New post on Europe of Knowledge blog on world-class universities

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No problem, cat meme! Just visit the Ideas on Europe blog!

We live in an era of intense and growing international connections, but also in a world of significant positional differences between localities, states and regions.

In this context, how can the idea of the world-class university be used by states to survive and succeed? What does this idea look like in states that are outside of the European and North American “core”?

These are the questions I explore in a post published today, 5 February 2018, on the Europe of Knowledge blog. Please head over to to read the full article.

The Europe of Knowledge blog is the official blog for ECPR Standing Group on the Politics of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation. As the website explain, this Standing Group brings together scholars whose work relates to the deeply interconnected fields of higher education, research, and innovation to encourage debates and research on the politics and policies in these areas. The aim of the blog is to communicate scholars’ research findings to the wider international, academic and policy communities.

Many thanks to Dr Inga Ulnicane-Ozolina for the invitation to write for this blog, and to Jane Wolfson for stellar editorial support.


Culture and communication from China to Kyrgyzstan

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Chinese newspaper Shanghai Daily reports today on the rise of the Confucius Institute [en] in Kyrgyzstan. Confucius Institutes are non profit-making organisations connected to the Chinese Ministry of Education aiming to promote Chinese language and culture, somewhat akin to the British Council from the UK or the Goethe Instituts from Germany.

There are around 500 Confucius Institutes around the world after the first branch was opened in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in 2004. A few years ago, the Ministry of Education estimated that around 100 million people would by now be learning Chinese as a result of the Institutes’ language programmes.

Three Confucius Institutes operate in Kyrgyzstan, which shares a border with China. The aim of the Shanghai Daily article appears to be to raise awareness amongst its English language readership of the benefits that the Institutes and their staff are bringing for Kyrgyz people. It may be down to the translation from Chinese but the article does in places read like a propaganda piece:

The exhibition [that the Institute’s teacher from China organised to introduce China to local residents] turned out to be perfect, receiving a large number of student and teacher visitors.


Kyrgyz Education, Science and Culture Committee of Parliament has made positive comments on the Confucius Institutes in Kyrgyzstan, saying that thanks to the Confucius Institutes, Kyrgyzstan learns good teaching experience and methods.

China is a growing influence in Central Asia, much like in many other countries around the world. Chinese money is funding great new skyscrapers in Tajikistan, for example, and Chinese workers are now a common sight on building sites, in markets and so on.

But it’s not just one way, despite what you’d think from reading the Shanghai Daily report. A growing number of Central Asians are learning Chinese, not necessarily because they want to learn about China and its culture (ostensibly a key remit of the Confucius Institutes) but for economic benefit: with Chinese language they improve their employment prospects and expand the number of people they can do business with by a billion.

The Central Asian school and university students studying Chinese are making a shrewd move, but the even smarter students are the ones who also learn English (increasingly a global lingua franca), thus establishing themselves as truly global citizens who can operate pretty much anywhere around the world.