From the “imagined” to the “post-bureaucratic” region: the search for Europe in higher education policy

Robin Shields

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section


This chapter examines how international student mobility in higher education is used to construct Europe - both geographically and ideologically. It does so by analysing three distinct but interrelated policy initiatives: the Erasmus student mobility programme, the Erasmus-Mundus postgraduate mobility programme, and the European Higher Education Area. My argument is the search for Europe has been a key concern and goal of international mobility in higher education. However, that search has entailed two parallel changes in recent years: The first change has involved a shift from European as a shared imaginary - akin to what Anderson (1983) calls an “imagined community” in his analysis of the formation of nation-states - to a collectivity that is driven by self-organization and flexibility, most resembling what Heckshcher (1994) calls the “post-bureaucratic organization,” which is characterized by flexibility, self-organization and continuous internal dialog. The second shift has involved an increasing emphasis on the relationship of Europe to the rest of the world, as the construction for Europe is defined by the interaction between the European and non-European. Drawing upon data on international student mobility flows, I show that the benefits of international student mobility have come primarily through inter-regional flows, although both inter- and intra-regional mobility have experienced rapid growth.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Search for Europe
Subtitle of host publicationContrasting Approaches
EditorsJ. Solana, B. Eichengreen, P. Cooke, B. Khader, J. Peet, V. A. Schmidt, T. Christiansen
Place of PublicationMadrid, Spain
PublisherLa Fabrica
ISBN (Print)9788416248421
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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