Higher Education Research in Europe and Its Visibility in the English Language

Higher education research has gained momentum over the years in some European countries. Most of the research in this area is only accessible in the language of the respective country. Yet, publications in the English language often indicate the themes, major results and the expertise available in the various European countries. International and European publications, conferences and expert collaboration in the framework of intergovernmental organisations in the 1960s and 1970s suggest that various scholars from the United Kingdom, Ireland, some Nordic countries, the Netherlands, Germany and a few other European countries had already been active in this field, and that notable research on teaching and learning, curricula etc. had been established in Eastern European countries. Over the years, scholars from additional countries became international known, but undoubtedly the communities of researchers in this field continued to differ substantially in size and collaborative activity by country.

The United Kingdom was the first country in Europe where higher education research became a sizeable field. The Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE), which is based in the UK, was already founded in 1965. It continues to be up to the present the largest community of higher education researchers primarily based in a single European country. SRHE, however, always reached across national borders. It has active members in Ireland, Australia and Anglo-Saxon countries, and it made its international ties visible by having always at least one of its vice-presidents, and altogether five out or more than 30 'fellows' from non-English speaking countries (see Table 1).

When the first 'International Encyclopedia of Higher Education' was edited in 1977 by an U.S. university president (Knowles 1977), 75 % of the authors from topical essays were from the U.S., 14 % from the UK and Canada—about half each

—as well as 11 % from other countries, among them less than half from other European countries (see Teichler 1980). Overviews on major publications on higher education compiled by the U.S. scholar Philip G. Altbach from the late 1970s onwards (see Altbach 1979), which aimed to look beyond what is available in the English language, suggest that one could have drawn from a larger pools of higher education researchers from various countries already at that time.

During the 1970s, two European associations were formed, that aimed at bringing together persons interested both in higher education research and in higher education policy and practice. First, the European Association for Research and Development in Higher Education (EARDHE) had an emphasis on teaching and learning (see for example Ritter and Kühn 1985); after some years of activities, it faded away in the 1990s, and its role was taken over by the International Consortium for Educational Development (ICED), a network founded in 1993 of more than 20 associations from all over the world, of experts in teaching and learning in higher education; it publishes the International Journal for Academic Development (IJAD).

Second, the European Association for Institutional Research (EAIR) was founded in 1979. Its foundation was inspired by the impressive development of 'institutional research' in the U.S., as will be discussed below, and started off as partner association of the AIR. As 'institutional research' of that type had not become a sizeable phenomenon in Europe, EAIR became an association that promoted the dialogue between higher education researchers and practitioners, notably in Europe (see Begg 2003). Its journal, Tertiary Education and Management, published predominantly the major contributions to their annual conferences for a couple of years (Kehm 2005). EAIR's broad European base is underscored, for example, by the fact that it honoured 8 European higher education researchers from 6 countries since the mid-1990s through distinguished memberships, honorary president positions or awards for outstanding contributions to research, and additionally three experts from three countries for various contributions to EAIR (see Table 1).

Table 1 Key higher education researchers in Europe

While some major journals in this domain had been already established earlier in the U.S., various international journals on higher education in the English language are published in Europe since the 1970s: Higher Education (since 1972; now published by Springer, the Netherlands), a research journal covering the whole range of higher education research; Studies in Higher Education (since 1976, now published by Taylor & Francis, UK), a research journal established by SRHE with emphasis on teaching and learning, curricula, etc., but covering other themes as well; Higher Education in Europe (1976–2009), published by the European Centre for Higher Education (CEPES/UNESCO), and since 2011 substituted by the academic journal European Journal of Higher Education (published by Routledge, UK); Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management (1978–2012), established and published by OECD; Higher Education Policy (since 1988, now published by Palgrave Macmillan, UK), established by the International Association of Universities (IAU); Tertiary Education and Management (since 1995, now published by Routledge, UK), established by EAIR. Additionally, the European Journal of Education (since 1975, now published by Blackwell, UK), coordinated by the European Institute of Education and Social Policy, France, comprises at least one thematic issue annually on higher education. Among these journals, the two with an exclusive academic thrust, i.e. Higher Education and Studies in Higher Education, had a clear dominance of authors from the U.S., the UK and other Anglo-Saxon countries, at least up to the 1990s.

When Burton R. Clark—along with Martin Trow one of the two most influential international 'father figures' for the development of higher education research in Europe (see notably Burrage 2010; Clark 1983)—invited in the early 1980s leading scholars to provide an account of the state of research in this domain worldwide (see Clark 1984), the majority of scholars were from the U.S. He chose five speakers from Europe, among them four from the UK and only one from continental Europe (see Table 1).

The growth of quantity and quality of higher education research since the 1970s was reflected in the second major encyclopaedia of this field, published in the early 1990s. Among the 18 most frequently cited scholars in the Encyclopedia of Higher Education (Clark and Neave 1992), eight were from Europe—five from the UK and three from other European countries.

The foundation of the Consortium of Higher Education Researchers (CHER) in 1988 certainly has contributed to improved communication among researchers and to growing research collaboration in Europe on matters of higher education, as well as increased international visibility of European higher education researchers. CHER aims at being the most visible international association of higher education researchers. Practically, it has a strong focus on Europe in various respects. More than three quarters of the members and similarly members of the board have been from Europe over the years. All chairpersons and secretaries were from Europe, and all annual conferences were held in Europe. Among the themes addressed in conferences and certainly in projects triggered two figure prominently, which are much more at the heart of higher education researchers in Europe than for example in the U.S., i.e. comparative research on higher education, as well as macro-system issues of higher education (societal expectations, the overall fabrique of the higher education system, steering of the higher education system and the role of government, etc.), while more research in the U.S. focus on meso-level and micro-level issues.

