The Knowledge Base for Higher Education and Research in the Western Balkans (HERDATA) is a component of a project supported through the NORGLOBAL programme of the Research Council of Norway and entitled European Integration in Higher Education and Research in the Western Balkans.
The project is jointly implemented by the Department of Educational Research of the Faculty of Educational Sciences (PFI) and the Centre for European Studies (ARENA) at the University of Oslo, the University of Zagreb, the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Belgrade and the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU) and the Centre for Education Policy.
The purpose of the Knowledge Base is to gather and systematize information and data on higher education and research in the Western Balkan countries, i.e. Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia, and to act as a resource centre for researchers, policy makers, as well as other stakeholders, such as higher education institutions, students, general public etc., from the Western Balkans and beyond.
The project focuses on higher education and research in the Western Balkans and aims at enhancing evidence-based policy making in the region, primarily through strengthening regional capacities for conducting research in the field of higher education and research. At the same time, the project looks into the dynamics of higher education and research systems in the Western Balkans, while placing them against the backdrop of European integration processes.
Reliable data and solid analysis of systems of higher education and research are crucial for the ongoing processes of integration of the Western Balkans to the EU and NATO, as well as the underlying reforms taking place in a number of policy areas. However, the necessary data about the countries in the region does not exist (yet) in a consolidated form and therefore it is not possible to study these issues in a comparative manner. So far, this has resulted in the lack of a solid evidence basis for policy development on the national or regional level. Higher education institutions or research centres on their own seem not to have the necessary capacity (technical or human) to develop and maintain the data base and do the analysis.
Through close cooperation between institutions from Norway (Pedagogisk forskningsinstitutt and ARENA - Centre for European Studies, from the University of Oslo, and NIFUSTEP) and the region (University of Zagreb in Croatia, Faculty of Political Sciences of the University of Belgrade in Serbia and Centre for Education Policy in Serbia), the project will support the development of technical and human capacity to address these issues in a comprehensive and sustainable manner. Although partners are from Croatia and Serbia only, the project will cover the entire Western Balkan region.
The project aims to contribute to knowledge within education research, higher education and research policy analysis and European studies. As stated above, the information and analytical studies of higher education and research in the Western Balkans countries is rather limited. These countries are neither member of OECD nor of the EU, so education in general, or higher education and research in particular, are not subject to regular monitoring and analysis. Some data is available from the ministries or other stakeholder organisations (e.g. rectors‟ conferences), but it is often incomplete and their reliability can be questioned, given that such data serves for external purposes, such as demonstrating the implementation of the Bologna declaration for the purposes of the Bologna stocktaking reports. Cross-country studies that focus on such issues (for example Kehm, Huisman, Stensaker, 2009) seldom focus on national or regional case studies, and even when they do (see Pabian, 2009), the WB countries are not in the focus of analysis. Two exceptions to this rule are: the study “Creating the European Area of Higher Education: Voices from the Periphery” (Tomusk, 2006) which included a case study of Macedonia and the recently completed “Independent Assessment of Bologna” (Westerheijden et al, 2010) that focused on Serbia as an example of “across-the-board high performance”. This lack of data and analysis of higher education and research in Western Balkan countries means that it is rather difficult at the moment to include these countries in comparative educational analyses. However, this also significantly decreases the potential for evidence based policy making on the national level and regional level in the WB. Given the recent history of the region and the fact that Western Balkan countries are lagging behind their Western European counterparts in various economic, social and political aspects, the contribution of higher education and research to economic, social and political development is very important but also severely understudied. In light of regional level developments with respect to research policy – the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) has been given the mandate to work on the regional research policy and is supporting the so-called Novi Sad initiative – it becomes evident that the Western Balkan countries are in urgent need of high quality data and analysis of higher education and research. Higher education institutions are expected to play an instrumental role in the broad process of development (economic, cultural and political) at a wide variety of levels; local, national and supranational (Hölttä 2000; Charles 2003; European Commission 2003).
To this point, insufficient attention has been paid to the inherent complexity associated with higher education institutions as distinct organisational entities (Musselin 2007; Krücken 2007) and/or social institutions (Meyer et al. 2007; Olsen 2007), and, consequently, the sets of tensions and volitions directly linked to their role (mission) in society (Krücken et al. 2007; Olsen 2007) Analysis of higher education and research in the Western Balkan countries is also interesting from the European integration and Europeanization perspectives. While Europeanization, as “domestic impact of EU” (Radaelli, 2001), has been to some extent analysed for other Central and Eastern European countries (Schimmelfennig and Sedelmeier, 2005), it has not yet been the focus of extensive studies for the Western Balkan countries. In this respect and especially given the commonalities in historical development as well as somewhat different effects of economic and political transition in these countries, the Western Balkan countries constitute exceptional grounds for case studies as well as comparative research, which may further strengthen the theoretical foundations of Europeanization studies in general. When it comes to effects of European integration on higher education and research, this project will build upon the work already done on issues such as: building of European governance structures and development of EU policies (Corbett, 2005), impact of European processes on higher education systems and institutions and building of “Europe of knowledge” (Amaral et al, 2009; Maassen and Olsen, 2007; Kehm, Huisman and Stensaker, 2009) and re-nationalisation and side effects of Europeanization (Musselin, 2009).
List of references
- Amaral, A. et al. (eds) (2009) European Integration and the Governance of Higher Education and Research. Dordrecht: Springer
- Charles, D. (2003). Universities and Territorial Development: Reshaping the Regional Role of UK Universities. Local Economy, 18(1), 7-20.
- Corbett, A. (2005) Universities and the Europe of knowledge: ideas, institutions and policy entrepreneurship in European Community higher education policy, 1955-2005. Palgrave MacMillan
- European Commision (2003). „The role of the universities in the Europe of knowledge‟. Communication from the European Commission.
- Hölttä, S. (2000). From Ivory Towers to Regional Networks in Finnish Higher Education. European Journal of Education, 35 (4), 460-74.
- Kehm, B., J. Huisman and B. Stensaker (eds.) (2009) The European Higher Education Area: Perspectives on a Moving Target. Rotterdam: Sense publishers.
- Krücken, G., Kosmützky, A. and Torka, M. (Eds.) (2007). Towards a Multiversity? Universities between global trends and national traditions. Transaction Publishers
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- Tomusk, V. (ed) (2006) Creating the European Area of Higher Education: Voices from the Periphery. Dordrecht: Springer
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