Acceptance Speech from Winner of Excellent Paper

August 2018


Winner of the Standing Group Award for Excellent Paper from an Emerging Scholar 


June 2018

Olivier Provini, 'Transnational circulations of university reforms and models: the policy-making of the LMD in Burundi'

Olivier Provini is an Assistant Professor in political science at the University of La Reunion (France) and a affiliate member of the Legal Research Center (CRJ, University of La Reunion). In his PhD he dealt with the circulation of higher education reforms in East Africa, by comparing reform processes in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi. His scientific interest lies in public policy analysis, state building and higher education reforms. He currently coordinates the research programme "Making public policies in Africa" (FAPPA) at Sciences Po Bordeaux (France).

The judges statement on Olivier's paper: 

'This is an empirically rich and theoretically robust study that cuts across several significant research themes of interest to the Standing Group. Through the case of Burundi, it demonstrates in an excellent manner how policy transfer unfolds in a context that is, first, characterised by post-colonial relationships between a donor and developing country and, second, happening within an ethnically divided post-conflict society based on a consociationalist constitution. Provini develops a framework based on two competing perspectives on policy transfer: a) the so-called "fragile state" hypothesis according to which countries with weak capacities to provide basic public goods are mere policy takers in relation to international organisations and donor countries; and b) the literature on policy transfer assuming that uptake and integration into national setting of policy practices and ideas circulating within/between developed or industrial countries is subject to political interactions and bargaining among key stakeholders within a receiving state. By combining policy analysis with questions of development and state capacities in Burundi as well as with a focus on politics in ethnically divided post-conflict societies, the study speaks to various audiences and contributes to two sets of literature that are often portrayed in mutually exclusive terms. The rich empirical study on the introduction of Bologna-style higher education structures in Burundi demonstrates convincingly how this process can be conceived in two steps characterised by the two sets of literature: After a first impulse in which the need for reforms was clarified and the Bologna-style model was identified as the way to go in close cooperation with French experts, the practical implementation of the reforms became a political struggle between different stakeholders within Burundi. This excellent paper would be publishable with very few minor revisions.' 

Judging Panel: Dr Thomas Pfister (University of Zeppelin), Professor Susan Robertson (University of Cambridge), and Professor Bjørn Stensaker (University of Oslo)

Call for Papers : ECPR 2018 section on "Politics of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation"

This is a global call for the ECPR 2018 section on 'Politics of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation', endorsed by the Standing Group of the same name. 

The ECPR General Conference will be held on 22-25 August, 2018 in Hamburg, Germany. You will find below the section abstract along with short panel abstracts and the contact details of the panel organisers. The information on the section will soon be posted on the Standing Group website and will be distributed through the upcoming SG newsletter as well.  

If you are interested in submitting a paper in one of these panels please contact the panel chair(s) directly (contacts are below) to discuss your ideas or submit a 300 word abstract by Thursday, 25 January 2018.

The ECPR's formal deadline is 15 February 2018, but we put an earlier deadline so that we can ensure that all panels have a sufficient amount of papers. While it is possible to submit papers directly to the section through the ECPR web site until then, papers submitted through the panels below will have priority. Also, ECPR only allows individuals to perform each conference function (including paper presenter) once within the academic programme, though multiple co-authorship is possible.

Section description:

Knowledge has become increasingly central in contemporary politics as it is understood to be the foundation on which societies coalesce and economies thrive. The seventh Politics of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (previously Europe of Knowledge) Section is interested in theoretical, empirical, and comparative contributions that investigate the role of politics and policy in the multi-level, multi-issue, and multi-actor governance of knowledge. By role, we refer to effects that ideas (including political ideologies), actors (both individual and organisational, including political parties and transnational entities), policy instruments, and institutions have on the governance, creation, dissemination, and transfer of knowledge. Panels will be oriented around one of the roles mentioned above, key empirical questions, or methodologies, and may either focus on one knowledge area or seek to integrate all three. The Section continues to welcome scholars, globally, from all theoretical and methodological approaches to critically discuss the reconfiguration of knowledge systems.

Panels being developed:

1. Institutions in the knowledge policy domain - Novel approaches, chaired by Jens Jungblut (Stanford University,
This Panel focuses on applying neo-institutional theories to the policy domain of higher education, research and innovation. It seeks Papers pursuing new developments in neo-institutional theory, i.e. going beyond path-dependence and isomorphism, such as studying institutional logics, focusing on actors and institutional work, or historical institutionalist accounts of longitudinal changes.

2. Differentiated integration in higher education and research, co-chaired by Mari Elken (NIFU, and Martina Vukasovic (Ghent University,
The Panel will focus on differentiated integration in higher education and research, both with regards to European level policy formation and national and institutional level policy implementation. The Panel will explicitly tackle the multi-issue and multi-level aspects of knowledge governance in the European context. It will provide an opportunity to reflect on whether and to what extent there is a crisis in European integration in the knowledge policy domain and what are the implications of Brexit for this.

