Session videos and highlights are available for all of the Going Global 2021 plenary sessions. See below for the opening plenary highlights. And please be sure to visit the middle plenary and closing plenary summary pages too. 

Opening plenary: Through a Covid-19 lens - global challenges, sustainable futures

Tuesday 15 June | 10.30am - 11.30am BST


Kate Ewart-Biggs, Interim Chief Executive of the British Council will welcome delegates followed by addresses from:

  • Michelle Donelan, Minister of State for Universities at the Department for Education, England
  • Dr Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, USA
  • Professor Dame Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor, University of Liverpool, UK.

Session highlights

We are at a moment in time which requires us to take steps to transform how we connect and to do so in a sustainable way. From global research groups directly addressing issues related to the pandemic through to new ways of enabling global classroom activities, it has been a time of invention and change.” Professor Dame Janet Beer, Vice-chancellor University of Liverpool 

  • 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. 
  • Universities have a hugely important – and massively challenging – job to do in helping to ensure that knowledge diplomacy survives the current phase of geo-politics, said Kate Ewart-Biggs, Interim Chief Executive of the British Council. "I don’t doubt that it will survive – it has to. But the journey to guarantee free movement of thought across the world for the benefit of all people, in an increasingly polarised global context, will require all of our expertise and understanding."
  • In a video address at the opening plenary, UK universities minister Michelle Donelan said international partnerships in education have played a vital role throughout the Covid-19 crisis. “This pandemic has brought home the value of those partnerships, and now is the time to build on existing foundations and interconnectedness,” she said. 
  • To make the UK as attractive as possible to international students in the future, it has launched a number of new initiatives including the Graduate Immigration Route, allowing students to apply for a visa to remain in the UK for up to three years after their studies, said Michelle Donelan. Meanwhile the Turing scheme, which has been supported by the British Council, will help around 35,000 students from across the UK study or work abroad in the coming academic year. 
  • Dr Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, USA, outlined the multifaceted roles that make universities crucial for society, including; educating students, research, innovation, engaging in policy design, acting as convenors of global networks and cooperation and promoting sustainable development. 
  • Universities are part of a global network, said Dr Sachs. They do not think in terms of ‘who is the enemy’, instead they cooperate internationally and at this time more than ever, good cooperation is vital. 
  • It’s important to reflect on how the effects of the pandemic and or response to it have been uneven, said Professor Dame Janet Beer, Vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool. While rich countries race ahead with vaccination programmes, poorer ones are not even able to vaccinate those on the front line. “On re-imagining our world of tertiary education, we must bear in mind that what is working for some is not working for all,” she said.

See also