'Nordic added value’: a floating signifier and a mechanism for Nordic higher education regionalism

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This paper contributes to the theoretical debate over a global upsurge in higher education (HE) regionalisms which pursue different region-building processes and create policy spaces beyond national boundaries. Focusing on the Nordic countries, the paper studies parallel processes of intra-Nordic and European HE and research cooperation. Although individual Nordic countries opt for different kinds of relationships with the European Union (EU), they have participated in the Europeanisation process of HE and research while intensifying their Nordic regional identity. Drawing on spatial logics in European integration and HE regionalism theories, the concept of ‘Nordic added value’ (NAV) and three Nordic flagship programmes, this paper addresses two questions: What are the links and outcomes of parallel regionalising processes of the EU-Nordic and intra-Nordic cooperation in HE and research? How has ‘Nordic added value’ been utilised to strengthen Nordic HE regionalism?

The paper argues that spatial logics provide new and holistic understandings of rationales for region-building processes, whereas NAV, being a floating signifier, generates regionalising ideas and functions as a distinctive mechanism of Nordic HE regionalism. Both spatial logics and NAV render opportunities for Nordic regional imaginaries, identity-building and Nordic-EU mutual policy learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-160
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean Journal of Higher Education
Issue number2
Early online date29 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


NordForsk’s funding mechanism is both regional and national, and characterised by the ‘common pot principle’. A common pot for each programme is created by the financial contributions of each participating country through national funding agencies/research councils (2/3) and the Nordic Council of Ministers (1/3). The contribution by a country is determined by the fraction of its gross domestic product. A NordForsk regional research programme is expected to align with national priorities and initiatives. However, the principle of funding allocation is described as a ‘real common pot with no fair return’ which means that the merits of joint grant applications determine the allocation, not the amount each participating country has contributed to the pot (Administrator, interview 2).


  • European integration
  • Higher education regionalism
  • Nordic added value
  • floating signifier
  • spatial logics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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