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University alliances in the Europe of Knowledge: positioning, practices and power

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Abstract
Universities operate in institutionally pluralistic environments (Frølich et al. 2013), being exposed and responding to a complex combination of global, national and local dynamics (see Marginson and Rhoades 2002 about glonacal agency). Due to the rise of the Europe of Knowledge (Chou and Gornitzka 2014; Elken et al. 2011; Maassen and Olsen 2007), the situation is even more complicated for European universities which are expected to contribute to building the EHEA and the ERA, but which are also increasingly affected by decisions taken at the European level by inter-governmental, supranational as well as transnational actors (Börzel 2010; Elken and Vukasovic 2014). The increasing relevance of the global dynamics (e.g. rankings, global competition for talent and resources) and the aforementioned European developments have been accompanied by the increasing numbers and visibility of various types of university alliances. A brief internet survey revealed more than 25 university networks operating within Europe, with additional 10 which also have members/partners in countries beyond Europe. University alliances may be said to capture key dimensions in multi-level governance (Piattoni 2010) as they provide a link between micro- and macro level decision-making, enabling insight into the internal dynamic of lobbying, positioning and strategizing. In general, organizations seek alliances when they perceive their strategic position as vulnerable, when they are located in highly competitive sectors, or embedded in very uncertain environments (Eisenhardt and Schoonhoven 1996). However, while these factors may explain the drivers to form alliances, it is more unclear how such alliances organize their internal work and how they work towards the European level. In an institutional perspective, it is possible to outline two different interpretations of these processes. The first interpretation is to see such alliances as a continuation of historical and institutional characteristics of the field of higher education, affecting the internal organizations of the alliances and their approach towards the European level. The second interpretation is to see such alliances as a more radical break with the traditional ways of organizing the international dimensions of university life, and that the alliances could be perceived as a form of de- and re-institutionalization of the sector as they might imply both new ways to organize collaboration and to influence the European level. These two ways will be used as lenses to analyse how two European alliances – the European University Association (EUA) and the League of European Research Universities (LERU) – are trying to influence European policy. EUA is essentially a broad, non-elite organization whose members are universities and rectors’ conferences of European countries (850 members from 47 countries). Although it was formally founded in 2001, it is actually a result of a merger of organizations, one of which (CRE) can be traced back to the early days of European integration (Corbett 2005). It has been recognised by European decision-makers as representing the interests of universities on the European level (e.g. by being a consultative member of the BFUG) on issues ranging from internationalization, through quality assurance, governance and funding, to research. LERU was founded in 2002 and is a much smaller organization (21 members from 10 countries), comprising arguably elite universities (more than ¾ of members are ranked in the top 100 in ARWU), with a much narrower advocacy focus (basic research), but without an officially recognised status on the European level. While both alliances act as European level interest groups (Beyers et al. 2008; Eising 2008), they do so on different issues (very broad vs. rather narrow), in different ways (formal vs. informal influence, insider vs. (partial) outsider strategies) and on behalf of different constituencies (non-elite vs. elite). Empirically, the starting point will be the strategic instruments these organizations use for lobbying and strategic positioning, i.e. official policy documents and statements, but also projects, events (conferences and seminars) and media material (incl. websites) and interviews with key actors in EUA and LERU. This material will provide input used to identify potential patterns indicating the role these alliances have in the European knowledge policy creation.

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Chicago
Vukasovic, Martina, and Bjørn Stensaker. 2015. “University Alliances in the Europe of Knowledge: Positioning, Practices and Power.” In Consortium of Higher Education Research (CHER) Annual Conference.
APA
Vukasovic, M., & Stensaker, B. (2015). University alliances in the Europe of Knowledge: positioning, practices and power. Consortium of Higher Education Research (CHER) annual conference. Presented at the Consortium of Higher Education Research (CHER) annual conference.
Vancouver
1.
Vukasovic M, Stensaker B. University alliances in the Europe of Knowledge: positioning, practices and power. Consortium of Higher Education Research (CHER) annual conference. 2015.
