The Visible Hand of the Internal Market: tensions between European competence and national sovereignty in higher education

The A3ES/CIPES Seminar

October 6th-8th 2016


Background and Rationale

In October 2014, CIPES and A3ES have organised a conference on “Higher Education as Commerce: Cross-Border Higher Education and the Services Directive”. In the aftermath of the conference there was a decision to further explore the challenges of policy-making in higher education in Europe, as an area protected by the subsidiarity principle. As a result, CIPES and A3ES have decided to organise a closed seminar with the participation of a small number of researchers to prepare research-based papers on concepts and trends. The papers will be presented and discussed in the seminar and will be compiled in a book to be published by Palgrave-MacMillan.

The seminar aims to analyse the emergence of a European space of higher education, driven and shaped by a combination of drivers: the European institutions (European Court of Justice and the European Commission), despite the “apparent” protection provided by the European Treaties (Amaral & Neave 2008); the building of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) through the Bologna Process; and international organisations such as the OECD and the World Bank. 

Initial topics will thus include a summary of the basic principles of the European Union, the recognition of integration difficulties and the use of flexibility and differentiated integration, and an analysis of policy implementation methods in the European Union. This will be followed by the influence of international organisations in shaping national higher education systems. Next, the influence of the European Union will be analysed, including the relevant directives (the Services Directive and the Directives on recognition of education and training), as well as the role of the European Court of Justice (de Groof, 2013; Kwikkers and Wageningen, 2012). The role of the communications issued by the European Commission will also be considered as a method to influence national and institutional policies. This will be followed by an analysis of the contribution of the Bologna process to the building of the European Higher Education Area (Veiga & Amaral 2008), its convergence problems (Tomusk 2011; Sin 2014) and a critical view of its trajectory under the influence of the Commission’s Lisbon strategy: training instead of education; marketization, limits to institutional autonomy (Streckeisen 2009; Mokyr 2003; Amaral 2015); instrumentalisation of higher education and, more recently, teaching and learning as vehicles for employability (Sin and Neave 2014; Sin 2015). At last, the challenges for quality assurance will be discussed taking into account the directives on the liberalisation of services and on the recognition of professional qualifications.


Amaral, A. (2015). Universities and the Knowledge Society Revisited (in press).

Amaral, A., Neave, G., Musselin, C. and Maassen, P. (2008). European Integration and the Governance of Higher Education and Research. Dordrecht, Springer.

Amaral, A. and Neave, G. (2008). On Bologna, Weasels and Creeping Competence. In Amaral, A., Neave, G., Musselin, C. and Maassen, P. (Eds), European Integration and the Governance of Higher Education and Research. Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 281-299.

De Groof (2013). On transnational Education. Some Options and Questions. In Govaere, I. and Hanf, D. (Eds.), Scrutinizing Internal and External Dimensions of European Law/Les dimensions itnernes et externs du droit européen à l’épreuve, Liber Amicorum Paul Demaret, Vol.I, Brussels: P.I.E Peter Lang, p.29-38.

Kwikkers, P. and van Wageningen, A. (2012). A Space for the European Higher Education Area: The Guidance from the EU Court of Justice to Member States. Higher Education Policy, 25(1): 39-63.

Mokyr, J. (2003). The Knowledge Society: Theoretical and Historical Underpinnings, paper presented to the Ad Hoc Expert Group on Knowledge Systems, United Nations, New York, Sept. 4-5.

Rosa, M.J., Sarrico, C., Tavares, O. and Amaral, A. (2016) Cross Border Higher Education and Quality Assurance. Commerce, the Service Directive and Governing Higher Education. London&New York, Palgrave-MacMillan (in press)

Rosa, M.J. and Amaral, A. (Eds.) Quality Assurance in Higher Education. Contemporary Debates. London & New York, Palgrave-MacMillan.

D.F. Westerheijden, B. Stensaker and M.J. Rosa (Eds.), Quality Assurance in Higher Education. Trends in Regulation, Translation and Transformation. Dordrecht: Springer

Sin, C. (2014). Lost in translation: the meaning of learning outcomes across national and institutional policy contexts. Studies in Higher Education, 39(10), 1823-1837.

Sin, C. (2015). Teaching and learning: a journey from the margins to the core in European higher education policy. In A. Curaj, L. Matei, R. Pricopie, J. Salmi  and P. Scott (Eds.) The European Higher Education Area: Between Critical Reflections and Future Policies, pp. 333-350. Dordrecht: Springer (in press).

Sin, C. & Neave, G. (2014). Employability deconstructed: perceptions of Bologna stakeholders. Studies in Higher Education, DOI 10.1080/03075079.2014.977859.
Sin. C., Veiga, A. and Amaral, A. (2016). European Policy Implementation and Higher Education. Analysing the Bologna Process. London&New York, Palgrave-MacMillan (in press).

Streckeisen, P. (2009). Knowledge Society – or Contemporary Capitalism's Fanciest Dress. Analyse & Kritik, 31(1): 181-197.

Tomusk, V. (2011). The Garbage of the Garbage. The Scond-Level Sub-Optimal Policy Process in European Higher Education. Cahiers de la recherche sur l´éducation et les savoirs, Hors-série n.º 3, p. 21-41.

Veiga, A. and Amaral, SA. (2008). How Does the Bologna Process Challenge National Traditions of Higher Education Institutions? In Valimaa, J. and Ylijoki, O.-H. (Eds.), Cultural Perspectives on Higher Education, pp. 245-263, Dordrecht, Springer.

Veiga, A., Magalhães, A., Amaral, A. (2015). Differentiated integration and the Bologna process. Journal of Contemporary European Research, 11 (1): 81-102.