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This contribution re-examines the transnational circulation of policy schemes relative to Higher Education governance. It focuses on the relations between international and European organisations (Council of Europe, European Commission, OECD, UNESCO), characterised by competition followed by cooperation and international division of tasks. In order to explain the conditions under which higher education / knowledge policies circulate, we need to take into account not only the political and ideational positioning of these IOs but also the material aspects of their relationships. IOs appear as paradoxical arenas of knowledge circulation. Deemed as powerful and influent, they face unequal access to resources and uncertainty. While acknowledging their role as global players, I will stress their (inter)dependence and the multiple ways they struggle to maintain their position.