Find out about key points arising from the sessions:

Kate Ewart-Biggs, Interim Chief Executive of the British Council, welcomed delegates and introduced the theme of the conference: 'Reimagining international tertiary education for a post-pandemic world'. She said: 'Re-imagining is what educators do best. All of you, in a different way, are in the business of imagining, and then building, better worlds – or at least, helping new generations to do so.'

In a video address to the opening plenary of the conference, UK universities minister Michelle Donelan, noted that although the shape of higher education has been changed irreversibly by the pandemic, and despite the global uncertainty, “amazing things have been achieved” by the sector. This was borne out in the accounts of speakers and delegates in the following sessions.

Sessions probed HE institutions’ role in tackling climate change, and the unresolved tension between their need to operate globally, and their aims to address the green agenda and reduce their carbon footprint. Other sessions examined the challenges universities face in engaging with SDGs.

The decolonisation debate was re-assessed as speakers and delegates considered what progress has been made and what obstacles still stand in the way of finding resolutions in different countries.

Masterclass: Universities' local and global contributions to the SDGs - what gets measured gets done?

Research by Newcastle University in association with the ACU’s 'Higher Education and the SDG Network' has shown universities across the world interested in improving their reporting on progress towards SDG targets face a complex set of options, including institutional reviews, reporting to initiatives like the SDG Accord, and performance in league tables. There is both growing interest and competition among institutions in this area as a result, said Professor Phil McGowan, Chair of the SDG Committee at Newcastle University, UK. Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session

Opening plenary

In her opening remarks at the conference, Kate Ewart-Biggs, Interim Chief Executive of the British Council, emphasised the importance of building more ethical and equitable global partnerships for a sustainable new post-pandemic world. She introduced the British Council’s new Going Global Partnerships programme which aims to help UK and overseas universities, and some FE colleges, build just these kinds of connections. Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session.

Regional identity and internationalisation

Darren McDermott introduced the EU Support to Higher Education in the ASEAN region (SHARE) programme, of which he is team leader for the British Council in Indonesia. It is a €15 million project which aims to strengthen regional cooperation and enhance the quality, competitiveness and internationalisation of ASEAN higher education, contributing to the development of an  ASEAN mobility programme and HE space. So far, it has dispersed just under 500 scholarships, acting as a catalyst for greater cooperation between students and institutions in different countries. Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session.

Debating ODL infrastructure and access challenges globally

Carla Elena Anduaga, Director for Improvement of Higher Education, Government of Peru, described the huge bureaucratic obstacles and infrastructure challenges in remote regions around delivering ODL that HE institutions in her country are still facing in the wake of the pandemic, after introducing emergency online education. "We are only now learning what is the reality in these regions," she said. Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session.

Green internationalisation: a coherent HEI approach

Professor Edward Peck, Vice-Chancellor, Nottingham Trent University, noted that sustainability initiatives across the global HE sector tend to focus on campus estates, the energy efficiency of buildings, travel to work arrangements, and the efficiency of our supply chain, but there has been much less emphasis on addressing the environmental impact of institutional strategies - including international mobility. He asked how can universities reconcile the two ambitions of becoming more green and being international? Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session.

Focus on excellence: driving change for student success

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. Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session.

COP26 and Beyond: HEI’s Role in Tackling Climate Change

What role can Higher Education institutions play in addressing issues around climate change and sustainability? University College of Estate Management Research Fellow Dr Renuka Thakore noted that universities should make use of systems thinking, to provide “holistic, integrated, and interdisciplinary education” on these complex issues. She called for institutions to connect more internationally, perhaps by inviting overseas lecturers to speak via online video about local issues and context. Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session

Can Knowledge Diplomacy Survive Geopolitics? 

It’s been widely remarked that we are going through a period of geopolitical tension. But Professor Dame Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool University, UK, said it is vital to build alliances and “ride these waves”. While the pandemic has shown the potential for international collaboration, the impacts have still been felt unequally. She urged HE institutions to continue working across boundaries to tackle issues such as health, justice and equality, even when optimism is harder to come by. Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session.

Can Virtual Exchange Be Truly Successful and Sustainable?

Will institutions continue to offer Virtual Exchange when the pandemic is over? In a poll conducted in a session on Virtual Exchange, 100% of respondents said they would. That is certainly true of Ryerson University, which evolved its VE offering to include a part-time option following discussions with students. Ryerson University’s Rana Latif said the university decided to review its model for delivering VE at the start of the pandemic, and engaged both students and international partners to explore “bold” ideas. Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session.

English in times of emergency

Figures were presented showing the number of international students in the UK in 2019/20 was 550,000, while the number of non-UK based students engaged in EME (English Medium Education) was 430,000 – the latter category is growing much faster than the former. Countries are developing their own English teaching expertise. Oxford EMI, working with the British Council, is involved in a large scale programme in Taiwan to train local teachers to teach in English, for instance. Added to this is the concern about the climate emergency among ELI (English language instruction) teachers and students, mitigating against air travel and making online and hybrid ELI a more sustainable model going forward. Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session.

Study in a post Covid-19 world brought to you by Pearson

The results of a Pearson survey of 6,000 students and their parents in the UK, US, Canada and China, showed how the pandemic is forging a stronger and more resilient generation of young people who are re-thinking their educational and career choices. Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session.

Decolonisation in Practice – Towards a consensus?

A historic moment for change in South African universities was wasted because five years after the Rhodes must fall student protests, very little has changed, according to Jonathan Jansen, Professor of Education at Stellenbosch University. Based on in depth interviews with academics at 10 of South Africa’s 26 public universities, he told the conference that it had been left to individuals to do their own thing as there had been no agreement on what de-colonialism meant. Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session.

Knowledge diplomacy for future success

Offering a definition of knowledge diplomacy, Dr John Simon Rofe said it involved “a troika of representation, communication and negotiation”. Higher education facilitated knowledge through research and transactions between students and faculty but was not the sole proprietor. “All of us at this Going Global conference are diplomats on behalf of ourselves, our institutions, our research interests” said Dr Rofe, reader in Diplomatic and International Studies at SOAS, University of London, UK. Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session.