About HEC

Theme of the conference

The Higher Education sectors across Europe and beyond find themselves currently in a crucial transition, as a range of problems involving multi-level developments are at stake. While the impact of cross-national developments such as the Bologna process and the shaping of the European Area of Higher Education have become increasingly visible, universities had to deal with massification, transparency and accountability coinciding with fewer supply of financial means, leading to the implementation of more business-oriented features into the university. While non-tenured academic staff covers an increasing part of the employees, in terms of numbers and output, their prospects to continue their careers within academics are deteriorating. At the same time, students are demanding more democratic decision-making and financial transparency, with a focus on quality instead of quantity. Learning and research have become part of a big-business type of environment, while academic standards are included in systems of accountability. This setting requests a more holistic perspective on higher education and what makes its practice succeed.

For those coming from further afield, you might be interested in combining your trip to HEC 2016 with the Higher Education Close Up 8 which will take place in Lancaster from 18th-20th July 2016, and has the theme Locating Social Justice in Close-Up Research in Higher Education.


Higher education as a field of research

Despite the importance and fluctuations of higher education as a sector, as research discipline, it is very diverse, fast growing through the massification of universities. This discipline is more practically than theoretically oriented, with only a small group of experienced researchers. It differs from other disciplines because of the few connections between the top EU-funded research and the broad bottom of empirical research. Higher education research within universities is located within a range of disciplines such as sociology, humanities, management studies, educational development and teacher training. Only a few established centers represent higher education research as a separate discipline. The focus on higher education research is limited in many countries. While the number of PhD’s in the field of higher education are increasing, their supervisors often do not have knowledge of higher education as a discipline. At the same time, policy makers are in need of new ideas for developing higher education, as well as evaluations of the current status quo. Therefore, it now time to develop new strategies for raising capacity in higher education, and enabling and further establishing closer links between the wider field of higher education research and its core stakeholders.