New research was presented and debated on the role of universities in building sustainable and people-focussed “smart cities”, and in another session on the role of digital skills and platforms in refugee and host community relations.


The winners of this year's Going Global poster competition, which had 51 entries, were announced. In first place was Xinyue Li, a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, whose poster looked at ways of encouraging students into STEM subjects while retaining interdisciplinarity. In second place was Juliana Serwaa Andoh, Senior Assistant Registrar, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana; and in third place Helen Carlin, International Partnership Manager at the University of Liverpool, UK.


As Going Global 2019 drew to a close it was the turn of graduates in the early stages of their careers to give their assessment of the role of universities in this new digital age. Higher education should make more effort to reach the disadvantaged groups of society, be more multidisciplinary, less risk averse and more open in terms of research and knowledge exchange, they said. (Closing Plenary)

Closing the conference, Maddalaine Ansell, Director Education, Education & Society, British Council, thanked partners and sponsors DAAD, IELTS, and the British Council in Berlin, and invited delegates to Going Global in London next year. 



Key points arising from sessions and research debated:

Tour d’Europe: what’s on the higher education menu in Europe?

In a lively world café style session, British Council representatives from ten countries and the EU discussed with delegates opportunities for IHE collaboration and research, and some of the issues in their region that partnerships could help address.

Research by the British Council in Italy has found that Brexit has not diminished the level of interest in studying in the UK among Italian students. The UK is now the number one choice of study destination for Italian students, and Italy has become for the first time the top European sending country for the UK. 

Find out more about the Tour d’Europe: what’s on the higher education menu in Europe? session.

Doing leadership differently for a future world: what new leadership will be needed in a brave new world of HE?

Introducing a session considering the future of leadership in higher education, Tracy Bell-Reeves, Director of Programmes and Events, Advance HE, UK, said the HE sector was increasingly seen as facing the VUCA challenges of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. “There is something for us as leaders about how can we change the narrative if we occupy a space which is completely or frequently described as negative. It’s really important to think of leadership as an enabler”, she said.

Delegates were asked to discuss what are the burning questions about leadership in IHE that they would like to put to panel members. Questions included whether leaders in universities need to be qualified to a high academic level. Dr Isabel Ortiz Marcos, Deputy Vicerrector for Academic and International Planning, Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, thought that as leaders of complex organisations, they should. But Dr Halimur Khan, Director, Professional Development Center, BRAC University, Bangladesh, countered: “One doesn’t need to be a highly qualified physicist to run a university. If you are running a system you need to know something about what a system is about, and then to run that system.” 

Find out more about the Doing leadership differently for a future world: what new leadership will be needed in a brave new world of HE? session.

Let’s make some noise – academic freedom, truth and diplomacy

Chairing a session looking at potential threats to academic freedom, Professor David Green, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Worcester, UK said university leaders must be prepared to stand up to such threats, including when these come from government agencies and politicians. Sherry Gong, Counsel, Hogan Lovells, said in general the Chinese government respected academic freedom, but there were some restrictions. Raja Yasir Humayun, Minister for Higher Education, Punjab, Pakistan said that contrary to some perceptions, the government in Pakistan does not interfere in the academic freedom of universities.

Should academics be allowed to say whatever they want? The question posed to panellists drew a qualified “yes” in response. Peter Szalay, Vice Rector for Research, Eotvos Lorand University, Hungary, said: “Yes, as long as they are telling the truth. But the problem is that the truth is not well-defined.” Fanuel Tagwira, Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, Zimbabwe, said academics could say what they want “but they must know they are under the law like any other citizen”.

Find out more about the Let’s make some noise – academic freedom, truth and diplomacy session.

IELTS Breakfast: The Digital World and the Future of English Language Assessment

In a session outlining the evolution of the IELTS language test, British Council Higher Education Account Manager Megan Agnew talked about the computer-based version that began rolling out in 2017. In 54 countries, test-takers can now take IELTS on paper or computer, and have more test dates to choose from. Test takers receive computer-delivered IELTS results within 5-7 days.

Find out more about the IELTS Breakfast: The Digital World and the Future of English Language Assessment session.

The Educational Divide and can our universities mend the fractured connection with stakeholders?

