Students and institutional leaders explored the conference’s overall theme of ‘Reimagining International Tertiary Education’ in 2035, during a lively discussion in the Closing Plenary.

The UK’s High-level Climate Change Action Champion Nigel Topping made an impassioned appeal to universities and colleges to join the Race to Zero for Universities & Colleges and pledge to reach net-zero by 2030 or 2050 at the very latest.

Research from the British Council and the Association of Colleges into how international technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is innovating and changing as a result of the challenges and opportunities presented by the pandemic - but showing a complete return to pre-pandemic TVET policy and practice is unlikely - was published and discussed.

The winner of the conference’s poster competition was named as Jonathan Disley, Academic Practice Learning Manager at Staffordshire University in the UK. In the closing plenary, he said his poster illustrating his research into the impact of university organised international experience on undergraduate students’ achievement and success, sought to “take a step back and look through the lens of an international experience”. 

Closing the conference, Maddalaine Ansell, the British Council’s Director of Education, said tertiary education has the agency to shape the rapid and fundamental change brought about through crises. “We can use our connectedness to address the climate emergency, we can think about the fundamental reality of long-standing inequities between and within countries, and we can make our international partnerships more equal. So what is our course of action? We continue the conversation, and we collectively re-affirm the role of higher and further education in tackling global problems,” she said.

 

Find out about key points arising from the sessions:

Catalysing the post-pandemic economy through TVET

Tracy Ferrier, Lead, Skills for Prosperity Hub, Palladium, introduced the work of the Global Skills for Prosperity Programme. Funded by FCDO, the programme is delivered in 9 countries across the world, to improve education systems and equip marginalised groups with skills for the future so they can drive sustainable and inclusive growth.  
As the programme was set up just before the pandemic started, its biggest challenge has been reconciling it original aims with the more immediate pressing skills needs of each country. Other issues that have emerged have been whether to prioritise the needs or young people, or older adults in need of re-training to help them change jobs. She said it also raised the question "has the impact of the pandemic created a short-term increased interest in TVET, or is this merely a step-change that we have all been looking for?"  Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session.

UK-Greece Strategic Partnership in Education

In March this year, the British Council announced a new partnership with the Greek Ministry of Education that will help universities form transnational partnerships. Greece is the leading host country for UK TNE learners in the EU, with nearly 14,000 TNE students in 2018/19. The two partners are working toward possible partner-matching work, with delegate visits planned between November and January. Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session. 

International Digital Marketing: Reach Your Target Audiences

What should institutions be trying to do with their digital marketing? Vasso Koutsos of the University of Auckland said there should be focus on “creating connection” and allowing students to choose how they digest content. The university has been having some success with peer networks and personalised content. She added it is also crucial to listen to your data, and to be “relevant and responsive”.  Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session. 

Building a Roadmap for an Equitable Global HE system by 2030

In a session on inequity in the global HE system, the Lumina Foundation’s Courtney Brown argued that HE needed to “re-think, re-imagine and quickly adapt” to meet the needs of students. She said that today’s students are more racially and ethnically diverse, more likely to work full-time alongside classes, and more likely to experience poverty and food insecurity. She added that a degree is more vital than ever, since only 7,000 of the 916,000 jobs added in the US economy in March were filled by someone with just a secondary education.  Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session. 

Pandemic alliances: has Covid-19 changed higher education and development?

In a roundtable session hosted by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, looking at how the pandemic has higher education and development, Tania Lima, Director of Global Engagement, King's College London, outlined the results of an external rapid evaluation to assess what had been learned from her institution's response to Covid 19, which highlighted five key interventions: 1) understand where your students are and what devices they are using for learning, 2) promote the learning of digital skills, 3) train your facilitators and teaching staff, 4) the importance of virtual groups for support, and 5) provide a range of different platforms and facilities.  Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session. 

University support for social innovation post-Covid 19

Social innovation is an important part of the work of universities, particularly post-Covid. It feeds into “anchor institution” responsibilities to local and regional communities, as well as being part of curricula and student entrepreneurship. The first Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Vietnam is boosting social enterprise networking, partnerships and access to funding. Its mission, to build a start up ecosystem in the country, was outlined by its director, Thang Truong Nam. A new start up hub is training lecturers to support entrepreneurship, working with impact investors and international organisations, including the British Council, and helping to kick start social enterprises.   Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session. 

Resilient Universities: Global networks in the Covid 19 era

Speakers from four member universities of the University Global Partnership Network (UGPN) explored how their institutions responded to the Covid 19 pandemic. The message from Professor Jennifer Martin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at the University of Wollongong in Australia was one of being prepared. The university was well placed to respond in the early days of the pandemic, thanks to prior flood and bush fire emergency response plans and its experience of dealing with the worst bush fires on record which at one point impacted a number of regional campuses.  Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session. 

Student support: Mentoring, ethnics & communications

The pandemic has necessitated a wholesale move to remote learning which has led academics to reflect on how and what they teach, what elements of teaching get lost and how student engagement and communications are maintained. At Bahrain University’s school of architecture and interior design, a learning curve for both students and staff has led to changes in approaches. Feedback from students led to reflection on course content and adapting the role of teacher to become more fully involved with the e-learning process.  Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session. 

Localising SDGs for community impact and beyond

Dr Julie Newman, Director of Sustainability, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, said when she started work towards launching an office of sustainability, she found there were 32 different definitions of sustainable development being used. "There were two messages there: one was that I was not the only one at MIT doing this by any means, and that so many disciplines and programmes are really grappling with this issues," she said.  Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session. 

Equally safe? Challenging sexual and gender-based violence in higher education

Violence against women and girls is the most prevalent human rights abuse worldwide and gender equality cannot be achieved without ending it: so why hasn’t there been a focus on it in higher education? The question was asked by Dr Helen Mott, a research consultant who wrote an influential report Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in the UK for the British Council.  Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session. 

Higher education conversations with past, present and future students

The question of why young people choose to go to university prompted a range of responses from a panel of students and recent graduates.  For Tabby Nawaz from the UK it was to get away from her small home town, for school student Lim Wan Yi from Singapore it will be to satisfy her personal aspiration to study law but also because “university has become the norm” in her country.  Zaid Omar, who attended university in his home country Malaysia then at the universities of Sheffield and Imperial College in the UK, said it was also because education is about improving society and getting the skills needed to help take his country forward.  Visit the session page to find out more about highlights from this session.