Explaining the European Union’s External Engagement on Higher Education
1College of Europe; 2University of Edinburgh
The literature about EU external action beyond trade, development and CFSP pays much attention to how the EU engages externally, but little to why it does so. Moreover, whereas some policy fields, like the environment, have been examined comprehensively, research on areas of limited EU legal competence such as culture or education remains scarce. Addressing these gaps, this paper expands on a recently proposed explanatory framework, which argues that EU external action emerges when a structural policy window of external ‘opportunity’ and domestic ‘presence’ opens, which is exploited by ‘policy entrepreneurs’ (Schunz/Damro 2019), to explain why the EU developed external activities in the higher education domain. Operationalizing this framework methodologically through a narrative process-tracing approach, the paper compares the emergence of EU external action regarding two central components of EU higher education policy, the Erasmus and Jean Monnet programmes. Both were originally internal policy initiatives of the late 1980s which developed external dimensions throughout the 1990s. Their comparison not only allows for shedding light on why the EU engages externally on higher education at all, but also for how and why a certain kind of external engagement emerged. We argue that the changing geopolitical landscape after the fall of the Iron Curtain paired to a successful internal policy experience opened a structural policy window for externalising EU higher education policies that was successfully used by institutional policy entrepreneurs from the European Commission capable of mobilising pro-external action majorities. The paper concludes by discussing academic and policy-relevant implications of its findings.
The Threat of Brexit as a Catalyst for Intra-European Education Diplomacy: Assessing English Universities’ Diplomatic Strategies for post-Brexit Partnerships
1Institute of Security & Global Affairs (ISGA) Leiden University, The Netherlands; 2Global Governance Institute (GGI), Brussels
Ever since the EU referendum of 23 June 2016, Vice-Chancellors and senior leaders of British universities have strongly engaged in both public debates and policy initiatives related to mitigating the impact of Brexit on the university and higher education landscape in Great Britain. Traditionally perceived as one of the leading higher education systems across the European Union, British universities have also strongly benefitted from their multifaceted research links, EU-financed grant income and partnerships with universities on the European continent. In addition, 6 % of students at British universities were recruited from other EU countries in 2017. Thus, maintaining strong links to European funding and cooperation opportunities has been a major priority for a variety of British universities. In the wake and context of these deliberations, a variety of English universities have taken far-reaching steps in negotiating extensive cooperation schemes with other European universities on the continent. In addition, universities have created liaison offices in Brussels and other strategically important European cities, which function as mini-embassies for universities. This paper therefore argues that these activities can be seen as a novel wave and sub-category of ‘education diplomacy’. While education diplomacy can be traced back to at least to Ptolemaic times as an important practice of attracting the best scholars, thinkers, poets and scientists, it has only been during the last 10 years that it received renewed attention in the context of public diplomacy, soft power and cultural diplomacy. Universities and university leaders are seen as diplomatic actors in their own right, capable of influencing and shaping not only higher education policies, but also socio-economic aspects and even foreign relations. The paper examines with the help of six case studies Brexit-mitigating education diplomacy and strategies pursued by English universities (the University of Cambridge, Oxford, Warwick, Bristol, Bath and Coventry). Based on participant observation and extensive interviews with senior university leaders in England and European partner universities, this paper seeks not only to shed light on the new phenomenon of Intra-European Education diplomacy -particularly in the context of a blocked political process-, but also seeks to expand and enrich the concept of European Education Diplomacy itself.
Accessing European Opportunity Structures in the Shadow of Brexit
This paper explores how state and non-state actors, from different levels of governance, use their access to opportunity structures within the European Union’s (EU) political system. Focusing on UK-based actors, we analyse participation within three opportunity structures, each with differing incentive structures (from hard to soft). We highlight the ways in which actors have used these opportunity structures to gain resource and mobilise allies. Analysis reveals that the softer the incentive structure from the EU to engage, the higher the level of resource dependency and shared normative beliefs/goals within the network. Typically, soft-incentivised engagement is amongst actors situated furthest away from the core executive, indicating that these more ‘peripheral’ actors have the most to lose if access to these structures is restricted or reconfigured. Therefore, we argue that certain actors are particularly exposed to the second-order effects of Brexit which, in turn, may have severe domestic governance implications.