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The European Union’s Modernisation Agenda for Higher Education and the Case of Ireland

by Ludovic Highman (Author)
©2018 Thesis 274 Pages

Summary

The book sets out to offer a national perspective on the complex changes occurring in European higher education systems. The Lisbon European Council (2000) set an ambitious target for the Union to become "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world" with important ramifications for higher education systems and institutions, because of the key role they play in driving innovation and producing knowledge. How this objective at the European Union (EU) level has been understood and implemented at Member State level will be the focus of this book. Higher education in several countries is at a crossroads, at both macro (system structure) and micro (institutional) levels. Several EU Member States have already embarked on major reforms pertaining to organisational and structural issues (Germany, 2005-2007; Finland, 2010; France, 2008; Ireland, 2011). A striking feature is the number of reforms happening across Europe, as well as the use of common priorities and policies within European countries’ reform agendas, including differentiation. The system level will be the primary angle for an in-depth study of documentary evidence for preserving a diversity of higher education institutions and the latter’s implications for the organisation of the Irish higher education system. However, the institutional level cannot be disassociated from the system level, of which it is an inherent part. Higher education institutions are the building blocks of a higher education system and therefore this study will examine the perspectives of both policy-makers and institutional representatives. The evidence provided indicates that the centre of gravity of decision-making in relation to higher education policy is shifting and can no longer be understood without looking to the European Commission’s "modernisation" agenda for higher education, and to research funding opportunities under the current Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (Horizon 2020): both crucial tools for working towards achieving the Europe 2020 goals.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Foreword
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Tables
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One. Literature Review and Framework of Analysis
  • 1.1 Understanding the macro-structure of higher education
  • 1.2 “University” versus “higher” versus “tertiary” higher education systems
  • 1.3 Aims of the medieval university
  • 1.4 The birth of the modern scientific university
  • 1.5 Cardinal Newman’s definition of the university
  • 1.6 Contemporary ideas of the University
  • 1.7 Classifying higher education systems: five organisational models
  • 1.7.1 From university-dominated systems to dual systems of higher education
  • 1.7.2 Binary systems
  • 1.7.3 Ireland’s binary system
  • 1.7.4 Unified systems – the UK
  • 1.7.5 Stratified systems
  • 1.8 Interpreting higher education expansion trends
  • 1.8.1 Trow’s revision to his linear model of development
  • 1.8.2 European participation and attainment targets in higher education
  • 1.9 Higher education economics
  • 1.10 Differentiation and diversity
  • 1.10.1 Horizontal versus vertical differentiation
  • 1.10.2 Institutional obstacles to the implementation of differentiation in Continental Europe
  • 1.10.3 Examples of differentiation between higher education institutions in EU Member States
  • 1.11 Dedifferentiation: “academic” and “institutional” drift
  • 1.12 Higher education institutions as part of a system
  • 1.13 Higher education as a national and/or international prerogative?
  • 1.14 The benefits associated with diversity
  • 1.15 Higher education institutions: between natural selection and isomorphism
  • 1.16 Structural issues in higher education: a recurring theme
  • 1.17 Converging or diverging higher education systems?
  • 1.18 Higher education institution alliances: a bottom up push
  • 1.19 EU involvement in higher education: fuelling the Europe 2020 strategy
  • 1.20 The Bologna Process
  • 1.21 A focus on research intensive higher education institutions
  • 1.22 The EC’s incremental role in higher education
  • 1.23 The binary origins of the Irish HE system
  • 1.24 Ireland’s focus on the system level
  • 1.25 Technological Universities
  • 1.26 Framework of Analysis
  • Chapter Two. Document Analysis of National and EU Policy Documents – Findings
  • 2.1 The Regional Technical Colleges
  • 2.2 The upgrading of technological education
  • 2.3 Contemporary policy analysis: establishing mission differentiation as government policy
  • 2.4 The EU’s modernisation agenda for higher education systems and higher education institutions
  • 2.5 Assessing the common discourse in EU and national higher education policy documents
  • Chapter Three. EU Influence on Irish Higher Education Policies and the National Higher Education System – Interview Findings
  • 3.1 The EU’s modernisation agenda for higher education: Views of participants – EU officials
  • 3.2 The EU’s policy tools to implement its modernisation agenda
  • 3.3 The perceptions of institutional participants on EU influence in Irish higher education policy
  • 3.4 The perceptions of national policy-makers on the extent of EU influence
  • 3.5 A common discourse
  • 3.6 Conclusion
  • Chapter Four. Findings from Interviews on the Binary Model
  • 4.1 Mission differentiation and the binary divide: perceptions of policy-makers
  • 4.2 “Mission” drift in Irish higher education
  • 4.3 Mission differentiation: perceptions of institutional participants
  • 4.4 Differentiation based on course offerings – Humanities in IoTs
  • 4.4.1 Redefining the Humanities: the case of Sligo
  • 4.4.2 The expansion of course offerings in the Institute sector
  • 4.4.3 The political agenda behind expansion of course offerings: the case of Shannon College
  • 4.5 Differentiation based on types of research
  • 4.6 Technological Universities
  • 4.7 Moving beyond the traditional binary system?
  • Chapter Five. Institutional Differentiation – Findings from Interviews
  • 5.1 Differentiation within sectors: beyond the “bird’s eye” perspective
  • 5.2 Differentiation based on mission
  • 5.3 Differentiation based on research intensity
  • 5.4 Differentiation based on course offerings and applied focus
  • 5.5 Summing up realities of institutional differentiation
  • Chapter Six. Discussion
  • 6.1 Looking beyond the binary divide
  • 6.2 A comparative outlook on the evolution of binary systems: Germany
  • 6.3 The binary divide according to “le pays politique” (Neave, 2002)
  • 6.3.1 Differentiation between sectors based on postgraduate student numbers
  • 6.3.2 Differentiation within the university sector based on research intensity
  • 6.4 Mission drift: an issue of perspective
  • 6.4.1 Different interpretations of the regional remit: the perspectives of “le pays réel” and “le pays politique” (Neave, 2002)
  • 6.4.2 System-level planning implications versus institutional ambition
  • 6.5 Horizontal differentiation: a government priority
  • 6.6 Assessing the reality of “mission drift”: institutional drift
  • 6.7 Assessing the reality of “academic drift”
  • 6.8 Concluding remarks on the Irish HE binary divide
  • 6.9 Analysing EU influence in Irish policy-making
  • 6.10 Assessing the common discourse between EU and national policy-makers
  • 6.11 An identified lack of awareness of EU policy mechanisms
  • 6.12 Concluding remarks on the influence of EU HE policies on the Irish national policy-maker
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Series index

