800 leaders from around the world today attended the opening of Going Global 2016, the world’s largest highest education conference, organised by the British Council and taking place in Africa for the first time.
At the opening plenary session of the conference in Cape Town, Dr Blade Nzimande, the South African Minister for Higher Education and Training, told the audience of ministers, higher education leaders, policy-makers, vice-chancellors and institutional heads, that South African universities make a significant contribution to supporting education on the continent.
Dr Nzimande said, “Our universities have a big role to play in our quest as Africa to develop and to deal successfully with the challenges facing our countries. One of the main things that we need is for our academics to undertake research and produce quality outputs that in the end will inform policy and influence positive outcomes for the greater good of society. We must deliberately seek to change the location of our continent in knowledge production from consumer to producer of globally respected knowledge.”
Dr Nzimande commented on the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, saying, “It highlighted in my view the urgent need for the higher education sector here, and abroad, to champion a necessary process of constant academic and cultural transformation to, among other things, engender excellence and more effective learning, as well as expand access to higher education and serve the needs and interests of society best.”
Matt Hancock, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, United Kingdom, said, “The UK has a world class reputation for higher education and we believe that high quality education is a fundamental right for everyone. We will push the boundaries of education, enhancing its reach and quality across the globe, by looking for opportunities to collaborate and innovate in international education. By investing together we will deliver smarter young people to generate the very best future leaders, teachers, engineers and employers for all of our countries.”
Professor Adam Habib, Chairperson, Universities South Africa, and current Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, spoke on issues of access and equality in higher education. “We need to be able to do two distinct things. First, we need to provide sufficient numbers of students from poor and disadvantaged communities, to access the best universities and institutions around the world.
Second, we need to produce sufficient numbers of high quality graduates in the professions required by society and economies. Our internationalisation efforts must be facilitative of both these outcomes. The way they do that is by not retarding and weakening local institutions around the world. What internationalisation should be about is to create what some of us have called a global academy of commons.“
Habib added, “In the 21st century, we will not survive as a human species if we do not come together as a global academy and a global society. All of our challenges, terrorism, public health….are transnational in character and require multi-national and multi-institutional teams of researchers if they are going to be addressed and tackled. This is why we need to go global.“
Professor Janet Beer, Vice President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool said, “Universities are at the heart of local, regional, national and international knowledge networks - providing a conduit for knowledge to flow between communities, regardless of geographical separation. Our approach to internationalisation has to build on this - rejecting a transactional model and instead nurturing a circulatory system of students, researchers, knowledge and skills which enriches all participants.”
Sir Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive, British Council said, “I believe this century will be an African century. That’s because Africa has one very big thing on her side: potential. No one nation, or even one continent, can hope to adequately address all the big issues facing people. And because challenges are connected, solutions must be connected.“