Mobility and knowledge as the “Fifth Freedom” in Europe: embedding market liberalism?

Europe has undoubtedly become a more mobile space. Borders have been erased, and people, capital, services and goods (factors of production, more generally) can theoretically move, unimpeded, across European space.

Apart from legal and regulatory shifts to enhance mobility, taken-for granted infrastructure systems are being constructed that enable people and their ideas to travel at enhanced speed across European space. These non-places of supermodernity, to use a phrase developed by Marc Auge, not only function to facilitate mobility, but they also signify mobility. Even within European nations, mobility is being enhanced as governments develop high-speed rail systems, for example, that enable people (including researchers and students) to cross space with increased ease.

At a seminar, late last week, for example, one of us (Kris) spoke to faculty who work at l’Université de Provence Aix Marseille 1, though who live not just in Aix-en-Provence, but also in Marseille, Paris, and places even further a-field, thanks to the high speed TGV train system. Indeed, any North American spending a year in Europe, like one of us is, cannot help but be enamored with the idea of hurtling 270km/h across the country while sipping an espresso, reading a book, and periodically gazing out at the blur of landscape that is the glorious French countryside.

In a sign that Europe is willing to use a wide variety of rationales for enhancing mobility even further, the EU spent the Spring of 2008 laying the groundwork for a “new freedom” – “the movement of knowledge”. On 15 February 2008, for example, Commissioner Janez Potočnik spoke to an AAAS High Level Panel:

Today’s Europe is built on the four freedoms of goods, services, capital and people. The knowledge society of tomorrow needs the freedom, the freedom of movement of knowledge.

But did he really mean ‘knowledge society’, or ‘knowledge economy’? Later on in February and March, the answer to this question was clear. On 14 March European Council leaders announced that:

Member States and the EU must remove barriers to the free movement of knowledge by creating a ‘fifth freedom’.

Background to this formal announcement is available in Key Issues Paper (KIP) 2008 (a contribution from the Competitiveness Council to the Spring European Council), and is worth examining for it highlights how the EU is entangling fundamental rights and freedoms with economic (market-oriented) logics, such that new rights are being created, though primarily for researchers (including non-Europeans).

Let is frame how the “fifth freedom” – the free movement of knowledge – is being conceptualized.

First the Competitiveness Council’s Key Issues Paper focuses on four core recommendations:

A. Investing more and more effectively in knowledge, research and innovation
B. Unlocking business potential, especially of SMEs
C. Transforming Europe into a sustainable economy
D. Encourage European Success in the Global Marketplace

Second, it is within A (Investing more and more effectively in knowledge, research and innovation) that the Fifth Freedom is embedded:

A.1. “Invest more and more effectively in Knowledge, Research and Innovation”
A.2 “The Fifth Freedom”
A.3. “Strengthen Europe’s Innovation System”

More specifically, the Fifth Freedom is framed as such:

In order to succeed in the transition to a highly competitive knowledge economy, the European Union needs to create a “fifth freedom” – the free movement of knowledge. Member States and the Commission are invited to deepen their dialogue and expand their cooperation in order to further identify and remove obstacles to the cross-border mobility of knowledge.

  • The Commission and Member States should take concrete steps to increase human resources for S&T and to enhance the mobility and career prospects of researchers through a coherent set of focussed measures taken in partnership (“European research career and mobility package”); this should also include the concept of “family-friendly scientific careers”, to be developed on the basis of the spring 2008 Presidency initiatives. The Council welcomes the Commission’s intention to present a communication on this in 2008.
  • Member States should continue to put their full efforts into implementing higher education reforms, including modernising universities so that they can develop their full potential within the knowledge triangle; a stronger emphasis should be put on life-long learning and cross-border learning opportunities. A review of future skills requirements should be envisaged at European level as part of the follow up to the “New Skills for New Jobs” initiative;
  • The European Union needs to continue to work for significant increases in broadband penetration. The Commission is invited to monitor the performance of the EU in the internet economy and report back in time for the 2009 European Council. The Commission is further invited to develop a strategy for e-science building on and strengthening e-infrastructures, so as to ensure the sustainability of European leadership in this field.
  • A Community-wide voluntary framework for the management of intellectual property at public research institutions and universities is needed. The Commission is invited to present its recommendation and Code of Practice on the Management of Intellectual Property (“IP Charter”) by public research organisations, with a view to their adoption in 2008 in order to enhance knowledge exchange between public research organisations and industry.

