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European Debates on the Knowledge Institution:The Modernization of the University at the European Level


  • Johan P. Olsen
  • Peter Maassen


The European University, as a key institution, is under stress. It has become commonplace to argue that urgent and radical reforms are needed. The claim is that while environments are changing rapidly, universities do not learn, adapt and reform themselves fast enough. Reform plans comprise the purposes of universities, i.e. definitions of what the University is, can be and should be, criteria for quality and success, the kinds of research, education and services to be produced, and for whom. Reform plans also include the universities’ organization and financial basis, their governance structures, who should influence the future dynamics of universities, and according to what principles. In contrast, it can be argued that the currently dominant reform rhetoric is only one among several competing visions and understandings of the University and its dynamics. What is at stake is “what kind of University for what kind of society” and which, and whose values, interests and beliefs should be given priority in University governance and reforms? The paper presents a framework for analyzing ongoing ‘modernization’ reforms and reform debates that take place at various governance levels, not least the European level. It is part of a forthcoming book on ‘University Dynamics and European Integration’.

Suggested Citation

  • Johan P. Olsen & Peter Maassen, 2007. "European Debates on the Knowledge Institution:The Modernization of the University at the European Level," ARENA Working Papers 17, ARENA.
  • Handle: RePEc:erp:arenax:p0228

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