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The "Internationale of Knowledge for All"

Can European policies and the Bologna process serve markets and citizens at the same time? 

March 3, 2019
 
 

Twenty years after The Sorbonne Declaration, the Europe of knowledge is more entrenched than ever with the Euro, the banks and the economy. Public investment in Higher Education and Research is either decreasing or not growing in proportion with the increase of the student population. Fees have been introduced in almost all the European countries, in particular for international students coming from outside the European Union giving the highest, short-term benefits to the banks. Mergers are presented as a way to reach the highest position in the so-called “economy of knowledge”. As in the private and service sectors, mergers respond to growing international competition, producing scaled economies while rationalising teaching, learning and research programs. However, this competition actually affects no more than 10% of the institutions and students worldwide. 

Student mobility in Europe was supposed to reach 20% of the all graduated students by 2020 but analysing the official European Commission figures, we know that it will be less than 10%, even considering the increase to the Erasmus-Plus 2014-2020 budget. Fundraising from multinational companies has contributed to “transnational academic capitalism” supporting science for money, but not for the benefit of “the many.” 

In France, these policies began to accelerate after 2006 and were subsequently codified into law— the 2013 L by Libertés et Responsabilités Pour les Universités (Freedom and responsabilities for universities), and the Orientation et Réussite des Étudiants (Guidance and success of students) —passed under the governments of Sarkozy, Hollande and Macron. 

The final pieces falling into place in this disruptive neoliberal puzzle eliminate one of France’s primary Constitutional principles: “Equality for all”, which for France meant open universities without selective admission and with equal fees regardless of nationality. The most recent plan announced by the Prime Minister in November 2018, at the annual meeting of Francophone universities in Paris “Choose France,” (described by Goolam Mohamedbhai in a previous blog) is based on the capitalist assumption that high quality is results from high prices and therefore, increasing fees will improve international attractiveness—above all if we teach in English. A very ironic assumption to present at a Francophone meeting!

housands of students and staff all over the world have been pushing back against the neoliberal tsunami for the last 20 years. On 25 May 2018, while the 10thEHEA Ministerial conference was being held in the former stock exchange of Paris to celebrate the 20thanniversary of the Sorbonne Declaration and prepare for the next 2020 conference, a deputy from La France Insoumise organised a day of debates in the National Assembly, entitled “For a Rebellious European University.” Fifty years after the Paris protests in May 1968, and 20 years after the famous call for “a Europe of knowledge, of the Euro, of the banks and the economy,” the aim of this day was to elaborate an internationalist diagnosis and to propose alternatives to the alignment of European universities with the standards of the knowledge economy and the new public management. Multiple issues were debated. Can European policies and the Bologna process serve markets and citizens at the same time? How can the struggles of student sand staff in Europe and elsewhere be addressed? How might European universities be emancipated to share knowledge in solidarity with the rest of the world? The discussions were filmed and are available online

The parallel meeting has been considered a success. On the one hand, in a very short time and with limited budget, it brought together a large audience of students, academics, researchers, community, trade union and political activists representing many countries including Argentina, Colombia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and others. On the other hand, the quality of the statements and the richness of the debates were an opportunity for the participants to identify multiple points of convergence and inspired everyone to unite and continue. 

Following the meeting, a common call for the creation of an alternative global higher education and research network was drafted. Entitled “Science for the many and not for money”, it was translated into French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Although the document was circulated with limited resources, by the beginning of this year, roughly 200 signatories representing 25 countries had joined the network. Thus was born the "Internationale of Knowledge for All" (IKA) and a first step towards a collaborative and multilingual blog to build its vitality. 

In this context where the European Commission just closed the first round of applications for a European “excellence initiative” that would identify 20 European universities within the Erasmus-Plus project, we call for a strong European network of emancipated universities in Europe and all over the world—internationalist European universities that defend free access for all; cooperation between academics, researchers and citizens; and participative research. IKA welcomes others to help create alternatives to the marketization of higher education and research.

 

Patricia Pol has been following the internationalisation process and the development of the European Higher Education area for 30 years, as a professor of international management and vice president at Université Paris Est. She has been in charge of European and internal affairs at the Ministry of higher education and research and was vice president of the Bologna Follow Up Group for France from July 2015 to April 2017

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