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Globalization and modes of higher education policymaking in France: love it or leave it?

The French Government has had a paradoxical relationship with globalization. This complex relationship is reflected in the French attitude toward the knowledge economy, where globalization is perceived both as a threat to react against and a cradle
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  GLOBALIZATION AND MODES OFHIGHER EDUCATION POLICY-MAKING IN FRANCE: LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT?   Cecile HoareauCenter for Studies in Higher EducationUniversity of California Berkeley Please do not quote without author ’ s permissionMarch 2011 Under print at Time and Mind    The French Government has had a paradoxical relationship with globalization. This complexrelationship is reflected in the French attitude toward the knowledge economy, where globalization isperceived both as a threat to react against and a cradle for policy ideas. And French policy-makershave a love-hate relationship with the global dynamics underlying the European higher educationreforms that started in the 1990s, a mixed sentiment expressed by the title „love it or leave it?‟ . At theoutset, most of higher education reforms, such as the Bologna declaration, were framed as a way tobuild a united Europe and fight against international competition. Yet, the mode of governance of these reforms mirrored the one recommended by international organizations like the Organizationfor Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and led to the precise outcome criticized inglobalization, i.e. greater competition. This paper explores the relationship between international,European and domestic discourses and modes of governance. It uses insights from the literature onpolicy transfer (e.g. Radaelli, 2000) to investigate this relationship and questions the sustainability of such ambivalent discourse. The French government should concentrate on the policy it starteddeveloping from 2007 consisting in opening French higher education to globalization. It is proposedthat such global openness requires a change in the academic culture that could be triggered by areform of academic training. 1. Introduction  Why copy policy ideas that one perceives as a threat? This paper looks at the relationshipamong European higher education policy, long-term trends defined by international organizationsand French reforms from the late 1990s, the year of the adoption of a law aiming at increasing themanagerial autonomy of universities. This relationship is investigated both in terms of discourse andmode of governance. Discourse includes policy ideas and values (Radaelli & Schmidt, 2004: 184).Modes of governance consist in policy instruments, in other terms the way in which these ideas and values are implemented. Globalization relates to the process of increasing convergence,interdependence and liberalization of markets and trade among other aspects of life, e.g. social andcultural (Friedman & Ramonet, 1999). Globalization comes with its own set of actors, namely itsown network of expert professionals and international organizations. The French ambition tobecome the champion of anti-globalization is well known (Meunier, 1999). This ambition, cumulated with the realization of the centrality of knowledge in the global knowledge economy (Webster, 1995),  headerfooter 2 led the French Government to start a large-scale reform programme in higher education in the late1990s. These reforms included no less than an overhaul of the management of universities, levels of degrees granted and quality assurance. The official discourse related to the role of globalization did not seem to match the French Government‟s actual attitude regarding globalization . Globalization, a largely rhetorical conceptpresented in political discourses, was presented mostly as a threat for three reasons. Firstly, thepotential for increase in international competition  –  for students, for research, and for the Frencheconomy. Secondly, globalization, because of its flexible nature, questioned the powerful influence of the State (   Etat dirigiste   ), which was the custom in France. Thirdly, globalization was also implicitly linked to notions of Americanization strongly opposed to by the French population. Around 78% of French citizens were anti-globalization, according to Pierre Giacometti, French anti-globalizationmovements, such as the Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions and Aid to Citizens(ATTAC), being particularly popular and gaining the support of some famous politicians such as Jack Lang (Gordon and Meunier, 2001: 79; Meunier, 2010).European integration, namely the creation of a European higher education area (EHEA), waspresented by politicians in power, and particularly the French Minister for Higher education of late1990s Claude Allègre, as a savior in an international environment perceived as hostile; in essence, as a way to preserve what was best about French higher education.Gordon and Meunier (2001: viii) found that in the case of trade, the French Government wasquietly adapting to globalization at the same time as it loudly announced its resistance to it, in amovement that they  qualified as „globalization by stealth‟ . This paper follows this hypothesis. It shows how, in the case of higher education, the mode of governance underlying French reforms since the late 1990s actually paralleled developmentsrecommended by the international community, e.g. OECD, an organization of thirty four developedcountries that France was coincidentally also part of. This mode of governance shifted therelationship away from government-led a priori control toward managerial autonomy of highereducation institutions, benchmarks and indicators pitting them against one another, The result was ato a paradoxical love-hate relationship with globalization.Section 2 presents the