3. Global Bolognaization: Central Asian encounters with the European Higher Education Area, co-chaired by Emma Sabzalieva (University of Toronto, and Aliya Akataeva (Satbayev University,
If the Bologna Process is to be a new global norm for higher education, it becomes critical to understand both: one, how this norm is spreading outside its original European Union home, and two, what impact the Bologna Process-inspired reforms have had in these global spaces. This Panel will focus on Central Asia, an area under-investigated in academic studies and one that falls on the periphery of the European Higher Education Area but within the Bologna Process.

4. Global knowledge governance, co-chaired by Meng-Hsuan Chou (Nanyang Technological University,, Tero Erkkilä (University of Helsinki, and Niilo Kauppi (University of Jyväskylä,
States’ information resources and education policies have long belonged to the realm of national politics and governance. However, as current research highlights, knowledge governance is increasingly becoming global. The Panel tackles the shifts in global knowledge governance from the perspectives such as its ideas, actors, and underlying rationalities, but also considering its institutional outcomes and alternatives. We welcome Papers that explore global and transnational transformations of knowledge governance, higher education and political economy of knowledge.

5. Organizing the distribution of funding for research and innovation, co-chaired by Sarah Glück (Zeppelin University, and Thomas König (Institute for Advanced Studies,
Research funding is one of the major intersections where science meets politics. Behind a plethora of recent policies and goals lie, often unacknowledged, huge organisational challenges: How to deal with dual legitimacy issues such as fairness and efficiency in the decision-making process? What is the influence of actors such as legislatures, scientific organisations, and audit courts? Building on last year’s Panel, on research executive agencies, we invite contributions from scholars with an organization perspective that focus on research funding agencies at both national and European level. 

6. Bringing the politics of international large-scale research into play, co-chaired by Nicolas Rüffin (WZB, and Olof Hallonsten (Lund University,
Large-scale research collaborations are necessary both to advance science and to tackle global challenges in the 21st century. International (big science) research organisations and infrastructures are inherently political. They require massive amounts of long-term funding, international political commitment, and interdisciplinary communication. However, political scientists have so far paid little attention to these types of international scientific collaboration.

7. Beyond technocracy: Politics and policies of knowledge and innovation in times of populism, chaired by Inga Ulnicane (University of Vienna,
What new challenges does the rise of populism present to policies of knowledge, technology and innovation? What role does scientific expertise play in the age of alternative facts? What impact does the political focus on strengthening national borders have on this field, which traditionally has been seen as technocratic and has for centuries benefited from the global flow of knowledge, technologies and people? This Panel invites theoretical and empirical contributions exploring and making sense of changes in knowledge and innovation policies in times of populism.


2017 Excellent Paper from an Emerging Scholar - Call for Nomination

March 2017

The ECPR Standing Group on the Politics of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation announces the call for an Excellent Paper from an Emerging Scholar. The winner of the 2017 Excellent Paper Award will be announced before the Standing Group meeting at the 2018 annual ECPR general conference in Hamburg, Germany and the award will be given at the meeting. The members of the Judging Panel for the 2017 Excellent Paper from an Emerging Scholar are:

Dr Thomas Pfister – Head of the EnergyCultures Research Group, Zeppelin University, and the Associate Editor of Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research.

Professor Susan Robertson – Professor of Education, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, and Co-Editor of Globalisation, Societies and Education.

Professor Bjørn Stensaker – Professor, Department of Education, University of Oslo, and Research Professor at the Nordic Institute for Innovation, Research, and Education (NIFU).

Eligibility and nomination process

A nominee is eligible if she/he fulfils all of the following criteria:

(1)  Is currently enrolled in a PhD Programme or has obtained PhD after August 2015;

(2)  Is the Sole or Lead Author in the paper to be presented;

(3)  Presented the paper at a conference or workshop between November 2016 and November 2017;

(4)  Submits the application via email by the 15th of December 2017.

(5)  Has registered and extended his/her membership to the Standing Group as of 15th of December 2017.

The application consists of the following: 

·      Paper presented (no more than 8000 words, excluding references), along with details of the conference (panel title, date of presentation)

·      CV (2 pages, including details of institutional affiliation)

·      A short statement of support from any of the following (only one statement of support is required for the application): the PhD supervisor, a committee member, the panel chair, or the panel discussant

Please send the application to Dr Meng-Hsuan Chou ( by the 15th of December 2017. Any questions can also be directed to her.

Winner of the Standing Group Award for Excellent Paper from an Emerging Scholar

January 2017

Que Anh Dang (University of Bristol) for her paper 'The Bologna and ASEM Education Secretariats: Authority of Transnational Actor in Regional Higher Education Policy-Making' presented at the ECPR General Conference 2016 in Prague.


