Policy as Wibbly-Wobbly

Responsible leader of the research: Taina Saarinen, PhD

Funding: University of Jyväskylä 2014–2015


The main goal of this project is to design new research strategies about language education policy. This is achieved in the higher education context by developing theoretical and methodological tools for multi-sited policy analysis. Ultimately, a better understanding of policies as multi-sited, i. e. as temporally and spatially fluid, will improve policymaking practices in societies.   The goal is achieved by   a) THEORIZING about the changing understanding of multi-sited policies in higher education policy making; b) Developing METHODOLOGIES for the study of networked and multi-sited education policies;  c) Conducting EMPIRICAL case studies in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Estonia and Latvia, in order to conduct a) and b); and c) Developing possibilities for SOCIETAL IMPACT by developing co-operation between researchers and policy makers.   Research on language policies within higher education (the empirical context of this study) has, until recently, been dominated by structural approaches, focusing on policy structures at local, national, regional and international level. Contemporary policy making, in turn, is increasingly networked (based on negotiation and consultation), as opposed to hierarchical (based on regulation and formal processes). This apparent mismatch between how policies are conducted (as networked and fluid) and how policies are researched (as structural and linear) is the founding challenge of this project.   The major academic impact of the project is to better conceptualize policy as networked and temporally fluid, and to develop theorization and methodologies for multi-sited policies. From the point of view of research in the field of languages and higher education policy, the project opens new possibilities for policy studies from a non-linear, dialogical point of view.  The data will consist of interviews, documents from various policy actors (including case universities), and observation data in five Nordic and Baltic higher education settings.