Going Global Edinburgh: Towards sustainable, scalable and equitable partnerships in tertiary education.
It has long been recognised that tertiary education can contribute to individuals achieving their personal aspirations, to national wealth and prosperity and to tackling shared global challenges such as the Sustainable Development Goals. Nevertheless, most countries struggle with optimising their higher and further education systems for these purposes. Demand has risen and fair access is still an aspiration in most systems with entrenched disadvantage felt by lower socio-economic groups, women, disabled learners or students from certain ethnic groups or communities. There are also questions about whether tertiary education is delivering the right skills and whether the modes of delivery are sufficiently flexible and appropriate.
Over the last few decades, many countries have sought to solve their capacity challenges by sending students overseas. There are many benefits to this in addition to the opportunity to acquire skills that might not be available at home. These include giving young people international experiences, the opportunity to develop a global outlook and make connections that will support future endeavours in, for example, developing their career, businesses or contributing to society. Trends suggest that demand from students to study abroad is likely to grow and many countries aspire to be regional hubs for international education. Nevertheless, international mobility is expensive and out of reach for many students and there are early signs that some receiving systems are close to capacity. There are also concerns about the equity of the transfer of both wealth and human capital from poorer to richer countries. What can be done to make international mobility sustainable and equitable? Are we at the limits of scalability?
Many countries are seeking to increase capacity through creating more favourable environments for transnational education (TNE) and other international partnerships. There are challenges about developing sustainable funding models that benefit both the provider and recipient of TNE as well as concerns about assuring quality – particularly in relation to digital forms of delivery. But if these can be solved, the potential of international partnerships and growth in TNE provides tremendous opportunities to develop new models that are fit for different contexts and make use of new technologies to tackle long-standing problems like reaching remote communities, personalising learning and making it possible either to concentrate learning further or to learn in smaller modules over a longer period of time.
Many governments think closer system integration, for example between universities and further, technical and vocational education will increase
sustainability and equity – as well as ensure that tertiary education as a whole is meeting the needs of the labour market. Many still find engaging employers difficult, particularly in economies dominated by small and medium sized enterprises. Are there sustainable and scalable models to address this? Equally, in a society with few large employers, tertiary education may need to focus on entrepreneurial skills with universities and colleges supporting the creation of new enterprises through incubators and science parks.
In addition, rapidly evolving technologies, from digital modes of delivery to incorporating Artificial Intelligence (AI) in pedagogy, will have an impact on teaching and learning. It currently appears to be a “dual use” technology – how can we ensure it drives sustainability and equity?
Can we radically rethink international tertiary education so that it better addresses global and national challenges by fostering more equitable connections, mutual learning and understanding? What is the role of internationalisation in fostering innovation and change?
Through three sub-themes, Going Global 2023 asks: