Internationalisation and globalisation processes and their impact
on national higher education systems:
convergence and divergence, centres and peripheries
The second CEPS Sympósion, organised within the research project DEP (Differentiation, equity, productivity: consequences of the expanded and differentiated higher education systems from the internationalization aspect) financed by the Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS) aims to examine the impact of Europe-wide and larger international and global developments on national higher education systems. We would like in particular to upfront issues of convergence and diversity in higher education and of the relationship of centres and peripheries in higher education.
Several policy discourses (often mutually interlinked or overlapping, e.g. the Lisbon Strategy; the Bologna Process; the academic cooperation; the “global dimension” etc.) have appeared and have been employed during the last decade; all of them have been recognisable within the Bologna Process, understood here as an open policy forum. Until the end of the decade, diverse interpretations of the European “concerted” higher education policy – related to diverse national needs, traditions etc. – have also appeared and have been employed in national and regional contexts. In 2010, the Bologna Process reached its main goal: to “consolidate” (as phrased by the Bologna Declaration) the European Higher Education Area. Indeed, national higher education systems looks much more convergent today than ever before but a cluster of new questions is emerging: questions about the nature and quality of European higher education, real impact of its recent reforms as well as about its near future.
Working on these aspects it is necessary to identify organising ideas which lie behind particular policy discourses and examine their logic in a historical perspective of the last decade and as reflected in a dichotomy convergence vs. diversity. Further, we need to compare and understand the main trends in changes in individual national systems which have been predominantly influenced by the Europeanisation processes; we also need to understand their effects with regard to changes in horizontal and vertical differentiation. Within these frames, it also looks important to focus to differentiation aspects and the extent to which international student and labour flows are altering national patterns of equity and productivity regarding higher education graduates and to a typology of student mobility regarding their places of study (at home; temporarily or whole degree programme abroad) and work destination (at home or abroad; in a national or an international job). Last but not least, it is necessary to examine the two-way relationship of the emerging European Higher Education Area with other parts of the world and understand its feedback and policy implications of the discussion on higher education and social change.
From today’s point of view, it seems that – at least an inner – tension between “European” convergence and “national” diversity persists (and perhaps becoming tense). Different interpretations of the “concerted” policy and diverse implementation processes at the national or regional level (enhanced by a mix of different discourses as well as “local” political and ideational pressures behind these processes) seem to produce a new “divergence”. A dichotomy of centres and peripheries in European higher education might indicate possible elements of it; a dichotomy which hasn’t received much attention during the last decade. The EHEA is not a homogenous area; on the contrary. Changes in individual national systems, influenced by the Europeanisation and globalisation processes, seem to produce quite different impact in different European countries and regions. One hand, different nature of “big” and “small” higher education systems seems to demand different action, different structures and different implementation of the “common policy”; even more, it produces certain tensions (e.g. organisation of the system and support institutions; incoming and outgoing mobile students and staff; attractiveness of national universities on various league tables; etc.). It looks like an “invisible hand” pushes European countries to be either “policy exporters” or “policy importers”. On the other hand, it seems that tensions are not merely a reflex of the size of a national higher education but a reflex of more substantial social, economic and political processes in Europe and worldwide.