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We have illustrated that benchmarking practices by IOs both configure reputational incentives for national policymakers to achieve a better score in global ratings and rankings, and encapsulate appraisals of national performance within a problematic logic of comparison.
Yet, national performance in a given issue area is not independent, but, at least in part, contingent upon diverging contemporary structural conditions and historical legacies of domination. Notions of national success and failure are thus far more relative concepts than glossy country rankings imply.
This article has three main implications for future research on the role of IOs as actors that exercise expert authority in world politics. First, it points to the importance of further investigating the complex linkages that connect different modes of transnational knowledge production with efforts to challenge or maintain dominant paradigms across various types of global governance actors.
In particular, more research is needed to examine how these linkages operate through mechanisms of transnational socialization and stigmatization, as well as through transnational evaluation. This agenda for future research includes exploring how the production of global performance metrics in one field might influence knowledge practices in others, as well as how transnational knowledge is recursively deployed across different political settings, and with what effects. Second, future research will need to specify the scope conditions under which the knowledge practices of IOs enable them to legitimize claims to issue expertise, including how the indirect power of benchmarking interconnects with other forms of direct and indirect power.
Our discussion in the final section has outlined some of the links that larger empirical studies could investigate to gain additional insights into the interconnections of power, knowledge and expertise in global governance. Finally, our research suggests that scholars themselves must approach global benchmarks with a more critical and sceptical stance on the legitimacy of using comparative metrics to construct evidence about comparative national performance or to track trends in a particular issue area.
Reliance on these problematic tools to construct transnational knowledge distorts how we interpret the world, as well as how we seek to change it. We are grateful to Thomas R. His doctoral research examines patterns of reform and institutional change in areas of collaboration between the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. European Journal of International Relations. Eur J Int Relat. Published online Jul Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Email: ku. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.
Abstract The production of transnational knowledge that is widely recognized as legitimate is a major source of influence for international organizations. Keywords: Business regulation, foreign direct investment, global benchmarking, global governance, indirect power, international organizations. Introduction Since the turn of the century, there has been an unprecedented expansion in the use of benchmarking as a governing strategy across all areas of social and economic life in a growing number of countries. IOs as evaluators of national performance IOs wield power over other political actors both directly and indirectly.
Open in a separate window. Figure 1. IO benchmarking in practice IO benchmarks often enjoy a reputation as science-based metrics of comparative national performance that are removed from the political contests characteristic of many transnational processes. Table 1. Selected benchmark characteristics. Table 2.
Top 10 and bottom 10 listings in the EDB ranking, — Figure 2. The OECD FDI Index Many IO benchmarks aim primarily at capturing the attention of elite actors in specialist policymaking fields, and seldom make front-page headlines or generate widespread civil society attention. Table 3. Figure 3. IO benchmarking as paradigm maintenance IO benchmarks make us view and engage with the world on particular terms by influencing what problems we see in a given policy domain and how we look at them to craft political solutions.
Conclusion The role that IOs play as evaluators of national policy designs, economic performance and social outcomes matters. Acknowledgments We are grateful to Thomas R. Notes 1. References Abdelal R. Review of International Political Economy 13 1 : 1— Babb S. Review of International Political Economy 20 2 : — Babb S, Chorev N.
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Wade R. New Left Review I : 3— In other words, IOs such as UNESCO construct a global policy space in quality assurance by drawing together various players and introducing new players e. IOs use meetings to build consensus and disseminate policy ideas. These three forums aimed to analyze trade in education trends and foster debate between the four key stakeholders: universities, the private sector, governments, and students. IOs also use such fo- rums to influence the targets and goals of policy implementation. For instance, after the Prague meeting in , the EC used its mandate to have the floor for a great amount of time during conferences, spreading ideas about how to proceed with the BP Balzer and Martens Within these meetings, IOs construct and disseminate opinions on higher educa- tion policy among various stakeholders.
Through participating in such forums, IOs also foreground the higher education policy agenda. Shahjahan issues in higher education by pooling together policy ideas. In short, IOs construct and maintain a higher education global policy landscape by forging transnational, regional, and local links across various policy communities. IOs as Policy Coordinators Among Members IOs also globalize higher education policy by forging common policy agendas at the supranational level. They do this by urging compliance and coordinating policy implementation among member states.