The Judges' statement on her paper: 

'This paper examines the role of the Bologna and ASEM education secretariats, and argues that they are political actors in their own right. The paper is located in the wider regions/IR literature, and this literature is used with confidence and clarity. The Panel was impressed with the way in which the paper drew on a rich empirical base enabling Dang to provide a complex and compelling account of the secretariats, and how they derive their authority and use it to influence region building. The Panel agreed unanimously that the structure of the paper was tight, and the justification and use of the theoretical resources to develop the argument was clear, and that the paper unfolded in a well-organised way. The judges noted the ways in which Dang engaged critically with her main theoretical sources (especially Barnett & Finnemore) by contrasting them with the particularities of her cases.  The Panel also pointed to the fact that the paper goes beyond comparing two institutional set ups to create a dynamic account. By investigating the processes, practices, and materials mobilised in particular by the ASEM secretariat to create authority, they feel that the paper produces really interesting insights about the politics in transnational higher education policy in particular and hybrid expert institutions more generally. The paper also responds directly to the aims and objectives of the Standing Group. With very little editing, this paper is suitable for publishing in an international refereed journal.' 

Judging Panel: Dr Thomas Pfister (University of Zeppelin), Professor Susan Robertson (University of Cambridge), and Professor Bjørn Stensaker (University of Oslo)

The Standing Group on the Politics of Higher Education, Research, and Innovationwould like to thank all three judges for their time and contribution!

The announcement for the 2017 competition will be circulated shortly and we look forward to more submissions from junior scholars.

ECPR 2017 OSLO, SG Section Call for Proposals

January 2017

This is a global call for the ECPR 2017 'Politics of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation' section (formerly Europe of Knowledge) endorsed by the Standing Group of the same name. The ECPR General Conference will be held on 6-9 September 2017 in Oslo, Norway. The section panels and relevant contact details are outlined below. 

To submit a paper in one of these panels, please contact the panel chair(s) directly to discuss your ideas of submit a 500 word abstract before Sunday January 22nd. 

We also invite you to consider the panel “Transformation of the Political Studies Profession: What does it mean to be an active academic in the current era?” chaired by Meng-Hsuan Chou (Nanyang Technological University, and Jacqui Briggs (University of Lincoln,, that will be part of the section Advances in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education organized by the Teaching and Learning Politics Standing Group. for details:

Politics of Higher Education, Research and Innovation Section description:

Knowledge policies are at the forefront of contemporary global politics and are seen as the foundation on which societies coalesce and economies thrive. This section builds on the previous six sections on the Europe of Knowledge and invites contributions to consider the various dimensions of knowledge policy development. Specifically, we are interested in theoretical, empirical, and comparative contributions that investigate the role of politics and policy in the global, multi-level, multi-issue, and multi-actor governance of knowledge. By role, we refer to effects that ideas, actors (both individual and organisational), policy instruments/mixes, and institutions have had on the governance of knowledge, and vice-versa. We focus on roles to enable a multidisciplinary discussion on whether these factors share defining characteristics across different knowledge policy domains (i.e. research, higher education, and innovation), and between distinct governance levels and geographical regions. This section continues to welcome scholars, globally, from all theoretical and methodological approaches to critically discuss the reconfiguration of knowledge systems around the world.

1. Unbundling and reassembling knowledge production

Susan Robertson (University of Cambridge,  & Jana Komljenovic (Lancaster University,

Where public and private universities used to be the key or ‘only’ social institution engaged in advanced, credentialed knowledge production and dissemination in the higher education sector, there are now multitude of actors who have entered and are constituting an increasingly differentiated sector specialising in different aspects of knowledge brokering, production, circulation, consumption and valuation. Such actors range from think tanks to NGOs and private companies. This panel aims to consider what this unbundling and reassembling of advanced knowledge governance means for the creation of knowledge itself, its value and use.  This panel is particularly interested in papers which present empirical findings, or which are advancing new theoretical or methodological approaches as to how to study questions of knowledge/power inherent in these processes.

