The Europeanisation of Education
Name: Nafsika Alexiadou
In times of a growing European integration, education is no longer an issue that every member state of the European Union (EU) deals with all by itself. Nafsika Alexiadou studies how this Europeanisation impacts national educational systems and education policy.
European policies aim to align the educational systems towards common objectives. The Bologna process sets European standards in higher education, but compulsory schooling is also under the pressure to produce certain outcomes. Surveys like PISA (The Programme for International Student Assessment), have received a lot of public attention and highlighted the different qualities (and shortcomings) of education in OECD countries, causing many states to implement changes in similar directions. Nafsika Alexiadou, Associate Professor at Umeå University’s Department of Applied Educational Sciences, explores these issues of global governance of education and its relationship with national policy making.
“My research focuses in particular on the europeanisation of education and education policy. I want to understand how the process of the European integration impacts on the educational systems in the member states. Currently, I am working on a case study about how European education policies are received in the UK, and how the national institutions respond to them,” Nafsika Alexiadou explains.
Her area of research is rather new. “The EU did not start to formulate an education policy until the year 2000. It is not legislation but a benchmark, outcome-based, approach. The EU sets goals, but the member states decide on their own how to reach them. However, this is not a top-down process. The European Commission and the member states influence each other, hence national institutions and actors can influence the policy,” Nafsika Alexiadou says. “This is what I find most interesting about my research area. Education is such a dynamic and evolving field; it will never be fully explored.”
The European financial crisis gives Nafsika Alexiadou’s research area an even greater relevance today. Education is influenced by many different factors, not least by the economy. “The European financial crisis raises a lot of questions concerning education. New questions, but also old questions in different circumstances, for example: How is the education system responding to the changes due to the crisis in different countries? What happens to already disadvantaged and immigrant children when the government cuts back expenses for education?”
A future special issue of Education Inquiry, an on-line journal published at Umeå University that is co-edited by Nafsika Alexiadou, will deal with this topic of “education in crisis”. Authors from various European states that have been hit hard by the crisis, like Ireland, Italy, Portugal or Greece, will write about how their educational systems respond to the pressure. “The journal is already international. My goal is to establish its international reach and reputation even further”, Nafsika Alexiadou says.
Nafsika Alexiadou herself comes from a country that is suffering hard from the crisis. She is originally from Thessaloniki in Greece, but lived and worked in the United Kingdom since 1999. In 2009, she met a professor from the Umeå School of Education at a conference in Vienna, who told her about an open position in Umeå. “Sweden was not a place that I had thought of before,” Nafsika Alexiadou recalls. Having never been to Sweden before, she took on the challenge and moved up north. “I was pleasantly surprised when I came to Umeå. The people are very warm, friendly and hospitable, and I enjoy the collegial atmosphere in the department. Everything is very social. I like the open meeting spaces for staff, but also for the students. They allow a culture of learning to take place.”
Nafsika Alexiadou’s career path has definitely been the right choice. “Being a university academic is one of the most interesting professions because you can always be surprised and learn something new,” she says with gratitude.
Name: Nafsika Alexiadou
Profession: Associate Professor at the Department of Applied Educational Sciences
Leisure activities: reading, drinking coffee in one of the nice cafés downtown
Likes to read: contemporary Greek literature, historical novels, fantasy
Likes to eat: fish, discover new food