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Chair: Eleni Prokou, Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences, Greece

Higher education in Europe has been under transformation for the last two decades or so. Globalisation forces, as these are promoted by international and transnational organisations (the OECD, the EU etc.), have exerted pressures for the promotion of the so-called “market-driven” university across the European regions. Along with the imperative for market responsiveness come notions of university productivity, the attribution of greater autonomy to universities to meet certain pre-specified objectives, evaluation, accountability and quality assurance. In the framework of a retreat from welfare states, especially at the current time of economic and social crisis, privatisation trends increase, while the concept of lifelong learning is becoming more and more important along with the individualisation of the responsibility for learning. Employability, as a central aim of the EU education and training policies, is becoming a basic mission of higher education institutions, challenging the Humboldtian model of the University with its unity of research and teaching. In its turn, continuing vocational education and training is further promoted, at the expense of general adult education, albeit increasingly privatised in parallel with the promotion of accreditation policies (e.g. the EQF).     

This Working Group (WG) deals with some of the most profound and complex challenges or even contestations facing higher education and vocational education and training / lifelong learning in Europe and elsewhere. Whilst encouraging a broad array of papers, the WG is particularly interested in papers addressing the following issues:

  • Analysis and interpretation of higher education policies across the European regions. What policies challenge “equity” goals in higher education? What are the consequences of the growing emphasis on “market” responsiveness? What forms of “evaluation” and “quality assurance” are taking root? Has the employability of graduates become a central aim? At what cost?  What types of “privatisation of higher education” are taking place across Europe and beyond and to what effect?
  • Analysis and interpretation of vocational education and training / lifelong learning and adult education policies in European regions. What is the balance between the notions of employability and equity? How are systems of vocational education and training/ lifelong learning changing in view of their increasing privatisation? What is the role of general adult education in view of the emphasis being placed in continuing vocational education and training?
  • Analysis of the policy agendas of EU and international organisations (e.g. Bologna Process, Lisbon Strategy, Copenhagen Process etc.). How do these policies influence nation states or regions in formulating their policies in higher education and/or vocational education and training / lifelong learning?

The WG welcomes contributions from a wide range of social science backgrounds and conceptual orientations aimed at understanding the interests driving the transformations of higher education and vocational education and training / lifelong learning institutions at national and international level.