Balancing Expertise, Societal Input and Political Control in the Production of Policy Advice

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Jan Van Damme Marleen Brans Ellen Fobé


In this paper we analyse (semi-)permanent advisory bodies in the field of education (education councils) in Europe. Such advisory bodies are often set up by government to increase policy legitimacy. To the extent that their members are strongly concerned and knowledgeable stakeholders, advisory bodies are expected to contribute to policy decisions that are more efficient and effective (output legitimacy). At the same time, these advisory processes are supposed to contribute to democracy, as they strengthen the input and process legitimacy of policy making. Stakeholders are provided with a point of access to the policy making arena (input legitimacy) and the process of advice production is supposed to follow certain norms such as transparency, fairness, and deliberation (process legitimacy). However, such advisory bodies operate in a competitive policy environment where advice is coming from multiple sources and with different claims to legitimacy. Therefore, they have to be able to gain and sustain access to the policy making process. Not only the advice itself needs to be of high quality and of high relevance, the advisory body itself also needs to establish and maintain a high status in order for their advice to be taken into account. Advisory bodies are hence challenged to function as ‘boundary organisations’, bridging the worlds of science, state and society, tailoring to the needs of different actors. In this paper we analyse the role and functioning of education councils as boundary organisations, on the basis of recent comparative research in which six European education councils were studied (Greek, Spanish, Flemish, Portuguese, Dutch and Estonian council).

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