By the virtue of membership, national de- cision makers feel institutional pressures introduced by IOs King The OECD, on the other hand, seeks adherence to agreed standards through the soft pressures of expert guidance, research, and peer pressure King , p. In contrast, the WB seeks adherence predominantly through binding funding contracts Samoff and Carrol Finally, the EU makes member-binding rules and decisions.
Once a policy agenda is set, IOs play a key role in coordinating policy imple- mentation among members Jakobi ; Samoff and Carrol Given the limited space, I cannot tease out the various facets of EU—EC involvement in the BP please refer to Croche ; Keeling ; Ravinet ; and Reinalda for excellent discussions on these topics. Although national governments and higher educa- tion institutions have led the way in shaping and implementing the BP, the EC plays an active role in promoting the process Keeling Moreover, the EC bolstered the implementation process by establishing progress accountability structures.
These reports allowed the EC, along with national partners, to benchmark the achievement of the two-degree cycle among nation-states. For instance, diverse communications by the EC led to aspects of life-long learning, research, and the economic competitiveness to be included in the BP. In addition, the EC rearticulated the BP in terms of supporting European research, and in turn, coopted the BP as a means to maximize the socioeconomic returns on EU invest- ment in research Keeling This hybridized Bologna-research policy dis- course in turn became a widely accepted perspective for articulating higher educa- tion policy at the European level Keeling As this brief example illustrates, IOs, like the EU, further policy aims by closely connecting themselves to the policy stages of implementation Jakobi , p.
Moreover, in doing so, IOs engage in policy activism by discursively influencing the policy content, setting agendas, and informing the rationales for higher education reform. Both IOs united their staff, national actors, and global networks to negotiate and construct this policy document. Consequently, all OECD and UNESCO member countries and other stakeholders—higher education institutions, student associa- tions, quality assurance and accreditation agencies, recognition agencies, academic staff associations, professional bodies, private sector, and other IOs—were invited to participate in this policy text production process Schuller and Vincent-Lancrin Thus, IOs not only bring different policy communities together, but also serve as catalysts for new global policy initiatives in higher education.
Shahjahan while nurturing external networks of experts. Within such collaborative efforts, IOs may serve convergent and divergent roles. All four IOs discursively emphasized the demand for life-long learning in the context of employability through sponsoring and partic- ipating in international meetings. On the other hand, the WB and the EU applied their financial muscle to promote life-long learning by funding life-long learning initiatives in developing countries and European countries, respectively.
The life-long example demonstrates that IOs do collaborate, but they vary in terms of their instruments of influence. As network- ers and coordinators, IOs thus steer policy in similar directions. In other words, by collaborating, IOs create a complicated policy network of different players that transmit and receive policy ideas. As mentioned above, while IOs may work together, their policy agendas may also collide.
Before I discuss the role of IOs in these trade negotiations, a brief description and explana- tion is in order about GATS significance in higher education policy. GATS targets 12 services sectors, including education. Within the education sector, higher education is the main fo- cus of the trade activity due to a higher concentration of private sector institutions in higher education in many countries, compared to the other levels of education.
Thus, GATS potentially exerts greater influence in higher education policy as it consists of binding international agreements and a sophisticated dispute settlement system Verger The four IOs have taken varying stances toward the liberalization of trade in education. Based on intensive field- work in the WTO headquarters, Verger examines the internal processes of these trade negotiations. Although UNESCO did not clearly or publicly state it, its representatives were critical of the interference caused by free trade agreements in the education field.
UNESCO sought to offset the insensitiv- ity of the WTO to education, social issues, and to ensure that the emerging global education market adhered to minimum educational quality and access standards. The OECD disseminated data showing the comparative advantage of OECD members to trade in education and bid to bridge the gap between education and trade sectors. Meanwhile, the WB representatives supported the benefits of education- al liberalization, arguing that universities and governments should adapt the new global educational market and take advantage of global knowledge through trade.
Similar to the two IOs mentioned above, the WB dealt with trade liberalization by disseminating ideas in public reports and forums. Finally, the EU pushed for the introduction of quantifiable benchmarks under which member countries would adopt liberalization commitments in a minimum number of subsectors in each round Verger Although the EU negotiates as a collective, its GATS commitments are often nuanced with individual EU mem- bers specifying different levels of liberalization within the overall EU schedule. The trade in education agenda shows how these IOs do not carry the same agendas and thus their policy mandates may collide within a higher education global policy space.
