Projects, Processes, Politics
Edited by Susan L. Robertson, Kris Olds, Roger Dale and Que Anh Dang
Chapter 9: Good friends and faceless partners: educational cooperation for community building in the Barents Region
Can educational cooperation between higher educational institutions (HEIs) in Russia and Norway contribute to developing a sense of community in the Barents Region? This question stems from political intentions to strengthen the social, cultural and economic relations between the countries. In speeches, treaties and statements (e.g., Putin, 2010; White Paper, 2011–2012), institutions throughout the region are encouraged to work together to develop joint academic programmes and research projects with the idea of raising the level of regional expertise and producing new and sorely needed knowledge across a wide range of fields. The Barents Region is a 21-year-old macro-political construction; a formalized multilateral collaboration between a number of countries within a geographically limited area. Aside from strong commercial, environmental and resource-related interests, there is also a so-called ‘people-to-people cooperation’ among the leading objectives for development of the region. The idea is that such projects may build bridges across international borders and create a close and beneficial coexistence. Various types of educational collaborations are involved in this particular category of objectives. In attempting to provide an answer to this question on whether bilateral educational cooperation contributes to the development of a regional community, I begin by presenting an empirical example that will be described in greater detail later on in the chapter. I will then briefly point to several perspectives on the factors that encourage organizations to incorporate institutional changes such as those that have been initiated by countries in the Barents Region. Thereafter, I will elaborate on what characterizes the actual cooperation referred to in my example. The idea is to explore how the involved HEIs’ motivation to participate is associated with the political expectations that these types of people-to-people projects will result in closer and improved relations between people in the region.
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