A panel session of speakers at Going Global 2023

Going Global 2023 was an in-person invite-only event that took place in Edinburgh, Scotland from Monday 20 to Wednesday 22 November 2023, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Going Global 2023 was curated to be a targeted event with the aim of catering to a smaller, more senior group of stakeholders. The event attracted 365 participants to Edinburgh from all over the globe. There was no option to attend this conference virtually, unlike at previous/similar conferences. In addition to three plenaries, Going Global 2023 offered eighteen regular sessions, eight breakfast and sponsored sessions, and four masterclasses.

The theme of the 2023 conference was ‘Towards sustainable, scalable and equitable partnerships in tertiary education’. Picking up some of the key discussions from the regional Going Global 2022 conference in Singapore.

The questions for debate were: 

  • can we rethink international tertiary education so that it better addresses global and national challenges by fostering more equitable connections, mutual learning and understanding?  
  • are current national and institutional models driving or deterring this?  
  • can they be reconfigured to achieve fairer and more equitable partnerships? 

The plenaries 

As now firmly established at Going Global, there was a plenary session held on each of the three days of conference. Summaries of the three plenaries were compiled by Media FHE Ltd and can be found here.

For the opening plenary, the themes of equity and social justice initially came to the fore and were carried through. The two Plenary speakers gave perspectives on whether a globally equitable model of internationalisation was achievable within the changing global landscape.  

For the Middle Plenary issues around the impacts of AI received consideration and was broadened out from technology to examine five major trends that are prompting the need for ‘A New Paradigm for Higher Education for Greater Global Equity’.  

The Closing Plenary aimed to provide a flag towards the Going Global 2024 regional conference to be held in sub-Saharan Africa. This involved a conversation on entrepreneurship, employability and the role of tertiary education with a panel of young Africans. 

The sessions 

Rather than report on the many specific individual sessions at the 2023 conference, it is perhaps better to focus on the areas identified as commonalities across all sessions. These include:  

1. Transnational education (TNE) – There were four separate sessions focused on TNE, plus the soft launch/discussion around the British Council’s TNE Strategy. It also provided an opportunity to reference the Council’s report The Value of Transnational Education Partnerships which had been launched in 2022. The sessions reflected a recognition that the different partnership models of TNE, as a means of widening access and conducting equitable partnerships, were a fundamental part of the future of international higher education. Important common messages from sessions were that: 

  • partners must understand the needs of countries and programmes must deliver mutual benefit.  
  • a strong commitment is needed to capacity building and to ensuring that TNE transforms local education. 
  • political will at the “highest level” is critical to realising the potential of TNE partnerships, in particular, governments must create an enabling regulatory and policy environment. 
  • quality assurance and reliable data systems are essential tools. 
  • TNE is often not well understood and that some countries are also wary of UK TNE specifically, seeing it as part of a commercial agenda delivering benefit only to the UK.  

2. Growing global importance of TVET and skills development - The session ‘Building Skills for Employability through Transnational Education’ was very popular this year. The key message from discussions there was the importance to countries of developing relevant skills with young people. Case studies from Scotland, Mauritius and South Africa focussed on how TNE was being used to open up opportunities in vocational sectors to provide specific skills in TNE host countries.  

3. National systems and policies and their fitness for purpose - The session “Embracing integration: advancing higher and further education systems” raised questions about the effectiveness and equity of different tertiary models in different country contexts. How effective were systems that failed to tackle talent shortages or to deliver workers with the skills needed by countries?  How fair were systems that continued to cater to a small elite while the majority of young people were left behind? Developments in Wales and Scotland were used as a trigger for an international comparative analysis (including Pakistan and South Africa) on the advantages of, and obstacles to, developing new integrative models of tertiary education. The middle plenary also raised questions about the continued relevance and equity of traditional tertiary systems to the future landscape of post-secondary education. The session “Do national innovation policies drive or deter equitable partnerships” focussed on research and innovation, with discussions about how different countries shaped these, in particular how do policies enable partnerships that are equitable and inclusive?   

4. Global partnerships playing a critically important role in responding to major international challenges and crises. Session discussions focussed on both global challenges (“The Climate Crisis; a collaborative global endeavour?”) and national crises (“Students in conflict zones: providing access to international higher education”). Common messages were that through their extensive international collaborations and networks, higher education institutions (HEIs) played significant roles in responding to crises; they had the ability to assemble partners for rapid response; that faculty and institutional response was underpinned by a strong moral compass. An important message was that HEIs had an important role as collaborators in global multi-lateral agency partnerships directed to addressing particular challenges. The British Council was cited as one of the important partners here. What was seen as important was that partners understood what each of them could contribute and that partnerships played to their collaborative strengths. One example was given by Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Education. When asked for his recommendations to develop a blueprint for dealing with crises such as Ukraine faced, his reply was “The British Council and the universities have the blueprint. It’s listening to what is needed”. 

5. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) remains a significant challenge in tertiary education globally whether this is related to gender, disability, ethnicity or social class. EDI was strongly (often passionately) debated in a range of sessions (Gender equality, diversity and inclusiveness: global partnerships for a sustainable future; Disability inclusion in higher education; Pathways to gender equality in science research; Widening access, pursuing equity; a shared global challenge?). The common message from all of these was that, while progress was being made (albeit slowly), there were still huge challenges in all countries. There was a need to continue to convene governments and institutions to collaborate to give EDI much greater prominence globally and nationally. 

Click here to download the Going Global Edinburgh 2023’s conference programmme