Conference Agenda

Panel 403: Education & Research cooperation in the EU
Tuesday, 07/Sept/2021:
9:30am - 11:00am

Session Chair: Konstantinos Achilles Kanellopoulos, The University of Manchester; The American University of Athens


Feeding Back for Good? How Europeanised Higher Education Institutions Re-use Europe and Shop for EU Policy Making Venues

Alina Felder

University of Bamberg, Germany

The European Union’s policies addressing higher education institutions – EU research, higher education and regional policy – are guided by different higher education politics – excellence, mobility, cohesion – that locate them at the global, European or regional scale. Consequently, EU-supported cooperation among higher education institutions ranges from individuals to the whole higher education institution and from local authorities to EU-level actors.

Those higher education institutions that are particularly characterized by the multi-level, multi-actor and multi-issue nature of cooperation in the European Higher Education Area are located in border regions, so that the first objective of the paper is to account for the Europeanisation of cross-border cooperation practices and structures among higher education institutions. This is not only useful to assess how different scales of cooperation among higher education institutions are constructed, but also how established cooperation structures are subject to re-scaling processes.

After shedding light at constructions of scale in the Europeanisation of higher education institutions, the results of higher education institutions strategically using Europe, i.e. EU funding, for their cooperation are accounted for along Jacquot and Woll’s theory of usages of Europe. Connecting this interactive Europeanisation approach with policy feedback thinking, it is argued that higher education institutions do not only re-use the opportunity structures that let them foster their cooperation practices and structures, but they also orient their activities towards the EU level and engage in setting the agenda of EU policies adressing higher education institutions.

The analysis relies on interviews conducted with academic and administrative staff at cross-border cooperating higher education institutions, regional, national and EU-level actors from different higher education policy venues and transnational alliances representing the interests of higher education institutions. The paper builds part of a doctoral research project concerned with the influence of EU regional policy instruments on patterns of participation in EU higher education policy making via the Europeanisation of higher education institutions.

In The Name Of The EU – Probing International Collaboration And Project Agendas Of EC Funded Projects In Erasmus+ And Its Predecessors.

Nikitas-Spiros Koutsoukis

University of the Peloponnese, Greece

The European Commission’s funding under Erasmus+ and its predecessors has been going on for more than a decade and has just been renewed for the next period, 2021-2027. So, “what can we learn from over fifty thousand of EC funded projects under Erasmus+ and its predecessors?” Motivated to find some answers to this question, we delve into the projects’ lists available from the Erasmus+ and its predecessor funding programs seeking to map the intensity of the collaboration taking place in the name of the EU around the world. Further, we analyze the collaboration schemas and project agendas to pinpoint key focus areas and any underlying patterns.

Application Of GDPR At National Levels: The Case Of The Laws Relevant In Cross-border Research Project And The Arrangement Between Joint Controllers

Valentina Colcelli

National Research Council, Italy

The case of sharing personal data with large research consortiums commonly arises, even thinking about the circumstances of collaboration agreements for scientific research activities between several entities dedicated to the performance of a project that uses personal data for research activities, or in the case of biobanks that collect personal health data from hospitals involving donors, or of companies that jointly manage personnel and support activities, and similar cases in which data processing takes place in an intra-group context.

While it is true that Regulation (EU) 2016/679 (GDPR) is a wide-ranging piece of legislation and includes several provisions related to scientific research that favour it - or rather, favour an understanding of its specific needs - its application is not always easy in the context of research. This is mainly due to the vast discretion granted to the Member States in this regard in the GDPR. This situation produces fragmentation of the application of GDPR at national levels that impact research activity in several ways. The GDPR enables data flows for research cooperation in the EU, but the rules at the national level regarding research exemptions create a hurdle for cross-border research by ignoring the intra-EU conflicts of law that inevitably arise in a fragmented regulatory framework. Regardless of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coordinating efforts, research activity remains fragmented in the data protection framework because of the intra-EU conflict of laws applicable to a cross-border research project: it is tough to understand the national data protection law of one or the other Member State is to be applied in the case of the research consortium of the cross-border project that uses personal data for research activities. Thus the paper tries to analyse the problem above mentioned, also in the light of arrangement between joint controllers that can help organisations to demonstrate compliance with all the principles of the GDPR as part of conventional consortia governance structures of a research project.

