Opportunity, Presence and Entrepreneurship: Why the EU Acts Externally on Higher Education

Publication Date: 
15 March 2021
Wiley Online Library
Publication Place: 
Publication Language: 
Appearing in: 
Journal of Common Market Studies

In recent times, the European Union’s external engagement has expanded in originally internal policy areas. This process is particularly intriguing in areas where the EU possesses only supplementary competences. Examining the case of EU higher education policy, this contribution sets out to understand and explain EU external engagement in such areas. To this end, it employs an explanatory framework that argues that EU external action emerges when a structural policy window of external ‘opportunity’ and domestic ‘presence’ opens, which is exploited by ‘policy entrepreneurs’. The contribution compares two pillars of EU higher education policy – the Tempus and Erasmus Mundus programmes – which it sets in relation to the emergence of external action in other EU higher education initiatives. Offering an explanation of why the EU engages externally in higher education, the contribution concludes by discussing the broader generalizability of its findings.