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Europeanisation of the "European Student Movement"

Klemenčič, Manja (2011) Europeanisation of the "European Student Movement". [Conference Proceedings] (Submitted)

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    European Students’ Union [ESU], representing through its member National Unions of Students [NUSes] from 37 countries over 11 million students in Europe, is one of major interest groups in Europe, and a recognised partner to European institutions and governments within European Higher Education Area [EHEA]. Yet neither ESU nor NUSes have gained much scholarly attention. The aim of the proposed paper is to shed light on this important actor through an investigation of ESU’s and NUSes’ participation in the Bologna Process *BP+ towards establishment of the European Higher Education Area [EHEA]. The paper explores the ‘Europeanisation’ mechanisms in the context of ESU’s and NUSes participation in the BP. It examines specifically how ESU and its member NUSes participate in and influence policy making within the BP and how they themselves are affected by this participation. Thus, it is concerned with meso-level analysis of Europeanisation mechanisms in a specific context of higher education policy making within the BP and with analysis of students unions as political actors. The central thesis of this paper is that the two-way Europeanisation mechanisms are clearly present in the case of ESU’s and NUSes’ involvement in the BP. While some Europeanisation can be identified prior to the BP, this is marginal compared to the intensity of institutional and policy changes and changes in relational structures that happened after 1999 and continued to intensify in the course of the Process. The degree of these changes varies, however, between the both levels of student union system. Institutional adaptation is significantly stronger in ESU than in NUSes. Policy adaptation too is stronger in ESU. In fact, ESU policy agenda is almost ‘hijacked’ by the issues related to the BP. Again, this is less visible in NUSes where other issues of national concern – especially those related to welfare, such as introduction of tuition fees, feature as prominently. In many national systems, the ‚new governance‛ agenda on financing of higher education - especially the question of introducing tuition fees - was in fact launched as a ‚Bologna issue‛, thereby governments and HEIs misinterpreting Bologna recommendations. The most significant change induced by the BP for student unions in Europe was in terms of their relational structures, i.e. their involvement in the HE policy making. The BP legitimised student unions as ‚full members of the academic community‛ and recommended that these be involved in HE governance at all levels. ESU was effectively granted a monopoly of student representation in Europe. The NUSes also drew leverage from this recognition of ESU in the BP. 2 The overwhelming majority of NUSes report having been involved in Bologna-related policy making at the national level. The change in involvement was especially visible in the countries were more statist traditions of state-society relations and in those with relatively weak administrations. The latter were particularly interested in including student representatives in the early phases of the BP because these tended to have information and expertise resources on the BP issues gained through the ESU. ‘Upward Europeanisation’ in the sense of uploading of student preferences into the BP has been conducted almost exclusively through ESU, rather than by individual NUSes. In other words, there has been no individual policy preferences of NUSes uploaded to the BP. All NUSes policy preferences are formulated into common ESU positions following internal policy making procedures. These common positions are then launched in the BP. ESU managed to upload their most salient issues – the social dimension in the BP and student participation in HE governance – onto the Bologna agenda and had inserted them into the official documents. For the first time, however, NUSes effectively lobbied their respective government on ESU positions. Finally, an unexpected – and certainly unintentional – effect of the BP on the student unions in Europe has been in terms of strengthening the ‚European student movement‛. Before the BP, NUSes involvement in ESU was relatively weak and varied. NUSes did not promote their membership in ESU nationally and have not lobbied their governments on ESU issues. The BP has created circumstances highly conducive to cooperation and empowerment of ESU to represent them on the European level.

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    Item Type: Conference Proceedings
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > education policy/vocational training
    EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > europeanisation/europeanization & European identity
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Conference: European Union Studies Association (EUSA) > Biennial Conference > 2011 (12th), April 23-25, 2011
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 05 Nov 2019 11:48
    Number of Pages: 22
    Last Modified: 05 Nov 2019 11:48

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