How Organized Interest Shaped An EU Flagship Initiative - Higher Education Associations And The European Universities Initiative

Alina Felder1, Martina Vukasovic2

1University of Bamberg, Germany; 2University of Bergen, Norway

Following a brief reference to “European Universities” in the 2017 Sorbonne speech by Emmanuel Macron, the European Commission (EC) was (remarkably) quickly called upon to develop the European Universities Initiative (EUI). Launched one year after, the initiative was presented as a result of cooperation between higher education institutions, student union, EC and the Member States and, as of March 2021, it provides support for 41 university alliances comprising more than 250 universities across Europe.

In this study, we explore the process of creation of the EUI, with a particular focus on the role of national and transnational higher education associations. Our interest is twofold. One, this initiative garnered strong support from European institutions, Member States and interest groups alike. Such optimism towards "all things European" stands in clear contrast to the overall crisis of European integration, of which Brexit is but one (albeit most dramatic) element. Two, although consultation with organized interest is a standard for European coordination and cooperation, the role of organized interest in this unusually rapid process of developing an EU flagship initiative deserves closer examination.

Our theoretical approach combines the European integration literature, specifically about shaping EU level policy, with insights from interest groups studies concerning the importance of resources, organizational form and type of membership for lobbying success. We analyze the extent to which different higher education associations managed to shape the EUI according to their own preferences, what kind of strategies they employed to do so and how can their success (or lack thereof) be explained in terms of their own characteristics and characteristics of the EUI as such.

Our material comprises: (1) interviews EC officials and representatives of eight higher education associations, and (2) analysis of EC documents and associations’ position papers related to the European Universities Initiative. The eight associations vary in terms of breadth of membership and breadth of policy agenda (from very narrow to rather encompassing), available resources, and geographical scope (national, region, European-wide). This provides us with a novel and rich empirical basis, suitable for analysing the role of organized interest in shaping an EU-level initiative of significant strategic importance.

EU Research Policy: A Success Story of European Integration?

Inga Ulnicane

De Montfort University, United Kingdom

EU research policy has been seen as a success story of European integration (Mitzner 2020). Its treaty basis, amount of funding allocated and a range of policy instruments used has considerably expanded over time. What have been the drivers behind the expansion of this EU research policy? This contribution will trace the evolution of this policy area by focusing on major changes in the treaties, policy instruments and rationales to examine the drivers of expansion of EU research policy.

Research policy was hardly present in initial treaties on European integration. For the large part of the initial decades of European integration from 1950s until 1970s, European cooperation in the field of research mainly took place outside the treaties, for example, through intergovernmental initiatives to launch and maintain large-scale research facilities such as the European Organisation for Nuclear Research CERN. A major milestone in EU integration in research policy was the launch of the Framework Programmes (FPs) in the 1980s to provide European level funding for research and development. Since then, the successive FPs have become the third largest item in the EU budget (after agriculture and Structural Funds) including new funding programmes such as the European Research Council established in 2007 (Wedlin and Nedeva 2015). Research is also funded through the Structural Funds and recently also the European Defence Fund (Calcara et al 2020). In addition to the funding instruments, the launch of the European Research Area in 2000 demonstrates major efforts to use policy coordination mechanisms in this area (Ulnicane 2015).

This contribution will examine how different ideational frames from international competitiveness and internal cohesion to supporting growth and addressing societal challenges have been used to support EU initiatives in this area. Furthermore, it will reflect on challenges for as well as the meaning of ‘success’ in European research integration.


Calcara, Antonio, Raluca Csernatoni, and Chantal Lavalée (Eds) (2020) Emerging Security Technologies and EU Governance: Actors, Practices and Processes. Routledge.

Mitzner, Veera (2020) European Union Research Policy. Contested Origins. Palgrave Macmillan.

Ulnicane, Inga (2015) Broadening Aims and Building Support in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy: The Case of the European Research Area. Journal of Contemporary European Research 11(1): 31-49.

Wedlin, Linda and Maria Nedeva (2015) Towards European Science: Dynamics and Policy of Evolving European Research Space. Edward Elgar.