MLA
Vukasovic, Martina, and Bjørn Stensaker. “University Alliances in the Europe of Knowledge: Positioning, Practices and Power.” Consortium of Higher Education Research (CHER) Annual Conference. 2015. Print.
@inproceedings{8050478,
  abstract     = {Universities operate in institutionally pluralistic environments (Fr{\o}lich et al. 2013), being exposed and responding to a complex combination of global, national and local dynamics (see Marginson and Rhoades 2002 about glonacal agency). Due to the rise of the Europe of Knowledge (Chou and Gornitzka 2014; Elken et al. 2011; Maassen and Olsen 2007), the situation is even more complicated for European universities which are expected to contribute to building the EHEA and the ERA, but which are also increasingly affected by decisions taken at the European level by inter-governmental, supranational as well as transnational actors (B{\"o}rzel 2010; Elken and Vukasovic 2014). 
The increasing relevance of the global dynamics (e.g. rankings, global competition for talent and resources) and the aforementioned European developments have been accompanied by the increasing numbers and visibility of various types of university alliances. A brief internet survey revealed more than 25 university networks operating within Europe, with additional 10 which also have members/partners in countries beyond Europe. University alliances may be said to capture key dimensions in multi-level governance (Piattoni 2010) as they provide a link between micro- and macro level decision-making, enabling insight into the internal dynamic of lobbying, positioning and strategizing. 
In general, organizations seek alliances when they perceive their strategic position as vulnerable, when they are located in highly competitive sectors, or embedded in very uncertain environments (Eisenhardt and Schoonhoven 1996). However, while these factors may explain the drivers to form alliances, it is more unclear how such alliances organize their internal work and how they work towards the European level. 
In an institutional perspective, it is possible to outline two different interpretations of these processes. The first interpretation is to see such alliances as a continuation of historical and institutional characteristics of the field of higher education, affecting the internal organizations of the alliances and their approach towards the European level. The second interpretation is to see such alliances as a more radical break with the traditional ways of organizing the international dimensions of university life, and that the alliances could be perceived as a form of de- and re-institutionalization of the sector as they might imply both new ways to organize collaboration and to influence the European level. 
These two ways will be used as lenses to analyse how two European alliances -- the European University Association (EUA) and the League of European Research Universities (LERU) -- are trying to influence European policy. EUA is essentially a broad, non-elite organization whose members are universities and rectors{\textquoteright} conferences of European countries (850 members from 47 countries). Although it was formally founded in 2001, it is actually a result of a merger of organizations, one of which (CRE) can be traced back to the early days of European integration (Corbett 2005). It has been recognised by European decision-makers as representing the interests of universities on the European level (e.g. by being a consultative member of the BFUG) on issues ranging from internationalization, through quality assurance, governance and funding, to research. LERU was founded in 2002 and is a much smaller organization (21 members from 10 countries), comprising arguably elite universities (more than {\textthreequarters} of members are ranked in the top 100 in ARWU), with a much narrower advocacy focus (basic research), but without an officially recognised status on the European level. While both alliances act as European level interest groups (Beyers et al. 2008; Eising 2008), they do so on different issues (very broad vs. rather narrow), in different ways (formal vs. informal influence, insider vs. (partial) outsider strategies) and on behalf of different constituencies (non-elite vs. elite). 
Empirically, the starting point will be the strategic instruments these organizations use for lobbying and strategic positioning, i.e. official policy documents and statements, but also projects, events (conferences and seminars) and media material (incl. websites) and interviews with key actors in EUA and LERU. This material will provide input used to identify potential patterns indicating the role these alliances have in the European knowledge policy creation.},
  author       = {Vukasovic, Martina and Stensaker, Bj{\o}rn},
  booktitle    = {Consortium of Higher Education Research (CHER) annual conference},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Lisbon, Portugal},
  title        = {University alliances in the Europe of Knowledge: positioning, practices and power},
  year         = {2015},
}