This is evident in recent EU interregional initiatives. The Tuning project is one example of such interregional policy influences. This European curriculum template has become a normative model and was recent- ly introduced in Latin America Aboites ; Figueroa ; Leite , while a similar initiative is being planned for African higher education Singh The Latin American context provides a good example of this curricula policy travel. In , a small group of representatives of Latin American and European universi- ties agreed to adopt the European model and encouraged its approval by European agencies under the name Tuning—Latin America Project.
Through this initiative, the EC welcomed by numerous Latin American universities promoted the European model for professional training, including objectives, pedagogy, values, orientation, and evaluation. However, such interregional policy travel has consequences see Aboites ; Figueroa Shahjahan and the identity of Latin American universities. Moreover, the project failed to con- sult with faculty, students, university councils, unions, or professional associations of academics and graduates.
In other words, such interregional policy travel may take away agency from the local contexts in shaping their higher education systems. In , the EU and five states of Central Asia agreed to work together on an interregional basis. In essence, while the TEMPUS program provided the funding and procedures for education policy development activities, the BP delivered ten policy areas for higher education reform.
Moreover, the Erasmus Mundus program linked Central Asian higher education institutions, staff, and students, with those from EU member states. In addition, Robertson notes how the EU facilitates an explicit European competitive agenda through its Asia—Europe interregionalism strategy. Through the latter strategy, the EU seeks to develop a European higher education market by matching Asian higher education structures with European models.
Through the ac- tivities of IOs, higher education policies e. To sum up, IOs act as policy bridges between different regional contexts, and in turn globalize higher education policy. Summary In this section, I highlighted the networking and coordinative roles of IOs in the higher education global policy space. IOs present complex dynamics in higher edu- cation policy by building global networks among various policy communities. IOs thus create a supranational space for higher education policy and facilitate the travel of policy ideas.
Bad science: International organizations and the indirect power of global benchmarking
However, IOs play convergent and divergent roles in these global policy spaces, sometimes leading to collision. The Saliency and Mediation of IO Policies So far, I have discussed the role of IOs as discursive forces, and their roles in main- taining transnational networks to assemble a higher education global policy space. Yang How does the higher education global policy space affect the nature of national policies and the policies of higher education in- stitutions?
In this section, I answer these questions by discussing how the saliency and mediation of IO policies vary across contexts i. Thus, the salience of IOs are uneven and nationally, regionally variant in higher education policy. I elaborate on this point further in the following subsections. IOs as Adviser or Complementary to HE Policy In high-income countries, IOs are more marginal, advisory, or complementary— often influential in framing national policy options least so in the strongest na- tional player, the United States , but not substituting that process. To this end, national actors articulate higher education policies by sometimes feeding off the policy reports, data, latest trends, and comparative indicators produced by IOs.
For instance, in , education ministers of some member countries requested a status report on trade in education from the OECD, particularly at the beginning of the GATS and education debate Verger As advisors, IOs thus frame the way nation-states assess the global climate of education systems and maintain a global policy space. IOs are salient among nation-states when they complement the design of a higher education policy. According to Ravinet , Euro- pean states signed the BP and then rapidly implemented the collective objectives by leveraging it to justify national reforms.
Similarly, African officials favoring similar privatization policies espoused by the WB have used the Bank to pass difficult re- forms with little public debate by specifying the reforms as loan conditions Samoff and Carrol IOs are relevant for powerful member nations to advance their agendas in a higher education global policy space. IOs represent arenas of transnational policy decision making that are asymmetrical, nondemocratic, and opaque in governance Moutsios Given these asymmetrical relations of governance, powerful members use IOs to serve their foreign and global interests.
For instance, high- income countries strongly influence the decision-making processes and set the agenda at the WB Verger United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada , who wish to further develop their service economy through sectors such as higher education Robertson ; Naidoo IOs are particularly pertinent for countries in the context of economic competi- tion and global trade regimes such as the GATS.
Since higher education became a tradable global commodity, trade networks have reconfigured the relationship between nation-states and their higher education systems. To this end, some na- tion-states use IOs to further their interests in recognizing their higher education qualifications to maintain global market share in higher education services. For instance, Australia signed a joint declaration with the EU to become Bologna compatible i. However, credential rec- ognition is not only relevant to export services of high-income countries, but for low-income countries as well.
