Projects / Programmes source: ARIS

Neoliberalism in the European Higher Education Area: Between the Efficiency and Equity of Slovenian Education Policies and Practices

Research activity

Code Science Field Subfield
5.01.00  Social sciences  Educational studies   

Code Science Field
S000  Social sciences   

Code Science Field
5.03  Social Sciences  Educational sciences 
education, efficiency and equity, neoliberalizm, PISA, European educational space, Slovenia
Evaluation (rules)
source: COBISS
Researchers (8)
no. Code Name and surname Research area Role Period No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  11753  PhD Slavko Gaber  Sociology  Researcher  2016 - 2018  458 
2.  04159  PhD Zdenko Kodelja  Educational studies  Head  2016 - 2018  726 
3.  37402  PhD Živa Kos  Educational studies  Researcher  2016 - 2018  77 
4.  28361  PhD Ana Kozina  Educational studies  Researcher  2016 - 2018  363 
5.  13247  PhD Mojca Štraus  Educational studies  Researcher  2016 - 2018  234 
6.  32315  PhD Urška Štremfel  Educational studies  Researcher  2016 - 2018  371 
7.  31048  PhD Veronika Tašner  Educational studies  Researcher  2016 - 2018  188 
8.  14015  PhD Valerija Vendramin  Anthropology  Researcher  2016 - 2018  283 
Organisations (2)
no. Code Research organisation City Registration number No. of publicationsNo. of publications
1.  0553  Educational Research Institute  Ljubljana  5051614000  6,967 
2.  0588  University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Education  Ljubljana  1627082  30,726 
THE THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK of the project is provided by contemporary discussions on policy instruments (including international comparative assessment studies) by means of which the European Commission leads, steers and supervises the Member States, with the aim of the states achieving their goals through collective problem-solving. Attention is on the issue of neoliberal conception of the European educational space and its impact on the development and implementation of national education policies. This process is essentially determined by the concept of evidence-based policy making. The focus is on students' achievements, which the Member States – based on a culture of performativity - compare by means of international comparative achievement studies and rankings. The European Commission and other international organisations (e.g. OECD) use these rankings and mostly simplified analyses of the data to recommend measures for (supposed) improvements of the countries' educational efficiency and economic competitiveness. These recommendations are often based on the ideas of neoliberalism, and measures aimed at improvements are thus grounded on the principle of efficiency, while other important principles, such as the principle of equity, are left aside. This leaves unanswered the SCIENTIFICALLY-RELEVANT question about the (non)complementarity of the principles of efficiency and equity in the efforts of reaching European educational objectives. The question is addressed in this project, and the answer to this question is of crucial importance for ensuring that principles of the educational development are followed in Slovenia.   THE PROJECT AIMS to develop and use a complex theoretical framework and in-depth empirical analyses to undertake a critical assessment of whether the efficiency and equity of education policies and practices are truly complementary, and whether high performance in international comparative assessment studies can, in Slovenia, be effectively achieved at the same time as the principle of equity in education policies and practices is respected to a greater extent.   The following METHODOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK will be used: a) An innovative selection and combination of complex education theories and concepts combined with philosophical theories (Mauret, 1999; Van Parijs, 1991); political science theories of the new mode of governance, evidence-based policy making and policy learning; anthropological theories and the feminist theory of education (Ringrose, 2013; Francis and Skelton, 2005), as well as psychology theories in the context of the socio-behavioural-cognitive paradigm and the self-determination theory (Ryan and Deci, 2008). b) A critical discourse analysis of formal and legal sources, whose contents and principles steer actors' activities at transnational, national and school levels. c) Three case studies, as part of which an interdisciplinary epistemological and methodological framework will be developed for in-depth secondary analyses of existing data derived from international comparative assessment studies (e.g. PISA), which, in Slovenia, have so far not been utilised optimally, and for the development of new indicators for interpreting the results of these studies. New indicators, developed by means of a conceptual apparatus of various disciplines and educational issues relevant in different contexts, are focused not only on the achievements, but also on the significance of background factors as indicators of equity of the education system (the socio-economic gradient, actual gender equality, wellbeing, and social and emotional skills).   Analyses of internationally comparable data, with simultaneous integration of the knowledge about country-specific education-related problems, will enable a productive critical debate, efficient use of study results, as well as formulation of PROPOSALS FOR IMPROVING EDUCATION POLICIES AND PRACTICES.
Significance for science