Announcing that ‘knowledge’ would be created as the Fifth Freedom to be championed by the EC within the EU, observers might be forgiven for thinking that the Presidency Conclusions from the 13/14th March meeting, and the background supporting documents, have somehow confused political and economic agendas. This is because we have tended to associate freedoms with political ideas like ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’, or human rights, such as the right to education.

But perhaps the freedoms and rights association is breaking down in contemporary Europe. Freedoms, it would seem, are now economic rather than political rights, embodied in labour and intellectual property, and embedded in market-oriented relations. They also apply unevenly to people (including non-EU citizens) depending on their status vis a vis the production of what is perceived to be valuable knowledge. This is akin to the concept of “graduated sovereignty” that Aihwa Ong has spoken about – the differentiated (graduated) existence of freedoms, rights and responsibilities, within territories, depending the economic status of the person in question. In Singapore, for example highly skilled temporary migrants have the right to rent and even buy apartments, while temporary migrants who work as domestic workers or construction workers are forced, by law, to reside in housing provided by their employers.

So, to return to the EU example, Commissioner Janez Potočnik is thus able to state, again at the AAAS High Level Panel:

For EU policy, I start with the – relatively – easy part: I have radically opened our funding programme, with a double strategy:

  • Full association of our neighbour countries, with focus on those who have a perspective to become Member States
  • Full participation of researchers all over the world. Every researcher is eligible as partner in a European research team. For all but the rich countries, eligibility equals funding. That is quite a step. We also fund the researchers from rich countries if this is what is needed for the scientific excellence of the project.

Thus one of us (Kris, a Canadian in the US) can now directly link into and benefit from one of Europe’s new freedoms – the freedom of movement of knowledge – given that “every researcher is eligible as partner in a European research team”, but this eligibility only applies so long as the person in question is a researcher (with PhD), and positioned within a network that has been vetted as a qualified “European research team”.

Freedoms framed this way also depend upon the reform of the practices of new types of institutions (in this case universities and research funding agencies), versus the reform of legal systems, for example.

The application of a freedom discourse to knowledge (the “freedom of movement of knowledge”) is but the latest example where a Europe of knowledge – in the service of the Lisbon Strategy – is being brought into being. The development process is a messy one, with entangled conceptual vocabularies, and periodic debates about possible contradictions (e.g, see Per Nyborg’s entry ‘Bologna and Lisbon – two processes or one‘). But the structural pressures to transform Europe’s economy, its many higher education systems and universities, and its research and development practices, will continue to create such confusions, and new concepts, for some time to come.

Kris Olds and Susan Robertson

Interregionalism and the globalization of higher education: new Euro-Asia initiatives

One of the interesting aspects of change in higher education systems is how they are being denationalized; reshaped, as it were, by forces and actors that are thinking at, and operating at, scales other than the national. In social science terms (e.g., see the work of Neil Brenner) this is often deemed the “relativization of scale”; the process whereby actors operating at the global scale, the inter-regional (e.g., Europe-Asia) scale, the supranational regional (e.g., European, Asian) scale, the national scale (e.g., Germany), the subnational regional (e.g., Silicon Valley) scale, and the urban scale, all come to play increasingly important roles in shaping a “multiscalar” development process. See, for example, these two recent reports by the European University Association (EUA) and the OECD on higher education for regional development in a globalizing era:



In this case we have a regional stakeholder organization (the EUA), and a multilateral organization (the OECD), both framing development processes simultaneously at the urban, regional, and global scales, with the national scale present, though clearly not dominant. Don’t forget, as well, that the OECD is a creation of member states, and its global thinking is therefore animated by, and mediated by, the nation-state. This is a point Saskia Sassen has insightfully driven home, most recently in Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages (Princeton University Press, 2006).

On the higher education and research policy front one emerging phenomenon worth taking note of is interregional dialogue. For example there is a now a decade long series of formal Transatlantic Dialogues, anchored by the American Council on Education (ACE), the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), and the European University Association (EUA). These meetings are always framed by ‘global’ thinking, but focus on achieving interregional objectives and enhanced understandings of what is going on on both sides of the Atlantic.

In this context the EUA announced, on 21 February, that it is partnering with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and the Netherlands Organisation for International Cooperation in Higher Education (Nuffic), to “establish an EU-Asia Higher Education Platform for European and Asian academics and policy makers”. This initiative is being facilitated by the European Commission’s Asia Link programme. As the EUA puts it, the purpose of the two-year project is to:

  • Provide a means for enhancing information exchange, dialogue, and cooperation in higher education and research between the two regions;
  • Develop best practices for institutional development and cooperation, and foster mobility of students and academics between the two regions;
  • Draw attention to the role and situation of universities in developing countries.

