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Accepted Paper:

A "periphery from within": accepting and resisting European trends in Latvian higher education  
Ieva Raubisko

Paper short abstract:

Based on an auto-ethnographic study of employment at a Latvian university, this paper focuses on Latvia as a "periphery from within" European higher education where global/ European trends and requirements may be altered or challenged, despite their formal recognition and partial implementation.

Paper long abstract:

Since 1999, Latvia has been a member of the Bologna Process which aims to develop a more coherent higher education in Europe. As an EU country, Latvia has also endorsed the EU priorities for higher education, such as raising the quality and relevance of education, connecting education with research and innovation, and creating efficient models of education governance and funding.

Yet recent attempts at reform by the Latvian Ministry of Education calling for the reduction and consolidation of higher education sector based on external quality assessments and introduction of free-market principles in university and student financing have met with fierce resistance from university boards and also some student groups.

This paper focuses on the peculiar concurrence and interface of new discourses and long-standing patterns and structures. It examines how the agendas originating in the world's centres of academic excellence, as well as EU higher education policies are fully endorsed on rhetorical level, yet stalled or only partially introduced on practical level. Liberalization and commodification of higher education is approached as an equivocal and paradoxical process whereby what is considered "good education" by local Western-educated academics cannot be provided not or not only because of neoliberal approach to education, but rather or also due to structural and idiosyncratic resistance to neoliberal reforms.

Panel P041
Higher education and transnational academic hierarchies: anthropological work in/on the academic periphery
  Session 1