School of Law

Research Student: Andrea Gideon

European Higher Education Institutions under EU Law constraints: An interdisciplinary analysis of the position of European higher education institutions between directly applicable EU law and their public service mission

Photo of Andrea Gideon

The thesis investigates the impact of EU law and policy on the Member States’ higher education institution (HEI) sectors with a particular emphasis on the exposure of research in universities to EU competition law. This study is exceptionally well-suited to illustrate how applying EU economic law to formerly public sectors can create tensions between the economic and the social in the EU. Given the reluctance of the Member States to openly develop an EU level HEI policy, these tensions appear as unintended consequences of the traditional application of Treaty provisions such as those on Union citizenship, free movement and competition to the HEI sector which may endanger the traditional non-economic mission of European HEIs. Whilst the effects of Union citizenship and free movement law on HEIs have received some attention, the impact of EU competition law constitutes a largely unexplored site.

The thesis submits that intended and unintended consequences of the EU economic constitutions are enhanced by a parallel tendency of Member States to commercialise formerly public sectors such as the HEI sector. Here, commercialisation is mirrored in offering study places only against substantive fees instead of as a public service funded from the public purse and in encouraging universities to compete for public research funding as well to attract funding from the private sector. This kind of commercialisation makes HEIs vulnerable to the seemingly inevitable pulls of internal market law which might, in turn, lead to further commercialisation. The thesis investigates the potential problems through doctrinal analysis and a qualitative study focussing on the exposure of HEI research to EU competition law as an underresearched example of exposure to economic constraints. It concludes that such exposure may compromise the wider aims that research intensive universities pursue in the public interest.

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