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Council of Europe: Mobilising Democratic Values for a European/Global Higher Education Governance Model

Susana Jorge de Melo

This chapter examines the role of the Council of Europe (CoE) in developing ideological cohesiveness within the European region through its higher education agenda and programme. Poor in resources and in supranational political power, the CoE has evolved as a European post-war intergovernmental organisation aimed at ensuring respect for liberal democracy and human rights in its member countries. In the field of higher education, it is an actor currently involved in the development of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), the follow-up of the Lisbon Recognition Convention, and the implementation of joint programmes with the European Commission in South East European countries. My analysis asks: how the democratic values that the CoE aims to safeguard have been mobilised for the formulation and dissemination of a common approach to university politics and governance? The study is informed by discourse analysis of various materials produced in the past decade in the context of a set of multi-scalar governance activities organised by the CoE for the purpose of thinking of universities as 'sites of citizenship' and as promoters of a 'democratic culture'. I conclude that the conceptual consensus achieved has been significant in two ways: first, it succeeds in being complementary - and not a conflicting alternative - to the European Union's steering of the 'Europe of Knowledge'; second, it has had a political/discursive repercussion in the definition of a vision of what the EHEA should be.

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