CHER brought together higher education researchers from a broad range of European countries. The seven chairpersons were from five different countries, while the five secretaries came from three countries (see Table 1). Ten or more members each in 2013 came from the UK, Germany and France, five and more from Norway, Portugal, Italy, Finland, the Netherlands and Austria, and smaller numbers each from more than a dozen other European countries (members from outside Europe not taken into consideration here). Overviews on participants and speakers at the CHER conferences over the years show also active involvement of European scholars from Belgium, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland (see Teichler 2013a, b).

Yet, the development of CHER shows as well that higher education research in Europe continued to be based for a long time on an institutionally relatively weak basis. CHER relied very much only on four sizeable institutes interested in international comparison and in macro-issues of higher education: the already above named CHEPS (the Netherlands) and INCHER-Kassel (Germany), as well as the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU) in Oslo (Norway) and the Centre for Research in Higher Education Policies (CIPES) of the University of Porto (Portugal). Also, only less than 50 members of CHER are holders of a professor title in the domain of higher education (according to the denomination of their professorship or that of their unit) (see Teichler 2013b).

Actually, the relatively small size of the higher education research communities in the individual European countries was a major reason for the establishment of supra-national associations such as CHER. Often, the national community was considered to be too small to ensure a functioning platform of discourse. Even up to the present, there are only a few national or regional associations of higher education researchers in Europe.

Major segments, but certainly not the complete picture of institutions and programmes mostly active within the respective countries and within the home country language, became visible in the inventories of higher education research institutions and of academic master and doctoral programmes of higher education published in 2000, 2006 and 2014. The most recent inventory records 66 research institutions on higher education in Europe (as compared to 50 in the U.S.), among them 18 in the UK, one in Ireland and 47 in 20 non-English speaking European countries, as well as 22 programmes in Europe (as compared to almost 200 in the U.S.), among them 13 in the UK, one in Ireland and 8 in 6 non-English speaking European countries (Rumbley et al. 2014).

With the growing communication and cooperation among higher education researchers in Europe, English as the lingua franca gained momentum. From 1993 to 1997, 21 % of the articles in Higher Education, the internationally most visible and prestigious journal in this domain, were still written by UK authors and only 13 % by authors from other European countries (Maassen 2000). In contrast, 29 % of the articles published in 2001–2004 were written by authors from other European countries and only 12 % by UK authors (Teichler 2005); as the journal had substantially grown in size, however, the absolute number of contributions from the UK did not decline, but that of the contributions from other European countries more than quadrupled. In 2010, eventually, 36 % of the articles were from other European countries and 13 % from the UK (Tight 2012).

Yet, authorships of conference presentations and journal articles, as well as countries addressed in English-language journals have remained grossly uneven across those European countries where sizeable higher education research exists. For example, scholars from the Netherlands and the UK, as well as from Finland, Germany and Italy comprised more than half of the speakers at CHER meetings during the first ten years (Kehm and Teichler 2013a). The above named overview on leading journals in the English language showed that the U.S., the UK, Australia and Canada comprised altogether half of the country cases addressed in comparative articles from 1992 to 2011. While 230 articles report on the UK, only 44 address Germany, 37 the Netherlands, 34 France and 25 Sweden (Kosmützky and Krücken 2014).

The distribution by country looks more uneven if the analysis of publications is not based on a few leading journals, but rather on a broader range of English language-journals with a predominant Anglo-Saxon base. For example, Tight (2012)—drawing both from international and predominantly Anglo-Saxon publications—names five or more publications each of 14 authors, among them seven from the UK, two from other European countries and five from other regions of the world. In contrast, a Polish scholar (Kwiek 2013), summarizing the state of knowledge on higher education in Europe, names altogether more than 50 higher education researchers five times or more in his list of references, among them more from other European countries (22) than from the UK (14) and from other parts of the world (17) (see Table 1).

One might add that a different composition by country also shows up if one looks at the assessments of organisations outside academia. The UNESCO, when arranging its first World Conference on Higher Education in 1998, awarded the Comenius Prize to one U.S. and two continental European scholars. The Academia Europaea, co-opting excellent scholars from all disciplines, had or has currently altogether 10 higher education researchers as members, among them 4 from the UK and 6 from other European countries (see Table 1).

In Europe, higher education researchers of the United Kingdom and of Ireland publish mostly in English, and their academic achievements are fully visible in the English language. Higher education researchers from Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden often publish in English; many, but not all major academic achievements of prominent higher education researchers in those countries are visible in English. In contrast, more than nine tenth of the important academic publications on higher education are still published today in the respective native language in other large European countries, e.g. Germany, France and Italy, in most Southern European, as well as in Central and Eastern European countries, and one gets a good overview on the academic achievements of only few higher education researchers from those countries by examining publications in the English language.

This holds true, even though numerous efforts are made to make research in those countries more visible to the English-reading audience (see for example CHEPS et al. 2010; Klemencic 2014; Zgaga 2013). However, one can get a glance at higher education research in a broader range of European countries with the help of books with collections of essays, e.g. Festschriften, books based on the annual conferences of CHER, EAIR, etc. as well as various thematically focussed conferences, comparative projects, etc., because the editors often intend to include authors from a broad range of countries (see Table 2).

Table 2 Major collections of essays—Contributions to conferences, festschriften, comparative projects, etc.—Published by European higher education researchers since 2002

 
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