How do Americans see Higher Education institutions in their country? The American Council on Education’s Senior Vice President for Learning and Engagement Philip Rogers said that recent research by the organisation indicated that nearly half of Americans it talked to believed that a college degree is less valuable than it used to be, and that universities were viewed as “accessible but not affordable”. But he said he believed Higher Education remained the “key resource” for “creating the environment to help people solve the challenges of the day”. 

Find out more about the The Educational Divide and can our universities mend the fractured connection with stakeholders? session.

Smart Cities – HEIs as Leaders and Partners

While introducing a British Council report into the role of universities in creating “smart cities”, University College London Cities Researcher James Ransom said that universities were in a unique position to work “between the top-down and bottom-up initiatives” taking place in cities, and reduce the risk of “Frankenstein Urbanism” – in which many individual initiatives exist without joining up. However, he warned that if universities fail to constantly focus on inclusion, and don’t understand the limitations of technology, “they can end up making issues of inclusion worse”.

Find out more about the Smart Cities – HEIs as Leaders and Partners session.

Closing Plenary

Eloise Nutbrown, a policy manager with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, UK, felt the jury was out on whether universities were harnessing the full potential of digital technologies for the benefits of the most disadvantaged learners. She challenged the audience: “Are you harnessing the opportunity to unlock talent among marginalised communities and doing all that you can to put hardware into schools and communities so people can access your lecture theatres?” she asked. 

Digitalisation should be a chance to rethink the way things are done, not be simply be a case of putting offline processes on line, said Maria-José Juárez, a researcher with Hasso Plattner Institute, Mexico. Universities are too risk averse, they need more safe spaces where people can try new things and fail, she said.

Dr Carsten Meyer, head of the junior research group at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, said that most universities try to innovate by addressing new problems, rather than fundamentally innovating the way they address problems.

Find out more about the Closing Plenary session.

University links for industry engagement new flexible partnership models for 4th IR and beyond

The challenge for universities of going from the lab into the market place was outlined by Professor Raymond Girard Tan, the Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, De La Salle University, Philippines. To stimulate interest in academic/industry links it has built a satellite industrial park and a business incubator and using its alumni network that includes many captains of industry.

Find out more about the University links for industry engagement new flexible partnership models for 4th IR and beyond session.

Is your global engagement fit for a digital world?


Students are demanding much more from universities as digital technologies transform the way they learn. Delegates discussed how ready they were to meet the expectations at a well-attended session. 

There will be a time when the university will no longer be a physical place, it will be very much a virtual place but there will still opportunities for human interactions, predicted Sue Reece, Pro-vice chancellor (student experience) Staffordshire University UK. Already its students from different parts of the world are using technology to work together on projects and accessing Beacon, the university’s chatbot student assistant. 

Find out more about the Is your global engagement fit for a digital world?
 session.

Building skills and communities; the role of digital skills and platforms in refugee and host community relations.


Digital skills and platforms can help bring refugees and members of the host community closer together but programmes have to be well planned and managed and offered on the basis of secure funding. Providing reliable internet access through study centres, recognised certificates for completed courses and involving learners in the creation of programmes contribute to positive outcomes, according to research findings. 

Find out more about the Building skills and communities: the role of digital skills and platforms in refugee and host community relations session.

Report: Smart places – how universities are shaping a new wave of smart cities

Key points from research launched/debated today:

UNIVERSITIES CAN PLAY A VITAL ROLE IN SHAPING “PEOPLE-FIRST” SMART CITIES

Universities can be key players in helping to tackle serious challenges facing today's towns and cities, such as climate change, housing and employment. But any solution will require deep partnerships and a strategy that puts people before technology.

This is the view expressed in a British Council report, which explores the role of universities in building people-focused "smart cities". It focuses on initiatives taking place in a selection of cities across Europe, including Nottingham, Dublin, Lille, Milan, Zaragoza, Warsaw, Bucharest and Darmstadt.

The report - which was presented in the session Smart Cities: HEIs as leaders and partners - urges universities to “develop (or rediscover) their civic mission” and concentrate their efforts on areas where they can add most value, form deeper links with city halls, and ensure that all of their work is inclusive and well-communicated.

It also offers eight short, medium and long-term recommendations for greater success, including involving students in city challenges, establishing peer-learning projects between multiple cities, and establishing physical centres of collaboration that bring city and university.

Download the Smart places – how universities are shaping a new wave of smart cities report.