Throughout the course of 2008-9, a series of workshops and round tables in Asia and Europe will be organised, targeting institutional development and cooperation issues. Amongst the themes that are expected to be covered will be higher education governance and management, decentralisation, cooperation in graduate education, and interregional and inter-institutional cooperation in quality assurance.

While this is a complement to other forms of engagement also underway, and it is only targeted at parts of Asia, it is a noteworthy one.

First, and most importantly, there is much to learn in Asia about European developments over the last ten years given that Europe is grappling with the ‘modernization’ of its higher education system at a regional scale, though in a manner that blurs scales of action and intent, and takes into account national sensitivities and differential capacities for statecraft.

Second, it differs from the nature of North America-Asia and Australasia-Asia engagement, both of which tend to be relatively more person to person (e.g., the Australian Scholarships, the Fulbright awards) or event-oriented (e.g., student recruitment fairs, the US University Presidents’ Delegation to Southeast Asia).

In contrast, the EU-Asia Higher Education Platform is a truly post-national/interregional initiative, of a programmatic nature, and with an associated development agenda that focuses on systemic change.

In addition, and tying back to the start of this entry, note the presence of the nation-state in enabling EU-Asia relations to be forged, both directly and indirectly. This initiative is one that will also inevitably be forced to grapple with huge national variations in Asian higher education systems, and the lack of institutional capacity to operate at a regional scale in Asia, with respect to higher education. Yet while nation-states in Asia have not (yet) prioritized the construction of a regional higher education imaginary, it is only a matter of time given the structural forces that are reshaping Asian societies and economies. The complexion of the changes that will eventually emerge, and the nature of the intra-Asia and Asia-Other dialogue(s) facilitating them, have really yet to be determined.

Kris Olds

Bologna and Lisbon – two processes or one?

pernyborg.jpgEditors’ note: as mentioned in relation to the 27 January entry ‘Bologna meets Russia: a case of ‘identity crisis’ over Europe?’, we are initiating a new series in GlobalHigherEd on the Bologna Process reforms in European higher education. Today’s contribution has been kindly developed by Per Nyborg (pictured to the left). Per Nyborg, a mathematician, has been intimately involved in Bologna-related reforms. His former positions include Director General, Norwegian Ministry for Scientific and Cultural Affairs; Director, Royal Norwegian Research Council for Science and Technology; Secretary General, Norwegian Council for Higher Education; Chair, Council of Europe’s Committee for Higher Education and Research (2001-2003); and Head, Bologna Process Secretariat (2003-2005).


Since 1999, the Bologna Process has stimulated formidable changes in higher education systems in the steadily increasing number of participating countries. A common European framework has been developed, starting from the pre-Bologna Lisbon Recognition Convention. In Bologna, it was agreed that the degree system should be organised in two cycles, later on a third cycle was included and a common qualifications framework set up. European standards and guidelines for quality assurance have been developed. Cooperation between states, organisations and higher education institutions is blossoming. By the 2010 deadline, many of the goals set down by the Bologna Declaration will be reached. The main structural elements of a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) will be in place, set up by the voluntary cooperation of 46 countries [see the NAFSA-produced map below]. It will be up to each participating country and its minister responsible for higher education to continue the development of its higher education system according to the commonly agreed principles.

bolognamapnafsa.jpgEncouraged by the success of the Bologna Process, a sequence of bi-annual ministerial conferences have added new policy areas to the process; the social dimension, employability, and the Bologna Process in a global setting. These are areas where ministers of education have great interest, but alas, little influence. To a certain extent this also goes for one of the original goals of the Bologna Declaration: Mobility. It costs money, and there is no money in the Bologna Process as such. So, in these areas, developments have been slow, and what has been achieved on the European level has mostly been done by the European Commission.

The challenges meeting all Bologna countries and also the European Union when it comes to realising the social dimension and improving employability are formidable. Operational goals are yet not even set. If the EHEA shall have working relations with organisations in other regions, a proper organisation must be set up. One may ask if the Bologna Process is strong enough to embark on these tasks. In any case, when the Bologna Ministers meet again in Leuven next year, they will have to decide whether their pan-European process should end in 2010, having developed the common structure of the EHEA, or continue at least up to 2020 for the further development of their common policy areas. Then they also should clear up the relationship between the Bologna Process and specific European Union policies.

