Where is Europe’s higher education media?

Welcome to 2008, the start of GlobalHigherEd‘s first full year of life.

The Beerkens’ Blog recently let us know that Eric Beerkens is moving on, out of academia, and into the policy world in The Hague. His blog, which will hopefully be maintained despite his new job, is one of the few around that is adopting a broad-based, analytical, and snappy view on changes to the world of higher education, with an eye to underlying forces, differential impacts, contradictions, and periodically humourous dimensions of the change process. There are innumerable journal articles, chapters, books, policy reports, and so on, being produced about the globalization of higher education. And there are numerous fora, networks (e.g., NESSE), and think tanks buzzing about. But there is a need for freely accessible straight to the screen spaces of knowledge production about ongoing development processes. None of these replaces the other; it is the strange brew that is produced through the mix that matters.

I was in Brussels last month and spoke on a plenary panel at conference organized by the European Education Policy Network. Our charge was to discuss “Interactions between Academic Research and the Policy World”. I spoke about two very different types of institutions that have the capacity to deepen the strong ties, and create the weak ties, that help academics and policy makers engage on a more productive basis.

The first was Canada’s Metropolis Project, an exemplary research and outreach vehicle that bridges the worlds of policy makers and academics regarding the impact of immigration on cities. I won’t go into any detail here on this issue.

The second was the higher education media, at least the ‘quality’ outlets, which policy makers use to locate more accessible summaries of relevant research, to keep up-to-date on debates and new developments, and to use as a vehicle for the release of topical information. I spoke about some of the differences I have noticed in Europe (where I am on sabbatical) versus the USA (where I live), and Canada (where I am from), with respect to the nature of the higher education media.

In North America, especially the United States, there is a rich diversity of higher education media sources, including:

If we treat Europe and the Bologna Process-fueled European Higher Education Area as a legible regional system, emergent as it is, and on par with the North America, we have:

  • Daily: none
  • Weekly: none
  • Biweekly: European University Association (EUA) newsletter
  • Monthly: Academic Cooperation Association (ACA) newsletter
  • Irregular: higher ed sections in local and national magazines and newspapers; blogs

eua-newsletter.jpg

The Times Higher Education’s coverage of European-scale development processes is frankly pathetic, though perhaps the reworked version (to be released on 10 January) will be better [July 2010 note: it is better]. I am sure there are other media sources as well – let me know what they are and I’ll update this section of today’s entry.

insidehighered.jpg

Does the relative limits of higher ed media diversity in Europe matter? I would argue, despite some critical comments from two former journalists (both English) in the audience last month, that the lacunae of media resources is worth taking note of and redressing. The discursive fields regarding European higher education are not as diverse, multi-directional, multi-layered, and especially multi-temporal, as is the case in North America. To be sure European debates are informed and vibrant but there is something to be said for having freely accessible (unlike the subscription only ACA newsletter) and non-stakeholder (e.g., the EUA newsletter) outlets that profile ongoing developments and provide a setting for analyses, opinion pieces, debates, job advertisements, and so on. The voices represented in European debates about higher education reform also lack the insights of informed journalists such as Scott Jaschik (in the US) who established Inside Higher Ed in 2005 with some other former employees of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Jaschik and his colleagues clearly realized the importance of generating knowledge and stirring up debate via insightful analyses that are freely accessible (including to policy makers and especially students) via the web. Free access via the web also facilitates access via search engines such as Google which are hindered by the defacto subscription filter created by outlets like the Chronicle of Higher Education and Times Higher Education. It is important to also note that Inside Higher Ed‘s capacity to be so active, yet free, is underlain by a very mobile labour market linked to thousands of universities and associated organizations that seek to openly advertise their faculty and staff vacancies.

Blogs have their place, of course, as does tracking official sources including the European Commission‘s informative ERA-Watch. And so does detailed historical research that comes out in book form. But as we enter 2008, a mere two years ahead of 2010 (the target date of the “completion” of the European Higher Education Area), it is surprising that there are no vibrant European higher education media outlets, especially outlets that reflect the temporal rhythms of a development process that is genuinely breathtaking in its speed and effect (and is indeed now generating deep ripple effects in other parts of the world). Report release notices, newsletters, and blogs (including the Beerkens’ Blog, GlobalHigherEd, and others) all play a role in creating the “carnival of ideas” that shed light on the globalization of higher education, including Europe’s evolving place in it. But the European carnival of ideas is a distinctly sleepy one at the present moment. Plus c’est la meme chose, plus ça change?

Kris Olds

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3 thoughts on “Where is Europe’s higher education media?

  1. Pingback: Are we witnessing the denationalization of the higher education media? « GlobalHigherEd

  2. Pingback: Are we witnessing the denationalization of the higher education media? « GlobalHigherEd

  3. UAEUniversitywatch is a forum watch-site created for one particular university in the Gulf – UAE University. It was formed by a collective of concerned staff about the poor academic standards and ethical violations and mismanagement that exist here.

    However what is needed are more higher education media sites that are regional based. Sites and forums and outlets that are specific to a region are probably the better solution in the long run.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Carl Saunders
    Administrator
    www. UAEUniversitywatch.net

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