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This book has provided an in-depth appreciation of EU law constraints on European higher education institutions (HEIs) as an example of tensions between EU economic and social integration. It has been argued that exposure to EU (economic) law may compromise the wider aims that European HEIs traditionally pursue in the public interest. The analysis has been conducted using an interdisciplinary approach combining legal doctrinal and empirical research with insights from other disciplines such as political science and education studies; thereby contributing a distinctive legal dimension to existing research which is nevertheless grounded in research in other disciplines and in empirical study.

Chapter 1 illuminated the background of the tensions between economic and social integration as regards HEIs by explaining the traditional mission of European HEIs and by situating European HEI policy within the context of European integration theories. Chapter 2 then investigated the position of HEIs in European (EU and beyond) policy and the potential of spill-over from seemingly unrelated provisions of EU law. It has been shown that there is a tendency towards commodification of HEIs, inter alia, influenced by research and education policies at the European level. Nevertheless, despite increasing EU level activity in these policy areas, the main competences for research and education remain with the Member States. At the same time, their policy choices have to comply with directly applicable EU law which might cause spill-over potentially leading to more commodification. The first two chapters thus related the discussion of EU law constraints from potential spill-over of constitutionalised provisions of EU law to European integration theory explaining the theoretical foundations of such potential spill-over and linked the discussion of EU law constraints on HEIs to the discussion on the position of HEIs in Europe which takes place more widely in other disciplines, but had received only limited attention from a legal studies perspective, despite legal consequences having the potential to significantly influence the relevant policy areas.

In order to illuminate the potential constraints the subsequent chapters were dedicated to analysing this issue specifically for the area of competition law. As a first step in this endeavour Chap. 3 explored potential EU competition law spillover on HEIs, a thus-far largely unexplored area, in an in-depth legal doctrinal analysis. Furthermore, the project included a comparative empirical study to test the findings of the legal doctrinal analysis on the systems of HEI research in three Member States chosen on the basis of their varying degree of commodification. As part of this study the research systems of England (UK), the Netherlands and Germany have been detailed and doctrinally analysed for their susceptibility to EU competition law in Chap. 4. This has then been complemented by an empirical phase in which the potential problems were tested against realities described by experts in research offices in a variety of universities chosen from three categories established on the basis of age and international ranking positions. To conduct the empirical study a novel framework had been developed based on the results of the general competition law analysis in Chap. 3 as well as on the results of the tentative competition analysis for the three countries in Chap. 4. Additionally, the interviewees were also questioned as to their awareness of competition law and on other constraints they might experience or foresee. The developed methodology of the empirical study and the results were presented in Chap. 5. The conclusions of the book are thus not only drawn from legal doctrinal analysis, but are also based on the realities of research funding in the institutions studied. Therefore, although a qualitative study is not representative, it does provide some insight into the problems universities actually face. This is not only interesting from an academic point of view, but might also make policy makers and professionals in HEIs aware of the potential consequences of the current developments. Additionally, the results and, in particular good practices, could be utilised by policy makers at national and at the EU level in order to circumvent potential problems in future policy settings. As such the findings have relevance beyond the universities and countries under scrutiny.

This last chapter will bring together the results from all previous chapters (Sects. 6.2 and 6.3), highlight more specifically the potential consequences and set these into the wider context (Sect. 6.4) thereby answering the research question of how EU law and policy (could) impact on the HEI sector with a specific focus on potential constraints from EU competition law on research in HEIs as an example of exposure to economic constraints. It will then proceed to briefly assess how more recent tentative attempts to align policies at the EU level affected the situation (Sect. 6.5) and discuss alternatives (Sect. 6.6) before a final conclusion (Sect. 6.7).

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