literature on policy transfer (Dolowitz et al., 2000; Radaelli, 2000), which inspires the paper‟s explanation regarding the complex role of international trends. Subsequentsections show that the French G overnment‟s references to European recommendations in its discourse provide legitimacy for state actors to implement their reforms as well as policy inspirationin a world of bounded rationality, i.e. limited information which obscures individuals‟ powers tomake fully rational decisions (Radaelli, 2000). But adherence to European integration and reformneeds a stimulus, which takes the form of a position against globalization. The French governmenthas admittedly had a more open attitude toward globalization since 2007, aware that the ability tosustain an ambivalent perception of globalization may be questionable in an environment of increasing international flow of people and capital. But in order to have any actual impact on thehigher education landscape, as the final section shows, this openness requires a broad-basedcommitment of academia, beyond a few elite and more dynamic institutions. The paper concludes by suggesting ways of reshaping academic culture that would facilitate the opening up of France toglobalized higher education in a productive and sustainable way.  headerfooter 3 2.   Policy Transfer Typology  The literature on policy transfer distinguishes various types of transfer, administrative orcognitive, and, by decomposing the different actors involved, implicitly leads to distinguish differentstages of transfer. The concept of policy transfer was srcinally developed for the context of the United States toexplain how policy ideas spread from one state to another (Walker, 1969; Gray, 1973), and was laterapplied in analyses of the European Union (Radaelli, 2000). Policy transfer mostly refers to theprocess whereby one policy setting uses one or many elements from another policy setting, relating in the process governance at the domestic level. These elements incorporate “ knowledge aboutpolicies, administrative arrangements, institutions and ideas ” (Dolowitz & Marsh, 1996, p. 344). Table 1 provides a typology of the actors, elements, reasons and modes of policy transfer applicableto higher education policy.  Table 1: policy transfer typologyWho? What? Why? How? EuropeanCommissionofficials (DGEAC)OECD officials(e.g. CERI, IMHE)Internationalepistemiccommunities(experts)Nationalpoliticians, cabinetmembers and civilservantsDiscourse (policy ideas and values) which challengesan accepteddominant view  AdministrativepracticesLegislation-Exposure toargumentsregarding growing internationalcompetition-Ambitions fordomestic reformleads to seeking legitimacy through transfer.- „soft‟ governance  / voluntary implementation- Stakeholders‟ involvement-Reliance onindicators andbenchmarksPolicy transfer goes beyond Bennett & Howlett ‟s (1992) “ social learning  ” in the field of publicpolicy, whereby actors within and outside the government challenge the cognitive dimensionunderlying a policy and develop an alternative to the accepted dominant view. Policy transferincludes administrative change, which in this paper is treated as akin to changes in modes of governance, on top of cognitive ones, in this paper referred to as changes in discourse, rhetoric oraccepted view. Cognitive and practical elements should ideally be logically consistent. But following Festinger (1992), a dissonance may arise at certain points of the lifetime of a policy. A time of reformulation is particularly likely to lead to a dissonance between cognition and its practicalhandling, since one may adapt quicker than the other to the change. Policy transfer can occur through „soft; governanc e, i.e. be non-binding. These modes of governance include policy instruments such as the publication of a circular letter encouraging   headerfooter 4 implementation, for example. They also include the commissioning of comparative studies. They alsoinclude indicators. Indicators include measures of the costs and outcomes of public institutions forexample. Indicators are not objective measures. The choice of one indicator over another is meant toand can have the effect of steering policy in a particular direction. For example, measuring theperformance of universities based primarily on their ability to attract external funding and only secondarily in view of student satisfaction survey results will encourage universities to rank theirfunding strategy above their teaching. The same reasoning applies to benchmarking. Choosing arelatively high ranking American private university as a case study during an international conference would lead the audience to think of the features of this university (high level of autonomy,endowments, etc.), they may not apply if the benchmark were a different university. The choice of indicators steer information toward a positive or negative assessment given a set benchmark. These indicators and benchmarks beg an analogy to game theory. When actors are in asuboptimal non-cooperative equilibrium, only two strategies can encourage cooperation and securehigher payoffs in future games: the threat of future punishments or the promise of future rewards.Indicators and benchmarks help frame and justify which one of the two actions will be adopted.Nonbinding indicators and benchmarks, as implemented for the EHEA, are less likely to createopposition. They make actors realize the need for reforms using their own deductive capacity withinpredetermined boundaries.  