Hartmann b observes that countries in the global South are interested in more liberalization via GATS to export their profes- sional labor. These above examples demonstrate how, for national players, IOs are particularly salient as global market demands are increasingly replacing their higher education policy agendas. These figures illustrate the global scope, and monetary and epistemic power of the WB in higher education policy.
The WB loan conditions are meant to increase the likelihood of loan repay- ment which, in turn, requires increasing the likelihood of success in the activities financed by the loan. By attaching conditions to its loans, the WB has the power to encourage particular behaviors among nation-states. They conducted a comparative case study analysis of WB higher education policies in these two countries. In their study, they evaluated WB funding patterns in the two regions, analyzed WB policy documents, and conducted interviews with various stakeholders in the WB, Ugan- da, and Thailand.
Officials in Uganda often named neocolonialism and generally condemned the Bank for its neoliberal agenda and for its past enforcement of SAPS. In contrast, in Thailand, a country that drastically reduced its WB funding, key informants spoke of their independence and self-sufficiency in terms of the economy. To this end, Thailand avoided a neoliberal recipe advocated by the Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The point here is that Thai officials highlighted their independence in national policies e.
In other words, the saliency of IOs in a policy culture of a nation-state is dependent on the material, cultural, and intellectual resources of that nation. They are vital actors and important sites of action for IO higher education policy. These brief European examples suggest that HEIs adopt and use IO policies to further their agendas and enhance their relevance in national policy circles.
HEIs are particularly relevant in the context of IO policy implementation. For instance, while the Russian government following the WB and OECD policy rec- ommendations, introduced tuition fees and entrance exams, prestigious universi- ties in Moscow and Saint Petersburg resisted such reforms. While the latter had the symbolic capital to resist, less prestigious institutions joined the pilot project to gain legitimacy and ensure future funding. However, this resistance was later curbed when universities in Moscow later joined the pilot project Gounko and Smale The recommendation itself is soft law, yet has the potential to turn into hard law through legislation by respective member states.
Page critically analyzes why Australian universities routinely ignore this UNESCO-specific standard-setting in- strument, specifically on the issues of commensurability of pay and recognition of research work for casual academics. While the recommendation was approved by Australia as a member state of UNESCO , Page suggests that Australian universi- ties continue to ignore it as they function as independent entities, and the domi- nant neoliberal culture within such institutions.
Hence, these examples illustrate that HEIs are important mediators and interpreters of IO policies in policy practice based on their autonomy and culture. HEIs also have reciprocal relationships with IOs, unmediated by nation-states. The main goal of these programs is to exchange knowledge across bor- ders. Similarly, the WB has developed a Virtual African Universi- ties initiative Amutabi and Oketch , which is a distance education project established in to serve African countries. Through such links with HEIs, IOs play an important role in supplying the intellectual, cultural, and material re- sources needed in such institutions, particularly in the area of curricula reform.
To summarize, HEIs should not be viewed as submissive policy recipients, nor they are all equal players. Shahjahan autonomy in enacting and mediating these global policy spaces, particularly in the context of policy practice. Summary The global policy space constructed by IOs does not play out as a singular influence in all national and institutional domains. The power differentials among nation-states and the power asymmetries between an IO and the nation-state actor complicate this inter- play. It highlights some of the asymmetrical relations in international politics of higher education policy.
Some state actors are the subjects, while others are objects of IO policy making at supranational levels. Moreover, HEIs are important media- tors of IO policies particularly in the context of policy practice. Conclusion and Future Directions IOs play three key roles in globalizing higher education policy. First, they play an important discursive function by laying out the categories, languages, meanings, and numbers used to construct and articulate higher education policy in various contexts. Second, IOs serve as global networkers by sponsoring and building policy learning platforms whereby policy ideas gather and spread.
They also build connec- tions among different stakeholders to tackle and address common policy issues in global higher education. Third, IOs play an important coordinative function among members by offering various technical resources to ensure policy implementation. Through these various roles, IOs elevate and disseminate the importance of higher education for national and international development across different policy com- munities. IOs also add asymmetries of power within higher education policy as different actors have different levels of power in such a global policy space. As I highlight- ed in the last section, nation-states and higher education institutions have various forms of economic, symbolic, and intellectual capital to act and mediate this global policy space.