The Bologna Ministerial Conference was not a EU event and the Commission was not a formal participant. However, the European Union was not far away, as can be seen from the opening lines of the Bologna Declaration: The European process… has become an increasingly concrete and relevant reality for the Union and its citizens. When a Bologna Process Follow-up Group (BFUG) was established, the EU Presidency was asked to chair the group and the Commission became a member on equal terms with representative of participating countries.

The Commission’s participation has meant a lot to the Bologna Process. The EU mobility programmes certainly gave a European dimension to mobility, and as the Lisbon Strategy started to develop in 2000, higher education became an important element in the EU strategy to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion.

As the Bologna Process fitted nicely into the Lisbon Strategy, Commission activities related to Bologna increased – also to the benefit of the Bologna Process as such. However, the Lisbon Strategy has shifted the focus from cooperation in higher education to global competition. In the document From Bergen to London – The contribution of the European Commission to the Bologna Process (May 2007) it is said that

The European Commission aims to support Member States in their efforts to modernise higher education systems, in all their areas of activity making them more coherent, more flexible, and more responsive to the needs of society. Modernisation is needed in order to face the challenges of globalisation and to develop the skills and capacity of the European workforce to be innovative. Reforms should enable universities to play their role in the Europe of Knowledge and make a strong contribution to the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs.

This statement builds on a 2006 Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament, urging Member States to press on with the modernisation of Europe’s universities:

Universities will not become innovative and responsive to change unless they are given real autonomy and accountability. Member States should guide the university sector as a whole through a framework of general rules, policy objectives, funding mechanisms and incentives for education, research and innovation activities. In return for being freed from overregulation and micro-management, universities should accept full institutional accountability to society at large for their results.

What sort of policy objectives? Clearly those of the Lisbon Strategy. When this Communication was presented, commissioner Potočnik remarked that universities will need to adapt to the demands of a global, knowledge-based economy, just as other sectors of society and economy have to adapt. The discussion of the Communication in the EU system has lead to a Resolution on modernising universities for Europe’s competitiveness in a global knowledge economy from the EU Competitiveness Council (November 2007) .

This is of course very relevant to the European Union and its 27 member countries. It is not equally relevant to all the other participating countries in the Bologna Process. Some hope to join the European Union at a later stage, but for instance the largest Bologna country – Russia – cannot be seen in that position. However, as the Commission, also the Russian government may want to “modernise” the universities to improve Russia’s competitive advantage. University and student organisations being partners in the Bologna Process may not wish to be partners to the Lisbon Strategy; but they certainly want to continue a pan-European cooperation in higher education.

This may be extended to a global cooperation. In their 2005 Bergen Communiqué, the “Bologna” Ministers stated that:

We see the European Higher Education Area as a partner of higher education systems in other regions of the world, stimulating balanced student and staff exchange and cooperation between higher education institutions. We underline the importance of intercultural understanding and respect. We look forward to enhancing the understanding of the Bologna Process in other continents by sharing our experiences of reform processes with neighbouring regions. We stress the need for dialogue on issues of mutual interest. We see the need to identify partner regions and intensify the exchange of ideas and experiences with those regions.

zgaga-cover.jpgIn their next meeting in London in 2007 they adopted a Strategy for the European Higher Education Area in a Global Setting. According to the strategy, there is a need for enhanced cooperation with non-EHEA countries in a spirit of partnership and solidarity, aiming at mutual benefit on all levels. This need for cooperation and partnership extends to all regions of the world, covering highly developed, emerging and developing countries alike.

However, there is also a global market for educational services where individual EHEA countries are active. The strategy does not mention the global market for higher education and the inherent competition. The strategy states that policies should be tailor-made for each region and take due account of relevant European Union policy. Seen from outside, the Lisbon strategy may more look like competition than cooperation. It was already present in the Bologna Declaration: We must in particular look at the objective of increasing the international competitiveness of the European system of higher education. If the Bologna Process shall continue, it would be better to separate its policies on external relations from the Lisbon strategy and also here focus on cooperation in higher education.

To clear up the relations between the Bologna Process and the Lisbon Strategy, one might wish for a dialogue between the Commission and the BFUG. That, however, may not be so simple, as the EU Presidency would be the representative of BFUG. Nevertheless, it should be sorted out what tasks should be included in a continuation of the Bologna Process and what responsibilities should better be left to the EU system and the Commission to handle. There are elements in higher education policy where a strong organisation is necessary for obtaining results. In its ninth year, the Bologna Process has not even set up a proper organisation.

