Funded by DAAD – Higher Education Dialogue with South Europe 2021

Theme of the Summer School

Europe has faced several moments that have been labelled as crises in its recent past – the 2007/8 financial crisis; the so-called migration crisis after 2014; Brexit and its reverberations for political stability; the present Covid-19 crisis – and this has placed policy-making and governance under substantial distress. All these new and unexpected crises worked to exacerbate already long-lasting dilemmas in the multilevel relations between the European Commission, nation-states, regional and local authorities. Although experienced differently across the continent, with more or less “resilient” contexts (where Mediterranean countries, including Italy faced more severe problems compared to Continental and Northern countries, Germany included), these are major, across-the-board societal challenges as they become visible, for instance, in the difficult coordination of policy measures in many fields: education/training and youth policy is one of them, given the evidence of both their centrality in European policy-making (e.g. within the social investment state strategy), and the difficult social integration of younger generations. They also impacted the definition of principles and the limits of the continental subsidiarity model, and its ability to sustain both common goals and territorial differences, while at the same time enabling spatial justice, curbing inequalities in a diverse but united Europe.

The Summer School Surviving crises through education: a European challenge calls attention to issues related to the European Union’s crisis management through policy-making, using the field of education and training as a touchstone – namely issues related to the multilevel governance of policies in a specific area pertaining European youth. Closely related to this are questions as to the impact – intended as well as unintended – of these policies in creating economic growth and social inclusion while ensuring spatial justice and curbing inequalities across the continent.

Amidst efforts made to create a European knowledge-based society/economy, global and continental thrusts towards adopting specific models and governance principles in the field of education/training – such as ‘governing by numbers’ and comparative large-scale assessments such as PISA and the like – created standardizing pressures that tend to disregard different regional/national realities. Similarly, in a field where national path-dependency is utmost such as in youth policy, recent European initiatives and actions tackling so-called vulnerable groups (e.g. policies on Early School Leaving (ESL), on young people Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET), on improving school to work transitions, on youth employment, among the others) started not only mainstreaming specific understandings of active inclusion, but also yielding highly uneven effect on European regions due to their varying contextual and institutional arrangements.

The regulation of education is one of the building bricks of nation- and state-making in Europe, as much as the transition to labour markets calls into consideration the huge varieties among national capitalisms and ways of regulating economies – still differentiated notwithstanding common neoliberal trends and EU coordination processes. Finally, in the last 20 years at least, we are seeing an increasing return of territorial cleavages and inequalities, along different directions (urban/rural; centre/periphery; dynamic vs. lagging-behind regions; large metropolitan hubs vs. small towns), that impact also on institutional capacity and check and balances (e.g. redistribution), on the priorities, social problems and governance structures involving our target policies.

Focus and Orientation

The Summer School is interdisciplinary in orientation and geared to bringing together academic reflection and policy application perspectives into a conversation, contributing thus to a socio-political dialogue between Germany and Italy. The Summer School offers a unique occasion to explore these questions in depth with internationally renowned scholars from different fields and working in varied settings.

The different events involving established researchers and students at doctoral and MA levels from Germany and Italy offer both opportunity for an open dialogue about the social issues at stake and professional development training in the state-of-the-art in relevant academic debates. In focus are sociological debates surrounding issues of spatial justice, knowledge of policy developments in the fields of education and youth policy, and topics related to models of governance in the respective fields, including discussion of their European dimension and national repercussions.