THE ORIGINAL PROJECT DESIGN can briefly be summarised as an innovative (previously unused) combination of theoretical approaches; submission of a project-specific (innovative) analytical model and an in-depth case study in the field where in-depth empirical studies are lacking. Based on the hitherto conducted research it can be claimed that, with its previously explained innovative approach, the project makes for an alternative means of research, the findings of which can be used to – from at least one point of view (i.e. by painting the social reality) – explain the impact of the new modes of EU governance on the Member States and the consequent convergence of the European educational space, thereby contributing to otherwise lively theoretical discussions in this field. The results of the project, with its new findings about the factors that are associated with the acquisition and use of knowledge, represent an important added value to the development of educational sciences. The direct focus of the project will be exploring the characteristics (the socio-economic gradient, gender, wellbeing) (of a group) of students, for whom it is possible to establish the inadequacy of educational policies and practices for addressing their educational needs.   THE SCIENTIFIC IMPACT will be provided through enhancing the presence of the issue in question (neoliberal ideas within education in a post-socialist environment of the new EU Member States) in a comparable European environment; this will be achieved by means of scientific publications in high-indexed scientific journals in the field of educational sciences (defined in detail in Section 16 - The Operational Plan (Operativni načrt)). Thus, the socio-economic impact is also expected to be achieved through spreading (Slovenian) scientific excellence within the European research area.   The interdisciplinary project design allows for enhancing the results of educational research through scientific approaches and findings of other sciences. By developing its own indicators for the definition of the key concepts of equality (the socio-economic gradient, actual gender equality, wellbeing), the project also constitutes an added value when it comes to the development of Slovenian terminology in the field of educational sciences. The interdisciplinarily designed and mixed-age research team represents an important contribution to the scientific development of the younger members of the project team.   Another area that needs to be pointed out in relation to this is the link of young researchers' programme of work to the contents of the proposed project. Integration of young and younger researchers in the project, whose contents are significant in filling a research-related void in this field, will ensure this important (yet previously largely disregarded) field of educational sciences will be addressed thoroughly in the future.
Significance for the country
RESULTS OF THE PROJECT will be not only scientifically excellent and relevant, but will - as policy recommendations based on the project findings - also be SOCIO-ECONOMICALLY USEFUL for further development of the education system in Slovenia. The results will contribute to the pursuit of strategic objectives according to which Slovenia should be ranked in the top third of countries participating in international comparative assessments (White Paper, 2011), while also respecting the principles of equity and efficiency in the policy field, which is of key importance for the national identity of each nation (Beukel, 2001).   The results of the project represent an APPLIED ADDED VALUE in understanding the new mode of governance within the EU in the field of education policies. They provide information to the actors in the European educational space for further development of methods of joint co-operation. In the circumstances when ??Member States' joint co-operation takes place in a relatively new area, the field of ??education, the EU actors and institutions endeavour to (re)create the instruments of a new mode of governance in a way that will prove useful and acceptable to Member States, but that will at the same time allow the EU as a whole to achieve common goals in the field of education. It needs to be pointed out that the two principles highlighted by the European Commission (2006) as especially important are educational efficiency and equity. The project results will show Slovenian policy decision-makers and other actors the importance of in-depth research of international assessments to support the efficiency and equity of the education system. It is also necessary to highlight the need for international assessments to be used for the state's own development of the education system and to try to avoid being driven by "blind faith". Appropriate use of expert data, which can be derived from international assessments, can, in fact, provide for the preservation of national specificities and the educational quality, and aid in not recklessly accepting the neoliberal assumptions (Grek, 2008). THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC OUTCOMES of the project are shown in the exploitation of the vast data acquired from international assessments, which, in Slovenia, have not yet been optimally utilised for the educational development. It needs to be emphasised that only by means of in-depth secondary analyses, as anticipated by the project, and with simultaneous integration of knowledge about national educational issues, can the state have the opportunity for productive critical debates, efficient use of results and improvement of education policies and practices, and the consequent economic development of society.   By addressing the questions about the (non-) complementarity of the educational efficiency and equity in Slovenia the project will prepare a platform for raising the quality of the Slovenian education system and for youths' successful transition into the labour market.
Most important scientific results Interim report, final report
Most important socioeconomically and culturally relevant results Interim report, final report
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