This mode of governance plays on actors‟ reasoning  within the definedcriteria. After actors become convinced of the benefit of a reform, they would not oppose it. Thesemodes of governance are thus a desirable governance tool for policy-makers. The use of indicators, comparisons and benchmarking is justified through a policy discourse.Policy discourse includes the arguments and ideas put forward to justify the implementation of particular indicators (Radaelli & Schmidt, 2004: 184). It can incorporate motivational values. Forexample, in the US, the “ yes-we-can ” rhetoric is deeply embedded in public memory. In France, acommon policy discourse includes integrationist values, articulated around the need to build a unifiedEurope and to resist globalization. This distinction between cognitive and administrative dimensions is theorized by Trondal (2009). The dimensions chosen go beyond the legislative level of analysis, which would concentrates onpieces of legislation or regulation. Trondal (2009) identifies two types of  “ fusion ”“  Type I fusion ”  occurs when national levels of administration adopt structures similar to the European level. Forexample, a national administration could see the adoption of a meeting of the same form as the OpenMethod of Coordination in Europe, which aims at gathering relevant actors from all sides of a policy. “  Type II fusion” arises when actors emulate normative and cognitive notions. This would includedomestic actors starting to adopt the same arguments and choice of words as their EU counterparts.Such emulation includes, in the context of higher education reforms, references to how the Lisbonstrategy is necessary to face a growing international competition for example.Institutional policy transfer also comes close to DiMaggio & Powell ‟s (1991: 69) notion of isomorphism, whereby one institution adopts the features of another. The authors argue thatisomorphism can be coercive (if the institution is forced to adopt such features), normative (if theinstitution changes through a process of socialization) or mimetic (if the institution imitates aprevious one). According to Radaelli (2000), the main motivation for mimesis relates to the need to preservelegitimacy in conditions of uncertainty: when the environment is uncertain, institutions respond by   headerfooter 5 imitating other organizations which are perceived to have more legitimacy. This theoreticalframework for policy transfer implies that actors make fully conscious choices to transfer a certainpolicy. Moreover, as Radaelli (2000) argued, copying removes the perceived interest of the designer,i.e. the policy-maker and hence makes opposition against him less likely. This argument is similar tothe logic of blame-shifting according to which national policy-makers justify domestic reforms by explaining that supranational organisations, and not themselves, are the masters of these reforms. Inboth cases, the policy-maker transfers responsibility for the reforms to the supranationalorganization.Policy transfer, in its simplest form, is a top-down transfer from European institutions to one ormore member state governments, or a horizontal transfer from one state to one or several others. Inthe areas of the economy and mass communication, Radaelli (2000), for example, analyzed policy transfer in terms of the interaction between EU institutions and member states in three case studies:the single currency policy, tax policy and media ownership policy. Radaelli (2000) found that theimpulse for the transfer came European Commission officials as well as national policy-makers andexperts. The motivation for the transfer came from the economic need to reform to be part of EUpolicies and avoid adverse economic consequences as well as the behavior of the Commission anddomestic officials (policy entrepreneurship of the Commission and competition to transfer acrossdifferent domestic offices) as well as the discourse of international epistemic communities. An epistemic community is „a network of professionals with rec ognized expertise and competence in aparticular domain and an authoritative claim to policy-relevant knowledge within that domain orissue area. Epistemic communities have: 1) a shared set of normative and principled beliefs, whichprovide a value-based rationale for the social action of community members; 2) shared causal beliefs, which are derived from their analysis of practices leading or contributing to a central set of problemsin their domain and which then serve as the basis for elucidating multiple linkages between possiblepolicy actions and desired outcomes; 3) shared notions of validity, that is, intersubjective internally defined, weighing and validating knowledge in the domain of their expertise; and 4) a common policy enterprise  –  that is a set of common practices associated with a set of problems to which theirprofessional competence is directed, presumably out of conviction that human welfare will be enhanced as a consequence‟ (Haas, 1992: 3).   As for the higher education context, various implementation and convergence studies from thehigher education literature 1 show how European institutions influenced national policies. Thetransfer of cognitive elements is documented in the literature on the creation of the European highereducation area, also called the Bologna process. Witte (2006), who provided an exhaustivecomparative study of the implementation of the Bologna process in France, England, Germany andthe Netherlands, explains how domestic actors in used the arguments of the Bologna processstrategically to justify reforms and increase their legitimacy  vis-à-vis  resistant non-state actors. Thisdefinition of policy transfer is conditional on an institutional perspective. After all, national ministersand heads of states make decisions regarding European policy orientation in the European Counciland these same actors attend both European and national meetings as well as make European andnational decisions. Moreover, policy transfer can also involve more stages, a variety of institutions, 1 See the European Journal of Education’s special issue ‘The Bologna process’, 2004; Fägerlind & Strömqvist, 2004; Barraud & Mignot, 2005; Krücken et al ., 2005; Mangset, 2005; Mignot Gérard &Musselin, 2005; Musselin, 2006; Witte, 2006; Amaral & Veiga, 2009.
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