Tag: network

Guest blogger: All universities are “excellent,” but some more than others: the rise of elite associations

Jelena Brankovic (Bielefeld University and Ghent University)

This guest entry is written by Jelena Brankovic. Jelena is a Research Associate at Bielefeld University (Germany) and a PhD Candidate at Ghent University (Belgium). She is also a HEEM master programme graduate. Currently she is working on university responses to status dynamics and competition in higher education. 

You can follow Jelena on Twitter: @jelena3121

Universities have been forming associations for more than a century now. Among some of the oldest examples of such ventures are, for instance, the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in the US, established as early as in 1899, the Rectors’ Conference of Swiss Universities (est. 1904), or the Association of Commonwealth Universities (1913). In principle, an association is established by two or more universities which have something in common, which could be either some specific characteristic, such as religious affiliation, ownership structure, or, perhaps, disciplinary focus; or, more often, a shared geographic, political, cultural or linguistic border. Or both. Think of examples such as the Association for European Life Science Universities, Association of Universities in Portuguese Speaking Countries, Japan Association of Private Universities and Colleges, or, for example, Association of Universities Entrusted to the Society of Jesus in Latin-America.

Associations are many and their number has increased over time. They can be regional, national and international. In addition to the level or field in which they operate, we can also distinguish between, on the one hand, those which are there to represent interests of the university institution in a particular region, such as right to autonomy and well-known academic freedoms of its members, and, on the other, those which are tied by some additional characteristic or cause, such as, for instance, the already mentioned religious orientation. To distinguish, we could call the former generalist and the latter specialist.

Any of this is hardly news. However, in recent years a particular type of university associations seems to be gaining in popularity, both in national contexts and internationally. Unlike the most commonly found type of specialist associations which seek to differentiate in a more functional or horizontal fashion, this type is made up of vertically differentiating – or status-driven – university associations. These associations are characterised by high status of their members, claims to superiority in terms of their quality and – typically – exclusivity when it comes to membership. In other words, they are invite-only clubs of the small elite at the apex of the respective hierarchy of universities. Think of the Russell Group in the UK, Group of Eight in Australia, League of European Research Universities (LERU), Japanese RU11 and you get the picture.




Call for participants: ECPR standing group for higher education and research

ecprThere is currently a process of establishing a Standing group with ECPR (European Consortium for Political Research) on the ‘Politics of Higher Education, Research and Innovation’.

The Standing Group will facilitate research and debates on the politics of higher education, research and innovation around the world. It will do so by bringing together scholars at all stages of their careers from a variety of disciplines, including political science, international relations, European and area studies, research policy, higher education studies, law, and sociology of science and technology.

The intended academic activities include, for instance, engaging with the critical debates on the politics of higher education, research and innovation in practice, discussing all aspects of research (methodologies, theories, data collection, processing, and analysis), joint publishing, hosting workshops and applying for joint projects.

If your find the topics of relevance for your research and if you wish to be a member of the standing group, you can provide your endorsement here

eracrnThis initiative builds on the highly successful UACES collaborative research network on the European Research Area (ERA CRN). Since 2013, members of the ERA CRN have published several special issues and edited volumes on the politics of knowledge policies, organised a range of workshops and conference panels, as well as initiated several joint research projects. You can find more information about the ERA-CRN here.




Call for papers: Workshop on organizing scholarly networks

networkWorking with topics related to academic exchange and research networks? The SRHE supported workshop on “Organizing scholarly networks” will take place on 18th of December 2014 at Department of History and Politics at Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK.

Keynote speakers for the event include Prof Louise Ackers (Salford University) and Dr Heike Jöns (Loughborough University).

The call for papers has been issued and the organisers encourage interdisciplinary contributions from researchers at all career stages.

The organisers have also set some core questions that are of particular interest: When did the idea of international scholarly exchange emerge as a pedagogic concept? What are the nature and long-term consequences of such exchange across borders? Who has benefited from such schemes, and who has been excluded from them? How have these changed over time and what is the relationship between such changes and the organisation of, and policy development associated with, formal exchange programmes?

More information on the workshop theme and focus can be found on the event homepage

To apply to the workshop




Interested in a network about EHEA and ERA? Check out ERA-CRN launching events

crnA while ago we posted about a new researcher network “Collaborative Research Network (CRN) on the European Research Area”, with its main focus on the construction of the Europe of Knowledge – processes and policy initiatives in Europe that lead to the construction of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and European Research Area (ERA).

The ERA-CRN is a network of researchers at all career stages researching the construction of the European knowledge area. It includes researchers from multiple disciplines, ranging from law to communication studies, sociology, science policy and higher education studies, EU studies, international relations and political science.

The network coordinators have asked us to share the information for those of you that are interested or are working on any of these themes in European integration or knowledge governance:

  • The role of law and ideas
  • Governance and its effects;
  • Legitimacy, trust and values;
  • Actors and institutional arrangements.

If you interested and plan to attend some of the upcoming international conferences (UACES, ECPR, CHER), ERA-CRN is holding introductory events at all of those three conferences, you are welcome to join! Click more for details:




Growing criticism towards German university alliances?

Jens Jungblut (University of Oslo)

Jens Jungblut (University of Oslo)

In this post, Hedda associate Jens Jungblut examines current developments with the German university alliances. Jens is working at the University of Oslo where he is writing his doctoral dissertation on the relationship between shifts in governments and changes in higher education policy. 

Institutional differentiation is something rather new to the German university landscape. While classically German universities were, and to a large extend still are, characterized by equality of funding and reputation, different recent activities aimed at creating more diversification in the system. The first and most influential of these activities was the excellence initiative by the federal and Länder governments. In a parallel process several universities formed alliances and associations, following the British example of the Russell-Group, to cooperate in a situation of growing competition for funding and students (see also an earlier article on this issue).

Open letter from a rector criticizing university alliances

Recently the debate around the differentiation of the German university system entered a new round. Ulrich Radtke, the rector of the University of Duisburg-Essen, published an open letter to the German rectors’ conference, in which he criticized the decision of his colleagues to form university alliances.

The University of Duisburg-Essen is the youngest universities in Germany and not a member of any of the German university associations. It is the result of a recent merger of two smaller universities and characterized by a relatively high percentage of students of non-traditional background.

Radtke criticizes several aspects of the newly established university alliances. He starts off by describing the university alliances as co-operations of the old and large universities against the young and smaller ones that try to enhance their position in a higher education system that is characterized by serious under-funding and student overload. For him the German higher education system offers a lot of excellent research environments but they are to be found on the departmental level and spread between many higher education institutions. For him there are maybe three or four universities in Germany that could claim to be overall stronger than the others, the rest are more or less equal.