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Counting Perceptions in Partnerships

Aurora Brief Reviews No. 16 June 31 2020

September 2020

Around the time of the announcement of the second batch of European University Alliances, it may make sense to look back at the survey report “Mapping of European Transnational Collaborative Partnerships in Higher Education”.
The survey was undertaken as part of the process to create the first Call for European University Alliances: the analysis of present institutional collaboration was intended to help the Commission formulate what needed to be strengthened and added to the fabric of transnational cooperation in higher education and research.
The survey was sent to some 500 partnerships from the Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 programme – with about 30% response. Whether this covers the field adequately is an open question: Why only E+ and H2020 partnerships? Are there no transnational institutional partnerships without EU-funding? Yes, there are!
Furthermore, the H2020 programmes were focused on Widening Access: linking universities with more substantial and weaker research eminence. What does that mean for bias and skewing of the data?
The report looks at the three missions of higher education institutions. While the first two: Education and Research, would seem uncontested in any paradigm or debate, the narrowing down of the “third mission” of the university to “innovation” could be called into question.
But the most important caveat to be expressed on the conclusions of the report is that it is counting how many people report perceptions which remained undefined.
The survey questions seem to have been mostly qualitative: “Does it cover the whole institution”, “does it cover all three (!) missions”, “is there enough money”. Do these concepts mean the same thing for all respondents – or all colleagues of these respondents in their university? How many “desired answers” will have been given when asking about the importance of EU-funded collaboration in an EU-sponsored survey?
The survey would have gained in importance if it would have asked for more substantial data:

  • What proportion of your education (in terms of students, credits, graduates) is given in collaborative arrangements, and how did this change through the supported activities?
  • What is the correlation between extra costs of collaborative education (or research) and the additional benefits of the collaboration (in terms of higher learning outcomes, lower attrition rates, higher lifetime yields for graduates and society)?

Nevertheless, the survey contains a wealth of impressions and allows to estimate how prominent these are in Europe.

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