Matt Wright


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 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 their careers, help local businesses and enable them to contribute 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. There are also major concerns about the equity of the transfer of both wealth and human capital from poorer to richer countries. How, then, might international education partnerships deliver mutual benefit? Would we need to re-think our current models to achieve fairer and more equitable partnerships?

Transnational education (TNE) partnerships are growing globally. Many countries are seeking to use these to increase their domestic education capacity and are creating more favourable policy environments to encourage them. 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 and providing cost effective and context related learning. However, there are challenges in developing models that benefit both the provider and recipient of TNE and are both scalable and financially sustainable. There are also concerns about assuring quality – particularly in relation to digital forms of delivery. Can we build models that address these challenges?

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.   

Rapidly evolving technologies, from digital modes of delivery to incorporating Artificial Intelligence (AI) in pedagogy are already having a significant impact on teaching and learning.  How can we ensure that these drive sustainability and equity rather than perpetuating societal divisions and privilege?

Going Global 2023 asks:

Is it time to re-think international tertiary education so that it better addresses global and national challenges by fostering more equitable connections, mutual learning and understanding? Are our current national and institutional models driving or deterring this? Can they be re-shaped to achieve fairer and more equitable partnerships?

Are our national policies, systems and structures fit for purpose? 

  • What policy frameworks and models help governments to ensure that TNE and other international partnerships deliver benefit to their country?
  • Do national innovation, science and skills policies drive or deter the development of more equitable global partnerships?
  • Qualification recognition and quality assurance are major barrier to the formation of international partnerships and graduate employability for some professions.  Are there examples of system level agreements or tools that address recognition issues effectively? 
  • What role should governments play in making international mobility sustainable and equitable?
  • Governments in some countries are moving towards integrating their higher and further education systems.  What are the benefits and risks of this approach?  

   Are our institutional partnership models fit for global purpose?   

  • Can AI be harnessed in the pursuit of equity – and how can it be prevented from entrenching inequities further?
  • How can TNE be shaped to deliver employability skills more effectively?  Many countries have very high youth unemployment rates. Are there international partnerships models that are effective in developing young people’s entrepreneurial skills?
  • How can employers be brought more fully into the work of developing fit for purpose courses? 
  • Can we create innovative mobility platforms and exchanges that are equitable, reciprocal and affordable? How would these be financed? 
  • Are our models effective in increasing access to higher education and skills development for disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in global society (e.g., students with disabilities, living in remote or rural communities, students who are refugees)?
  • Can international science partnerships models be re-shaped to be more effective in delivering the Sustainability Development Goals?
  • Climate change is an urgent major global challenge. What is the role of tertiary education providers? Who should they collaborate with and how can we shape wider global partnerships to address the challenges?