International Handbook on Informal Governance
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International Handbook on Informal Governance

Edited by Thomas Christiansen and Christine Neuhold

Acknowledging that governance relies not only on formal rules and institutions but to a significant degree also on informal practices and arrangements, this unique Handbook examines and analyses a wide variety of theoretical, conceptual and normative perspectives on informal governance.
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Chapter 26: Informal Governance in Higher Education Reform: The Bologna Process in Europe

Paul Furlong


Paul Furlong INTRODUCTION The reform of higher education (HE) in the wider Europe since 1998 is extraordinary in several ways, but we should be wary of regarding the Bologna process with which it is associated as entirely unprecedented or lacking comparators. The argument of this chapter is that the Bologna process, notwithstanding some particular differentiating characteristics, can be seen as a part of the family of ‘intensive trans-governmentalism’ identified by Helen Wallace (Wallace, 2008). Informality is a central aspect of these forms of policy-making, as it is of what are generically referred to as ‘new modes of governance’. As will become clear in this chapter, ‘informality’ is not the same as ‘lacking a basis in international law’. Though the two may well be associated, in this case the peculiarity of the Bologna process lies more in how it has apparently managed to achieve considerable success in attaining its objectives across a large number of countries, in a policy area previously notorious for its stubborn resistance to change. The process is based on the voluntary adherence of participant states, which commit themselves to common goals. That this commitment is not enforceable in international law is well known and often remarked. Less remarked is how the commitment to reform higher education in Europe has developed from what might have been yet another fine-sounding but fruitless joint declaration of a few governments, into a set of structures with a considerable degree of continuity and apparently expanding longterm ambitions. We do not need to...

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