|dc.description.abstract||The international conditions of higher education have never been so much emphasised as in the last decade. This new scenario is shaped especially by the growing influence of external processes in the higher education arena, such as the need for comparable skills in a world with increased flow of labour. As a secular institution committed to producing knowledge, higher education finds itself at the centre of the stage when it is required to play multiple roles as the production (and reproduction) of knowledge are increasingly considered a fundamental instrument for societal development.
The establishment of common regional frameworks in higher education is one of the consequences of the impact of the external conditions in this sector. The intergovernmental European initiative for building a common area through the Bologna Process can be seen as an exemplary case of regionalisation of practices in higher education. Moreover, it has had impacts in other parts of the world, such as in Australia, Africa and Latin America.
In this context, this thesis aims at exploring the unprecedented process of shaping an inter-regional common area in higher education among the European Union and the Latin America and Caribbean regions. The ALCUE common area will be composed by 60 national systems, and should be established by 2015.
The study focuses on two of the participant regions in the ALCUE common area: Latin America and the European Union, with a special interest on the dynamics and rationale of this common area to the Latin partner. The case study is the strategy adopted to explore the ALCUE process. It is analysed in four dimensions: actors, sequence, objectives and instruments. Each dimension is operationalised as a set of questions to be applied in the analysis of the process’s trajectory and official documents.
The arguments for analysing this unique arrangement were drawn from the neo-institutionalist approach, as well as from theories of regional integration based on the European perspective. From these theories, three arguments were identified: a power and interest argument, a spillover argument, and an institutionalist argument. What is more, the concept of diffusion of institutional models offers a theoretical support for the understanding of the ALCUE process. In order for diffusion processes to happen, there should be a match among three aspects: outside impulses, internal institutional traditions, and a connection in terms of historical institutional experiences.
The analysis reveals that the ALCUE common area still has a long trajectory to follow until its establishment. The reasons for that can be resumed in four points. First, this process is lead basically by the governmental representatives that compose the Follow-up Committee, without much involvement of other stakeholders. The Committee develops instruments and activities to implement the objectives defined by the Ministerial meetings. Second, there is a stronger involvement of the delegations from European Union and Latin America in the decision-making for the process, at the same, little paticipation and interest of the Caribbean in it. A third factor relates to the analysis of the objectives of the ministerial meetings. There is very little consistency in the ALCUE agenda. Over time, the objectives drawn in the second Ministerial meeting (2005) link to a very little extent to the aims proposed in the original agreement (2000). Finally, the fourth point is on the position of the Committee in restricting the involvement of external initiatives in building the common area, even though they pursue similar goals of bringing the two regions together.
In terms of diffusion of European models to external actors, the analysis points to an existing, yet limited diffusion of European practices. There is a mismatch of internal institutional dynamics in higher education between the two regions. Despite the existing historical traditions between the two regions, and the similar external conditions to which their higher education systems are exposed to, the difference on the higher education practices of these actors, in particular on the regulatory frames within Latin America, is a major aspect in the establishment of this common area. It may represent the most critical condition for this common area to become reality.||nor