Transnational Administration and Global Policy

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In our conclusions, we discuss how knowledge alchemy is embedded in transnational administration and global policy making through numerical tools, imaginaries and narratives used across multiple policy domains and sectors. To further understand conventional power in contemporary national and transnational governance, this book has uncovered the mechanism that maintain and reinforce a generic process of knowledge alchemy, as well as its limitations. Global knowledge governance is increasingly travelling on digital train tracks, where its direction is set by the existing data and metrics shared by the indicator producers. These digital train tracks seem rather resistant to disruptions and alternative worldviews. We argue that the critical examination of global models and scripts and their changing nature also allows critical reflection over them, marking an opening for agency.

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In this chapter, we examine the knowledge alchemy involved in transforming academic mobility as a familiar act of academic travel to a commodified activity in today’s global competition for talent. In contemporary policy making, the assumed practices of the medieval scholar often inform the common image of an academic today. A visual that emerges is one of free flow of knowledge even though the actual practices of scholarly mobility – especially in medieval times – are hardly without incident. So why is this image so enduring and how does it affect our contemporary debates concerning the global competition for talent? For policy makers at multiple governance levels – university, national, regional and international – this image is ever present because a mobile scholar generates seemingly untold benefits, not least in scientific terms, and, more recently, economic competitiveness gains and cultural diversity.

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This chapter turns to the scripts and imaginaries of knowledge governance. To become effective, numerical knowledge needs to be narrated and communicated. We see actors referring to different imaginaries of knowledge governance that are linked to grand narratives of global megatrends, pointing to intensifying global economic competition through digitalization and innovation, as well as the implications for those countries, institutions or individuals left behind. The ranking producers have also identified automation as one of their observed megatrends, discussing it as the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ or ‘second machine age’, where digitalization and automation ultimately affect global competitiveness, innovation and knowledge governance. Moreover, innovation and knowledge creation are tightly linked to cities as innovation hubs, reflecting the global trend of urbanization as part of the broader modernization movement. ‘Talents’ are important in this storyline and the chapter argues that transnational knowledge governance operates on the perceptions of futures.

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This chapter provides an overview of the development of global rankings in good governance and higher education. Initially, the metrics dealt with good governance and competitiveness of countries, but since the 2000s the global rankings on higher education and innovation have emerged. Recently, city rankings have highlighted the importance of assessment of academic research and education. The effects of these rankings have been numerous, and innovation, higher education and academic life more generally have been increasingly governed by high-pace data-driven reforms, as for example our discussion on the case of Paris-Saclay University demonstrates.

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In this chapter, we discuss innovation rankings and city-level measurements of competitiveness that draw heavily from other indicators, hence echoing the hegemonic views and ideological undercurrents already present in the ranking field. The sharing of data is part of the evolving conventional power of data production on a global level. Empirically, we focus on four key indicators of knowledge governance and competitiveness that also reveal how the global ranking field has evolved: Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), Global Innovation Index (GII), Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GTCI) and Global Power City Index (GPCI). We analyse the convergence of the metrics of competitiveness, innovation and education and its implications on the policy script of ‘talent competition’. We conclude the chapter with closer analysis of the actors behind the GTCI.

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This book introduces the concept of ‘knowledge alchemy’ to capture the generic process of transforming mundane practices and policies of governance into competitive ones following imagined global gold standards. Using examples from North America, Europe and Asia, it explores how knowledge alchemy increasingly informs national and institutional policies and practices on economic performance, higher education, research and innovation. The book examines how governments around the world have embraced global models of the world-class university, human capital and talent competition as essential in ensuring national competitiveness. Through its analysis, the book shows how this strongly future-oriented and anticipatory knowledge governance is steered by a surge of global classifications, rankings and indicators, resulting in numerous comparisons of various domains that today form more constraining global policy scripts.

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In this chapter, we present our theoretical framework for studying knowledge alchemy – a generic process of transforming mundane practices and policies of knowledge governance into competitive ones following imagined global gold standards and universal symbolic formulas. We argue that knowledge alchemy is prevalent around the world, informing national and institutional policies and practices on global competitiveness, higher education and innovation. Given how interdependent the world remains, knowledge alchemy is also embedded in transnational administration and steers global policy making. To understand contemporary national and transnational governance, it is thus essential to know how knowledge alchemy unfolds across multiple policy domains and sectors.

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Models and Agency in Global Knowledge Governance

This book introduces the concept of ‘knowledge alchemy’ to capture the generic process of transforming mundane practices and policies of governance into competitive ones following imagined global gold standards. Using examples from North America, Europe and Asia, it explores how knowledge alchemy increasingly informs national and institutional policies and practices on economic performance, higher education, research and innovation.

The book examines how governments around the world have embraced global models of world-class university, human capital and talent competition as essential in ensuring national competitiveness. Through its analysis, the book shows how this strongly future-oriented and anticipatory knowledge governance is steered by a surge of global classifications, rankings and indicators, resulting in numerous comparisons of various domains that today form more constraining global policy scripts.

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This book introduces the concept of ‘knowledge alchemy’ to capture the generic process of transforming mundane practices and policies of governance into competitive ones following imagined global gold standards. Using examples from North America, Europe and Asia, it explores how knowledge alchemy increasingly informs national and institutional policies and practices on economic performance, higher education, research and innovation. The book examines how governments around the world have embraced global models of the world-class university, human capital and talent competition as essential in ensuring national competitiveness. Through its analysis, the book shows how this strongly future-oriented and anticipatory knowledge governance is steered by a surge of global classifications, rankings and indicators, resulting in numerous comparisons of various domains that today form more constraining global policy scripts.

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This chapter describes how policy makers and decision-makers developed and implemented strategies and policies based on the ‘talent’ imaginary and bring knowledge alchemy to life. By reviewing how the presuppositions revolving around the global competition for talent became integrated in higher education and university policies, migration policies, university recruitment practices and more, we show how the processes of globalization, internationalization and competition unfold across multiple policy sectors, institutions and governance levels. Here, policy makers and decision-makers use the notion of interdependence to describe the state of existence, but also to identify policy problems and solutions. To unpack how interdependence is interpreted and used, we organized this chapter to revolve around several case studies that span multiple governance levels: the macro-regional, the national and transregional, and at the city level. Our case selections are meant to be illustrative and not comprehensive, involving cities, countries and regions in the ‘West’ as well as the ‘East’. What our cases have in common is the centrality of the ‘talent’ competition imaginary, articulated through the competition narrative, driving knowledge governance.

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