Ludovic Highman

The European Union’s
Modernisation Agenda
for Higher Education
and the Case of Ireland

College of Europe Studies
Vol. 20

This publication has been peer-reviewed.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, by print, photocopy, microfilm or any other means, without prior written permission from the publisher. All rights reserved.

© P.I.E. PETER LANG s.a.

éditions scientifiques internationales

Brussels, 2018

1 avenue Maurice, B-1050 Brussels, Belgique

www.peterlang.com; brussels@peterlang.com

ISSN 1780-9665

ISBN 978-2-8076-0614-2

ePDF 978-2-8076-0615-9

ePUB 978-2-8076-0616-6

MOBI 978-2-8076-0617-3

DOI 10.3726/b13284

D/2018/5678/02

CIP available from the British Library and from the Library of Congress, USA.

Bibliographic information published by “Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek”.

“Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek” lists this publication in the “Deutsche National-bibliografie”; detailed bibliographic data is available on the Internet at <http://dnb.de>.

About the author

Dr Highman is currently Senior Research Associate at the University College London Institute of Education, in the Centre for Global Higher Education. From 2015 to 2017, Dr Highman was a Senior Academic Assistant at the College of Europe, Bruges. He holds a PhD in Higher Education Policy from Trinity College Dublin, and a Master’s in International Relations from the University of Cambridge.

About the book

The book sets out to offer a national perspective on the complex changes occurring in European higher education systems. The Lisbon European Council (2000) set an ambitious target for the Union to become “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world” with important ramifications for higher education systems and institutions, because of the key role they play in driving innovation and producing knowledge. How this objective at the European Union (EU) level has been understood and implemented at Member State level will be the focus of this book. Higher education in several countries is at a crossroads, at both macro (system structure) and micro (institutional) levels. Several EU Member States have already embarked on major reforms pertaining to organisational and structural issues (Germany, 2005-2007; Finland, 2010; France, 2008; Ireland, 2011). A striking feature is the number of reforms happening across Europe, as well as the use of common priorities and policies within European countries’ reform agendas, including differentiation. The system level will be the primary angle for an in-depth study of documentary evidence for preserving a diversity of higher education institutions and the latter’s implications for the organisation of the Irish higher education system. However, the institutional level cannot be disassociated from the system level, of which it is an inherent part. Higher education institutions are the building blocks of a higher education system and therefore this study will examine the perspectives of both policy-makers and institutional representatives. The evidence provided indicates that the centre of gravity of decision-making in relation to higher education policy is shifting and can no longer be understood without looking to the European Commission’s “modernisation” agenda for higher education, and to research funding opportunities under the current Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (Horizon 2020): both crucial tools for working towards achieving the Europe 2020 goals.

This eBook can be cited

This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.

Foreword

The book sets out to offer a national perspective to those complex changes occurring at the macro-level in European higher education systems. I will focus on a single-case study of the Irish higher education system and the proposed “modernisation” agenda for its higher education sector. The Lisbon European Council (2000) set a broad yet ambitious target for the Union to become “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth” (European Commission, 2002, p. 4) with important ramifications for higher education systems and institutions, because of the key role they play in driving innovation and producing knowledge. How this objective at the European Union (EU) level has been understood and implemented at the Member State level will be the focus of this book. While the necessity to harmonise and standardise European higher education systems was agreed upon at intergovernmental level in Paris (1998) and Bologna (1999), with strong progress culminating in the establishing of the European Higher Education Area in 2010, the Lisbon Council (2000) target provided a justification for more direct EU involvement in higher education in order to achieve the Lisbon Agenda goals, reinstated in the Europe 2020 strategy. This involvement is most visible through the EU’s modernisation agenda for higher education systems and higher education institutions, with a specific focus on differentiation between higher education institutions (European Commission, 2003; 2011).

