For my first blog post of 2021, I’m very pleased to share a new peer-reviewed journal article. It explores China and Russia’s efforts to construct a higher education region in Eurasia and also examines the responses of policymakers in Central Asia to these initiatives. The abstract (summary) is below, along with a link to obtain a free copy of the article.
Before introducing it, I wanted to share a few words about how the article came into being. As a researcher myself, I’m always curious to know how people settle on their research interests and how they find the process of collaborating when co-authoring. I also thought this ‘how we did it’ post would be of interest to readers who are newer to the publishing world, and to those outside that space who are curious about what happens behind the scenes of a journal article.
The idea came about more than two years ago when I first met my brilliant co-author Natalia Leskina at a conference (remember the days when conferences were in-person…) and heard her present some of her work on higher education regionalism in Eurasia. We chatted over drinks and decided to keep in touch.
In 2019 I was invited to guest edit an issue of Higher Education in Russia & Beyond and decided to continue exploring the theme of regionalism in higher education in a series of short non-academic essays. The collection naturally included a piece by Natalia. Incidentally, her essay was picked up and re-published by University World News and it tickled us when one of the anonymous reviewers of our article suggested that we should cite her work – of course we were happy to add it in!
After an invitation to present at the 3rd Ghent Russia colloquium later in 2019, we began work on the article that would become Constructing a Eurasian higher education region. We kept in touch by email with the occasional long WhatsApp call to discuss our work, divide up tasks, etc. We shared our drafts and references in a Dropbox folder. Following the conference, we were invited to submit a full length version of the article to a special issue of the journal Eurasian Geography and Economics.
We submitted the manuscript in April 2020, with Natalia pressing the ‘submit’ button while I eagerly watched via Zoom. Feedback was prompt (comparatively speaking – I’ve waited a year or more in other cases), coming three months later. The two anonymous reviewers really engaged with our work but felt that it would need significant changes before it could proceed.
The journal decided on a ‘reject and resubmit’ response which to begin with felt quite dispiriting. The word ‘reject’ was intimidating and had we not had a firm conviction that our article was worth publishing, we might easily have given up at this point. We both took some time to digest the comments made by the reviewers, do some further reading, and to think about our next steps.
One of the advantages of working with someone else is that you can motivate each other to keep going, and so it was that we began the process of revisions, although this was delayed at my end by my PhD defence (viva) in September.
The changes we made were substantial and we had a chance to present our updated work at an online conference in August 2020 (you can watch our presentation here). Feedback from the special issue editors and the conference panellists helped, and one of the reviewers had also provided some excellent suggestions.
Fast forward to the end of the year and the shiny new version – complete with a new theoretical lens (overlapping regionalism), analytical focus (‘points of correspondence’) and organization of the paper – was resubmitted.
From there everything was very quick. The editor liked the new version and, subject to a small number of very minor changes, accepted it. We made the changes, proofed the pre-print version and in January 2021 the article appeared online!
Thanks to everyone who supported our research along the way, as well as to those of you reading this post who will go on to read our paper. There’s scope for a lot more research on higher education regionalism in general (particularly beyond the European Union), on the notion that we introduce about ‘points of correspondence’ to describe the emerging relationship between Russia and China, as well as in actively examining the agency of Central Asian policymakers as they negotiate these external visions.
Constructing a Eurasian higher education region: “Points of correspondence” between Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union and China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Central Asia
By Natalia Leskina and Emma Sabzalieva in Eurasian Geography and Economics
The Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) intersect and overlap in Central Asia at the heart of Eurasia. Whereas the literature has commonly focused on the economic aspects of these major regional policy initiatives, efforts to create a common Eurasian higher education space through these regionalisms have barely been studied. In response, this paper compares the development of Russian and Chinese led visions for Eurasian higher education regionalism in Central Asia and the extent to which these constructions overlap. The paper also sheds lights on the perspectives of Central Asian states by investigating how these countries are approaching these efforts to construct a Eurasian higher education region. The conceptual framework brings together higher education regionalism with overlapping regionalism and takes a policy-oriented methodological approach. The paper introduces the new term of “points of correspondence” based on language used in both Russian and Chinese policy discourse to explain how constructions of a Eurasian higher education region can overlap without duplicating or flowing into each other. “Points of correspondence” emphasizes neither competition nor collaboration but rather the ongoing pursuit to find ideas and policy tools that best fit one another.
*In the event that the 50 free copies have all been downloaded, please message me to make alternative arrangements.