Marek Kwiek and Heidi Fichter-Wolf received a research grant for a project Institutional Learning within Transborder University Cooperation and Its Contribution to European Integration (BORDERUNI), funded by German-Polish Foundation for Research. The project is coordinated by Heidi Fichter-Wolf (IRS Leibniz Institute, Erkner, Germany) and will last 24 months (2010-2012).
From German-Polish Border Space to the European Higher Education Space: Institutional Learning within Transborder University Cooperation and its Contribution to the European Integration (2010-2012) funded by The Polish-German Foundation for Science Referring to theories of the social construction of reality borders as well as border spaces are regarded as socially constructed and a product of human interaction. This project aims to study the specific role of cross-border university collaboration at the German-Polish border and their contribution for European integration on the regional level and in the context of the notion of a joint Europe of knowledge. The assumption is that the German-Polish border provides specific context conditions for learning processes between the different knowledge cultures. While different cultures meet in close contact learning processes may take place with the opportunity to develop knowledge about the process how one can cope with cultural based differences and how diversity of cultures could be made fruitful for European integration. Of special interest are the processes of how new bilateral institutional arrangements evolve between the collaborating universities on the one hand and with and within their regional environment (especially the regional economy) on the other hand. Based on our own former research in this area we assume: institution building in cross-border resp. transnational contexts is going through an iterative process of new perceptions, customs and habitual routines and may develop to new informal and formal rules and institutional arrangements. A conceptual framework referring to theories of social constructivism will serve for empirical analysis (see figure). The research will be approached from two different but interrelating perspectives: One focus is on the internal interaction processes of Polish-German cross-border collaborations with their ‘clashes’ of different institutional systems and academic cultures. The research concentrates on learning processes within every day procedures and investigates how new institutional arrangements may evolve. Of special interest are the hybrids of rules and structures which develop as new institutional arrangements in order to manage the cooperation process. The importance of these findings will be assessed in the wider context of European integration in higher learning: Which knowledge of intercultural learning can be transferred to the development of the European Higher Education Area and the notion of a joint Europe of knowledge? The other focus will be on external contacts and interaction processes of the cross-border universities in their regional environment. The processes of institutional learning and institution building will be looked upon with concern of the so called „third mission“ of universities – their regional mission in the German-Polish border area. The project will study several selected dimensions of external relations of the collaborating universities which seem of critical importance in current debates on the future roles of universities in the debates within emergent European Higher Education Area. The objectives of the project are twofold:
- To provide knowledge for the European integration process in higher learning and regional development on a practical level and
- to contribute to social science research and theory on intercultural learning and transnational institution building.