While powerful nation-states have the ability to set agendas in IOs and can often ignore IO policy recommendations, lower-income countries lack the same national capital to maintain autonomy in their higher education policy pro- cess. Moreover, through IO activities, new players are brought to the policy space, which in turn displaces, but does not replace, the power of local policy networks.
Thus, IOs introduce complex dynamics to global higher educa- tion policy. This review also highlights how higher education global templates get dif- fused, allocated, and adopted across different regions of the world. To this end, IOs arrange, allocate, and distribute higher education policy values. I will next discuss the implications of this literature review in relation to research- ers and policy makers. For researchers, the study of IOs suggests moving beyond methodological na- tionalism and higher educationism in higher education policy research Hartmann a; Verger As this chapter demonstrates, such national boundaries are very porous and nation-states with various forms of capi- tal lack the same degree of autonomy as they did before in higher education policy.
I have highlighted how the higher education policy process has become much more globally complex. With the growing role of global actors, imperatives, and trade regimes, researchers need to move beyond national scales as the primary unit of our analysis and begin embracing a plural-scalar perspective in higher education policy. Researchers also need to engage beyond higher educationism. This means that in our analysis of new trends and regulatory transformations in HEIs, we cannot ig- nore the extra-higher educational structures, events, rationales, and processes such as the foreign policies, export agendas, or the economic performance of a country; Hartmann a; Verger For instance, the GATS negotiations and regional economic competiveness mandate of many nation-states demonstrate how higher education transformations are influenced by noneducation rationales.
Researchers thus need to venture outside the traditional higher education discipline to find the necessary theoretical and methodological tools to make sense of the transformations within HEIs in this globalized era. While such methodological biases are more im- portant in some areas of higher education research such as organizational change and policy development and less important in others e.
Shahjahan While the IO literature presented in this chapter is useful for framing and under- standing some of the complex dynamics in higher education policy, there remain few empirical and theoretical accounts closely examining how IOs work Robertson , p. Systematic studies focusing on how these IOs collec- tively work together or their influences collide , or collaborate with other non- state players such as NGOs, regional agencies, transnational corporations, research foundations, higher education institutions, etc.
Such research is essential to appreciate how IOs behave, work with other policy players, and understand what causes outcomes in the higher global policy space. I would suggest six future research areas to explore the relationship between IOs and higher education policy: 1. This line of research would provide a more complete picture of the context of influence in higher education policy making in a globalized era.
Improved understanding of the interconnections between IOs and nonstate actors such as corporations, regional organizations, private firms, research founda- tions, aid agencies, and other players in higher education policy through com- parative case studies and across national contexts. These studies would offer a better account of the intricacies of policy networks involved in global higher education policy. Expanding the study of the relationships between IOs and higher education poli- cies to regions of the world not previously discussed e. Including perspectives from these regions would give a more nuanced picture of global higher education policy involving IOs in differ- ent social contexts.
More systematic studies on how IOs impact equity and access issues in higher education. Given the growing importance of equity in global higher education policies, such discussions would expand the social justice debate from the national arena to a more global focus Rizvi and Lingard Both these IOs are vital players in higher education, however, have received little empirical attention compared to the WB and EU.
More theoretical and methodological debates on the study of IOs in relation to higher education, particularly in relation to globalization literature. This will expand the debate on using the nation-state as the unit of analysis in higher edu- cation policy. Given that this chapter has only focused on four IOs, all situated in the global North, it would be important to contrast this discussion with research on regional actors in the global East or South e. Moreover, the increasing role of the WTO in terms of global trade in higher education would be important to consider in delineating the complex dynamics of higher education policy along the lines of local, national, regional, and global scales see Verger In terms of policy making, we need to expand the definition and location of a policy maker and the policy process.
As I demonstrate in this chapter, policy makers are no longer confined to the nation-state, public offices, or research foundations, but are increasingly located extra-locally Rhoads and Liu Higher educa- tion policy today involves a wide array of global actors and discourses. Instead, policy makers in partnership with other stakeholders such as students, faculty, and civil society groups need to design higher education policies that reflect the values of lo- cal communities and various stakeholders so that HEIs serve the self-determination, healing and social justice goals of various communities.
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