st to 4th) in Milan. The local organisation in Milan was by the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and Éupolis Lombardia – Institute for Research, Statistics and Training. The post is written by Mari Elken. 

Milan greeted conference participants with burning heat and a gorgeous conference location at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. The conference attracted 1400 people this year, marking a considerable rise from the first conference in Grenoble in 2013. The conference featured 23 different thematic areas. 17 of these were focused on various aspects of policy analysis, and the remaining focused on specific topics or specific sectors in policy analysis.

Higher education was featured in the Comparative Policy theme, with two panels, “Patterns and pathways of convergence/divergence in higher education: A comparative perspective” and te panel “Higher Education Policy in Asia: Reform, Outcomes, Equity and Access”. Furthermore, education policy received a separate category was well, featuring two different panels – one organised by ERA-CRN with its main focus on “Governance of Knowledge Policies”, and the other was themed “Higher Education Governance between Historical Roots and Transnational Convergence Pressures”.

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.

CHER 2014: Universities in transition – shifting institutional and organizational boundaries

Bojana Culum (University of Rijeka, Croatia)

Dr. Bojana Culum
(University of Rijeka, Croatia)

This review of the recent CHER conference in Rome is written by Bojana Culum, who is employed as an assitant professor at the University of Rijeka in Croatia.  

The 27th CHER (Consortium of Higher Education Researchers) Conference was held in Rome from September 8-10, 2014 and was organized by the Institute for Research on Firm and Growth (CERIS) of the National Research Council (CNR). I would like to thank our colleagues from the conference organizing committee as well as from the local organizing committe for ‘putting out another great show‘.

The day before the conference started was ‘reserved’ for the ECHER social event. Even tough the ECHER’s organizing committee unfortunately did not have the capacity to follow the last year’s workshop mode for early career researchers, our gathering offered us an opportunity to catch up with each one’s changes in life, work and plans for the close future, as well as to laugh and make some (business and pleasure related) plans for the next CHER conference and ECHER edition in Lisbon.

The theme of this year’s CHER conference was “Universities in transition: shifting institutional and organizational boundaries”, which addressed an emerging issue in higher education studies, and was ‘wrapped up’ in four tracks: (I) Changing functions, objectives, and scope of higher education and research institutions, (II) Collaborations across institutional and organizational boundaries, (III) Shifting boundaries in the academic profession and (IV) Core Themes in Higher Education Research. Key topics were about how higher education institutions are shifting or even blurring the existing traditional boundaries and assuming new functions, objectives and scope, and, on the other hand how they are externalizing functions and activities traditionally included in higher education institutions. Research papers focused also on the effects of universities entering new external organizations, or stepping across boundaries of the institution of higher education towards partnerships with non-academic public and/or private partners, as well as the changing relationships between the academics and the market, the shifting boundaries between science and business.

CHER Conference 2014

CHER Conference 2014

Two keynote speakers were invited to provide insights on the theme – Alicia Lam from the Royal Holloway University of London, and John Douglass from the University of Berkeley. They brought different perspectives and approaches related to institutional and organizational boundaries. Prof. Lam presented a recent research on shifting work boundaries and career in university departments, discussing how breaking boundaries emerged and how far the boundaries persist in the academic profession. Prof. Douglass discussed the new approach of Flagship University as an alternative to the World Class University paradigm, which is based on the concept of relevance rather than on the concept of ranking.

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.