Assuming that the 46 “Bologna” countries wish to retain the ownership and take the responsibility for the European Higher Education Area after 2010, an adequate organisation should be established. Based on the principle of public responsibility for higher education, objectives, obligations of participating countries, and organisational structure might be expressed in a joint declaration to be signed as countries satisfy the requirements set down in the declaration. The organisation may be quite simple; with a General Assembly taking over from the BFUG, a Board elected by the General Assembly, and a small but permanent secretariat with a budget to support its activities.

Otherwise, the further process on European level will be in the hands of the Commission, as the agenda for development of higher education in Europe more and more is being set by the Commission in its efforts to realise the Lisbon Strategy. The Bologna Process should have a broader scope. It also has a broader membership than the European Union. There should be room for a continuing Bologna Process of cooperation in higher education.

Per Nyborg

Graphic feed: student mobility in Europe (1987-2005) and to the USA (1998-2006)


Note: NMS/CC = New Member States and Candidate Countries


Note: Number of student visas for the US between 1998 and 2006 (decrease: light green to dark green / increase: light blue to dark blue)

Source: ‘Value of international academic degrees: How to choose today an international degree that will still be worth something in ten to twenty years?’, Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin, N°18 October 16, 2007.

Statecraft for transferring business knowledge from Europe to China

While we are on the topic of Europe-China higher education linkages this week, the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai announced, on 30 November, that it was receiving €10.1 million from the European Union (EU) to support a “Europe-China Business Management Training Project”. The Shanghai Municipal Government is also providing “substantial funding in support of this project”. In its broadest sense the initiative “will bring a number of new developments to CEIBS, focusing on the central goal of transferring high level, practically-oriented business knowledge from the EU to China”.

CEIBS was established in 1994 at the height of the rapid changes in Shanghai’s economic landscape, and concurrent changes in the development of the EU’s relations with East Asia, especially China. CEIBS is now regarded as one of ‘Asia’s’ leading business schools, though it is actually a not-for-profit joint venture established by the European Commission and the PRC Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation (MOFTEC), with funding and other forms of contributions from the Shanghai Municipal Government, the EU, Shanghai Jiaotong University, and the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD). Further details on CEIBS are available here.

euasia.jpgThis funding announcement has to be viewed in the context of the European Commission’s Asia Regional Strategy (2007-2013), which focuses on three “priority areas:

1) Support to Regional Integration, the key dialogue partners for the EU being Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), Association of South-East Asia Nations (ASEAN), ASEAN regional forum (ARF) and South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC).

2) Policy and Know-How based Cooperation in:
(i) Environment, Energy and Climate Change, through Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP-Asia) and the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) programme;
(ii) Higher Education and Support to Research Institutes;
(iii) Cross-border Cooperation in Animal and Human Health;

3) Support to Uprooted People.

The EU notes that €5.187 billion has been dedicated to fund this strategy for the 2007-2013 period.

A country-specific strategy (EU-China: Closer partners, growing responsibilities) for China is even more relevant with respect to this particular funding announcement. As the November 2006 strategy document puts it:

  • Education has been an area of particular success, with 170 000 Chinese students studying in the EU in 2005. We should continue to build on existing co-operation through programmes run by individual Member States and through the China-specific strand of the Erasmus Mundus programme. There have been positive examples of work to set up joint degree courses and joint campuses. We should also implement specific projects such as a European Law School. Both sides will continue to encourage EU students to study in China. To strengthen language capability, the Commission will support a specific programme to train Chinese language teachers to teach in Europe.
  • Academic expertise in the EU on China needs to be improved and co-ordinated more effectively. Action is needed by both sides to support effective interaction between European and Chinese academia. The Commission should continue to support an academic network on China, drawing together academic expertise to inform EU policy and coordinating information-sharing within the academic community; and there should be a small number of prestigious professorships on Chinese studies created and made available to European universities. There should be a permanent regular dialogue between European and Chinese think tanks.

This strategy then needs to be linked to key events such as the 10th China-EU Summit (held on 28 November 2007).

This is yet another example of the articulation of state agendas regarding higher education as ‘soft power’, ‘capacity builder’, and development mechanism. Through initiatives like this inter-regional networks are being built with the aim of propelling multi-scalar development processes. One can detect, however, that it is the amorphous regional (in Europe) and the more specific skilled labour/Shanghai/national (in China) scales that are being differentially prioritized.

Kris Olds