How US universities lobby for their interests

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

In this article, Dr Marco Althaus from the German Institute for Public Affairs (DIPA) analyses the lobbying structures of universities in the United States and concludes that they have professionalised their structures considerably during the past 15 years.

According to the study, academic lobbyists reacted positively when the Democrats won back the majority in the US Congress in November 2006. The Democrats are known to be more supportive of education and science issues than the Republicans, who slashed the budget for education when they won the majority in Congress in 1994 and after George W. Bush won the presidential elections in 2000. But during the Republican hegemony, academic lobbyists had reformed and adapted to the new circumstances.

Due to their struggle to survive after the ‘Republican Revolution’ the interest representations of the universities transformed radically – one could call it a paradigm shift. Today the lobby is politically neutral, sustainable, more aggressive and the degree of professionalism has increased. 

The large variety within US academia is reflected in the fragmented landscape of its interest-representation. The cultural gap between academia and politics is a not-to-be-underestimated barrier – the numerous co-operation projects between academic institutions and the industry lead to more potential coalition partners but they also complicate the management of interests and increase the need for steering. 

A powerful instrument is the strong alumni tradition in the United States which can be a considerable advantage for institutions – the stronger a university is anchored in society and the more its stakeholders are able to attract the attention of political actors, the more likely it is to protect and promote its interests. 

Click here to read the full analysis (in German).

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