Higher education in several countries is more than ever at a crossroads, at both macro (system structure) and micro-levels (institutional). Several EU Member States have already embarked on major reforms pertaining to organisational and structural issues (Germany, 2005-2007; Finland, 2010; France, 2008; Ireland, 2011). A striking feature is the sheer number of reforms happening across Europe, as well as the use of common priorities and policies within European countries’ reform agendas. The system level will be the primary angle for an in-depth study of documentary evidence for preserving a diversity of higher education institutions and its implications for the organisation of the Irish higher education system. However, the institutional level cannot be disassociated from the system level, of which it is an inherent part. Higher education institutions are the building blocks of a higher education system and therefore this study←7 | 8→ will examine the perspectives of both policy-makers (at national and EU levels) and institutional representatives.

It is generally recognised that the binary system for higher education was developed from the mid-1960s in the UK as an attempt to promote diversity through the setting up of two parallel sectors of higher education, one general, and one more vocational oriented, following Anthony Crosland’s landmark speech given at Woolwich in 1965.

This study aims to examine and analyse the current higher education system in place in Ireland, whether it matches the definition of a binary system, and whether the Irish higher education system is converging or not towards a unified model of the likes in place in Spain and the UK. In the UK, one of the reasons for the breakdown of the divide was because the universities and the polytechnics had developed a strongly competitive relationship, ultimately undermining the binary system. Clear “institutional” and “academic” drift (Neave, 1979, p. 155) of the polytechnics, combined with the stronger vocational focus of the universities led to the destruction of the binary system and the establishment of a unified system with marked status differences between higher education institutions.

Posited within the larger globalisation debate, the issue of converging or diverging higher education systems and the institutions within is of particular concern, following the launch of the European Commission’s “modernisation” agenda for higher education systems and institutions (2003), whose discourse on greater differentiation, diversity, rationalisation, concentration and better governance is constructed as the only way to achieve “an exalted modernized economic state” (Mazza, Quattrone & Riccaboni, 2008, p. 17). These concepts are part of globalisation’s meta-myth, which should be conceptualised as a collection of rationalized myths characterizing the world polity (Thomas, Mayer, Ramirez & Boli, 1987) and whose dissemination is guaranteed by “institutional carriers” (Vaira, 2004, p. 488) such as the European Commission. This study analyses the influence such a discourse has, or is perceived to have, on Irish higher education policy-making and therefore how it is interpreted at national and institutional levels, focusing specifically on differentiation in mission and role between higher education institutions.

The findings indicate that the centre of gravity of decision-making in relation to higher education is difficult to locate with any certainty at both national and European levels. The roles and indeed powers of the various institutions (not least the funding institutions), and the balance between them, is not conducive to effective policy-making. The evidence provided←8 | 9→ indicates that the centre of gravity of decision-making in relation to higher education policy is shifting and can no longer be understood without looking to the European Commission’s “modernisation” agenda for higher education and the research funding opportunities under the current Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (Horizon 2020), both crucial tools towards achieving the Europe 2020 goals.

EU policies add a new layer of bureaucratic and potentially unaccountable policy-making to the complex pattern of domestic interrelationships that have led to somewhat haphazard Irish policies lacking an explicit whole-of-system approach until the Hunt Report of 2011. Fortunately, while the Irish higher education system grew vastly in the last decades, it has done so in a reasonably sensible way, but there is no certainty that serendipity will be permanently available and the evidence reported in this book indicates some peripheral institutional drift needs to be addressed in the interests of all, in particular when viewed in the context of technological university redesignation and the ambiguity around different interpretations of the regional remit of institutes of technology. Nonetheless, accusations of drift between Irish higher education institutions are overstated and do not reflect available data produced by the Higher Education Authority. Drift, and in particular “academic drift”, is more glacial in the Irish context than would appear at a first glance.←9 | 10→ ←10 | 11→

Details

Pages
274
Year
2018
ISBN (PDF)
9782807606159
ISBN (ePUB)
9782807606166
ISBN (MOBI)
9782807606173
ISBN (Softcover)
9782807606142
DOI
10.3726/b13059
Language
English
Publication date
2017 (December)
Keywords
policy-making policy study Irish system education Ireland University Methodology European Union
Published
Bruxelles, Bern, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2017. 272 p.

Biographical notes

Ludovic Highman (Author)

Dr Highman is currently Senior Research Associate at the University College London Institute of Education, in the Centre for Global Higher Education. From 2015 to 2017, Dr Highman was a senior academic tutor at the College of Europe, Bruges. He holds a PhD in Higher Education Policy from Trinity College Dublin, and a Master’s in International Relations from the University of Cambridge.

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Title: The European Union’s Modernisation Agenda for Higher Education and the Case of Ireland