New global conference series on international higher education

A new series of global conferences on higher education internationalisation is being launched in August. The gatherings will take place in locations around the world every four years, generating inclusive debate and global guidance on critical issues in internationalisation, with the first to be held in South Africa.

The inaugural conference flows from a Global Dialogue of 24 international education organisations – the big associations from America and Europe as well as groups from Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia – held in January 2014 and hosted by the International Education Association of South Africa, IEASA.

Agreement was struck “to promote international higher education and research that recognises the richness and diversity offered by all regions for a global higher education agenda which is equitable, ethical, socially responsible, accessible and accountable”.

Participants from the emerging and developing worlds – particularly supported by the European Association for International Education – also articulated the need for a truly global conference every four years to provide the international higher education community with a platform for debate and guidance.

Inaugural conference

As agreed back then, the first global event will be hosted by IEASA at the Kruger National Park in South Africa from 22-24 August 2016, under the theme “A Global International Higher Education Commons – Evaluating and imagining the internationalisation of higher education”.

“The conference will be the meeting place of educators and practitioners representing all parts of global higher education. The topics for discussion will focus on the big issues currently influencing broader global society,” said Dr Nico Jooste, IEASA president and senior director of international education at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, South Africa.

Among issues currently impacting on higher education and its internationalisation include inequality, global migration, global warming and changing geo-politics. There will be discussions on ways to enhance the image and practices of higher education, including debates around curriculum and the internationalisation of research.

“It will be a conference within a setting that will allow the participants to reflect, imagine and steer international higher education. It will hopefully be the beginning of a process where participants from all over the world can deliberate as equals,” Jooste told University World News.

“This conference promises to provide a platform where all can meet to debate without fear of domination of one over the other, and will be arranged within the true spirit of Ubuntu [humanism], with all participants encouraged to improve the other and not the self.”

A call for papers has been held and 85 abstracts were submitted under the following sub-themes:
  • • The role of higher education and higher education internationalisation in addressing global issues – peace and reconciliation, migration, the environment, inequality and poverty.
  • • Bridging the inequality gap and its challenges, in order to make higher education internationalisation truly global and inclusive.
  • • Latest innovations in higher education internationalisation practice that bring the developing and the developed world closer together.
  • • The post-Cold War geo-political positioning of the world and its influence on higher education internationalisation.
  • • Collaboration between national and regional organisations in advancing higher education internationalisation.
  • • National and regional higher education internationalisation strategies and policies.
The deliberations will be published in book form and made available to a global audience.

The Global Dialogue

At the Global Dialogue in 2014, held at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth in South Africa, the international education groups agreed on the “Nelson Mandela Bay Global Dialogue Declaration on the Future of Internationalisation of Higher Education”.

As reported by University World News at the time, it stressed “the importance of decision-making and practices in the development of internationalisation activities that are imbued by ethical considerations of inclusivity”.

The participants agreed that the future internationalisation agenda should in particular concentrate on three integrated areas of development: enhancing aspects of quality and diversity in programmes involving the mobility of students and staff; increasing focus on internationalisation of the curriculum and of related learning outcomes; and gaining global commitment for equal and ethical higher education partnerships.

Commenting afterwards, Jooste and Professor Hans de Wit, now director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College in the United States, said that it was time for other organisations to join the International Association of Universities in global dialogue.

“Internationalisation – more than anything else – cannot take place only within national and regional boundaries. It has to become truly equal and international.”

University World News is a media partner to the first Global Conference on Higher Education Internationalisation.