Post-CHER Symposion 2012
The Past, Present and Future of Higher Education Research: Between Scholarship and Policy Making
University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, 13 September 2012
The European higher education landscape has changed dramatically over the last 25 years. In the early 1980s, speaking about “European” higher education was still more or less an abstraction. On one hand, the Iron Curtain made a substantial cut between education systems to the West and East; on the other, there were “European models” of national higher education rather than a “European higher education”. A quarter of a century later, the “European Higher Education Area”, spreading from Lisbon to Vladivostok, has been declared.
This dramatic change has been the culmination of ongoing policy developments, largely related to the internationalisation, Europeanisation and globalisation of higher education. To mention just a few key steps along this route: the decisions taken on the Erasmus (1986) and Tempus (1990) Programmes, the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 giving the green light to “Community Action” in the field of education and training, the Lisbon Recognition Convention (1997), the Bologna Declaration (1999) resulting in the Bologna Process, the EU Lisbon Strategy (2000) and the Lisbon Process and so on. These steps have had an enormous impact on policy making processes at both national and institutional levels.
These 25 years of change have been accompanied by a growing number of higher education research endeavours. Distinguished research centres have started to be established (e.g. INCHER, 1978; CHEPS, 1984), while in 1988 CHER (the Consortium of Higher Education Researchers) was founded. Gradually, the new research specialisation has been recognised and promoted across Europe as an important interdisciplinary field. In addition, the academic dimension higher education research has been directly or indirectly connected to the area of higher education policy making. Since the invention of “evidence-based policy making” such a connection appears quite normal, e.g. contemporary education reforms need ample support in terms of data and system analysis which can only be provided by research centres at universities or outside them. Universities not only provide research but also research training. Due to their relative autonomy they themselves need “evidence-based institutional policy making”. However, the relationship between higher education research and policy making – European, national or institutional – has never been simple.
What is the relationship between higher education research and higher education policy making in the past and in the future? This is the leading question of the CHER 2012 post-conference symposium and subsumes a number of issues to be discussed, e.g.:
- the impact of research on policy making (and vice versa);
- particular tensions that appear between research and (inter)national policy making;
- specific tensions between research and institutional policy making;
- a future research agenda on higher education in Europe;