Session highlights

Technology has generated a gap between the haves and have nots. We need to not let go of some of the basic things that we do.” Dr Shaheen Sardar Ali, Dr Shaheen Sardar Ali, Rector, National Academy of Higher Education, Higher Education Commission, Pakistan 

  • For Ukraine and Uzbekistan, system-wide change involves a move away from centralised systems towards HE expansion, greater autonomy and more accountability to students and the public. Drivers for change include the policy of openness and connectivity to the global economy. These reforms require a change of mindset that does not happen overnight. Trust based governance is an important element.
  • In Pakistan, the National Academy for Higher Education was created to build capacity in an expanding HE sector. Input from Advance HE has been invaluable. As half of Pakistan’s universities are private, building private public partnerships is an aim, as is greater inclusion.

Session summary

Higher education (HE) institutions deliver a public good for society by enabling learning, research and knowledge exchange. These activities drive economic and social development across the world. In recent years, governments and ministries have invested substantially in HE transformation to ensure they produce graduates fit for a globally-connected world, to respond to the challenges posed by the "fourth industrial revolution", and to support achievement of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (UN, 2020). 

In many countries, this has involved re-evaluating national HE structures - including its governance, leadership and quality - to ensure that providers are able to effectively respond to global developments, changing student needs and technological enhancements. This has also involved investment in teaching and learning, to ensure that the curricula designed are fit-for-purpose, intellectually challenging and aligned to the graduate outcomes that institutions, employers, regulatory bodies and nations seek. Increasingly, students are also demanding a more engaging student experience underpinned by modern pedagogic practices, with an expectation that their lecturers are not only discipline experts but that they are also trained in teaching methods.  Research has shown that students rate lecturers with teaching qualifications more highly than those without (Gibbs, 2010), and that students are more engaged with teaching staff that have recognised qualifications (Zaitseva, 2016).  Covid-19 has exacerbated many of these challenges. HE providers and their leaders have had to rapidly tackle challenges related to student and staff support, campus safety, programme design and delivery, quality assurance, and ensuring inclusiveness (Advance HE, 2020).

In many countries, learning technology enhancements have underpinned the ability to deliver HE during this time, but the use of technology has exposed the need to review practice in areas like effective assessment and student support. Technology has enabled greater collaboration, but has also highlighted that the practice of leading and managing virtual teams is very different to leading those that are co-located, and is not just about using technology but also about engaging colleagues to produce results (Pullan, 2016). 

This roundtable will compare the experience of three different countries where the British Council has been engaged alongside Advance HE - Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Pakistan - in delivering system-wide change within HE.
The session will also draw upon insights from Advance HE's work in the UK and beyond. Each of the countries in focus has led initiatives to develop leadership and teaching in HE, both before and during the recent pandemic. This has involved work with staff in institutions - from recently qualified lecturers through to institutional leaders - along with engagement with national agencies and ministries. 

Contributors will: 

  • discuss the drivers for this work, their views on the role of leadership in driving change in HE, and the role of academics (e.g. lecturers/faculty) and support services in adapting to the needs of a changing student body
  • reflect upon the influence Covid-19 has had, both on the challenges presented for higher education leadership, but in the associated opportunities that have emerged; examine the nature of modern students in their country, and how their needs are informing the change agendas they have driven
  • consider how the HE sector develops the employability of graduates, and engages with broader stakeholders of HE
  • highlight the benefits and drawbacks of digital delivery, and how they feel this may be reflected in the future of HE

The session will include an opportunity for audience engagement with the panel. It will also summarise key factors influencing the development of HE across the countries, and what findings may be replicable or salient for other regions.


  • Alison Johns, Advance HE
  • Dr. Svitlana Kalashnikova, Director, Institute of Higher Education, Ukraine
  • Dr. Komiljon Karimov, Rector, University of World Economy and Diplomacy, Uzbekistan
  • Dr. Shaheen Sardar Ali, Rector, National Academy of Higher Education, Higher Education Commission, Pakistan