 2. The quality and effectiveness of governance in higher education:  Unpacking the quality of governance and effects of governance changes in higher education policies

Giliberto Capano (Scuola Normale Superiore, and Jens Jungblut (University of Kassel,

Higher education is a central institution of modern societies. While it always fulfilled core societal functions, recent years saw an increase in higher education’s political salience and relevance in relation to other policy areas. Following domestic pressures or international prescriptions, in recent decades many national higher education systems have undergone structural changes in their governance arrangements, mainly designed to enhance the overall performance of universities in the fields of teaching, research and their third mission. As in other parts of the public sector, a well-functioning bureaucracy and political-administrative order are a pre-condition for higher education to fulfill its tasks. Combined with the previously described growing relevance of higher education for national development, this poses the question in how far there is a relation between the quality of governance and the effectiveness of the higher education sector of a given country. In addition, it is necessary to assess the real effects of the mantra of “reforming governance” that has been a global phenomenon. These effects include 1) political effects, addressing the distribution of authority and power in the field of higher education, 2) policy effects, addressing the mix of policy instruments and governance structures adopted, and 3) performance effects, addressing questions related to systemic efficiency or effectiveness as well as international competitiveness. The panel invites contributions that address either the link between the quality of governance and the effectiveness of the higher education sector or the effects of governance reforms along the three dimensions outlined above. All contributions have to be conceptually well grounded and should present results of recent empirical research.

3. Policy translation, adaptation and complexity in higher education, research and innovation

Julie M. Birkholz (Ghent University,, Davide Donina (University of Bergamo, and Sandra Hasanefendic (VU Amsterdam,

The panel, first of all, aims to explore the conditions which shape public policies in the higher education field and their organizational translation and adaptation. By stimulating discussions and comparisons across case studies, the goal is to understand not only how the power-sharing arrangement affect policy design and implementation, but also, and more importantly, why new policies have been translated and adapted in such heterogeneous ways across higher education organizations in Europe. Moreover, the panel will also explore how complexity theory can advance studies in the field of higher education, science and innovation policy? The specific interest is in empirical evidence on the emergent, nonlinear and co-evolutionary nature of higher education systems and the dynamic relationships among its many parts. We welcome papers that analyze both single and comparative case studies, which can provide lessons to (European) policy designers and university managers as well as papers that contribute to theory building in the higher education field. Papers which explicitly or implicitly broaden our understanding of higher education systems through complexity theory perspective, and accordingly propose a comprehensive future research agenda (which contests higher education systems as linear and ordered) are particularly welcome.

4.  Research Executive Agencies - Independent Organizations or the Extension of Research Policymakers?

Sarah Glück (Zeppelin University, and Lisa Kressin (Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies, DZHW,

On national but also on EU level the number of research executive agencies, responsible for the implementation of great research and innovation programs like Horizon 2020 are growing and become an integral part of the landscape of research programme implementation but also have their say in the development and the agenda setting process of new research foci and programme structures. So far their role and practices have been widely under-researched and little is known about their inherent social orders, their entanglements with research communities and their interdependences with national governments or the European Commission. As intermediary organizations research executive agencies are more and more collecting a valuable base of knowledge about the processes surrounding research and innovation programmes, they are at the same time competitors, which are partly government institutions, partly independent enterprises, these situations raise questions for legitimacy of this kind of knowledge governance and who has access to the resulting knowledge base?

5. European integration in the knowledge domain – Taking stock and forward outlook

Peter Maassen (University of Oslo, and Martina Vukasovic (Ghent University,

The panel will focus on the process and outcomes of European integration in the knowledge domain, in particular higher education and research. The discussion will be structured around the research agenda outlined in one of the most cited volumes on the issue (Maassen & Olsen, 2007) which, amongst other, highlighted the need to go beyond environmental determinism and strategic choice and treating Europe as sui generis, and suggested to focus on complex ecology of processes, institutional frictions and contestations, as well as to consider European integration in relation to the transformation of the social pact between society and university. The panel will be organized around conceptual contributions which (1) take stock of the research done on this topic in the last 10 years, (2) consider the extent to which research responded to the agenda outlined in the volume and developments in ‘mother disciplines’ (i.e. European studies, comparative politics), and (3) propose extensions or refinements of the research agenda for the future.

6. Policy tools and ambiguity

Ivar Bleiklie (University of Bergen, and Nicoline Frølich (NIFU,

The panel will focus on how changes in university organizations, higher education policies and politics interact. In particular we will focus on how the transformation of universities into more centralized organizations with stronger leadership and internal hierarchies, with varying external relationships and complex dependencies that characterise universities as ‘penetrated hierarchies’, affect the interplay between universities’ organizational strategies and governments’ choice of policy tools. This includes the process of translation of ambiguous policy tools into academic institutions. The panel welcomes empirical and theoretical contributions to the contemporary discussion of policy, governance and organisational change in higher education. Papers addressing questions related to new organizational and hybrid forms, both within universities and in terms of the political apparatus through which policies are developed and implemented are welcome. Papers focusing on policy and organizational issues related to the ambiguity of core concepts through which higher education policies and university organizations are interpreted, e.g. specialization, academic autonomy, academic leadership and managerial control, are welcome. Papers may pursue more specifically  strands in the literature aiming to identify: a) forms of organisation through which public policy is conducted, b) the politics behind selection of policy instruments, c) policy instruments as generictypes and inventories of policy instruments.