Cities and their role in the future of society, culture and education, were key themes at the opening plenary at this year’s Going Global – the world’s largest higher education conference – organised by the British Council.
Some 900 education leaders, policy makers, vice-chancellors and rectors from 350 institutions across 77 countries will be attending the three day event which opened today in London.
In a speech about the role of education across cities in an ever-changing world, Sir Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of the British Council, said:
“Cities are places where innovation happens, where people live, and what powers economies. The city is also a place of sanctuary for people who are displaced.”
Among the themes to be debated are the tensions between nationalism and internationalism, town versus gown, and the sharing of ideas around the world.
Delegates will also be discussing how higher education can help the future of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
Professor Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool and Vice-President of Universities UK said: “I think many of us in the university sector come looking for answers to our problems, solutions to our challenges.
“The answers are more likely to come when we are able to share our latest conundrum not only with our immediate neighbours, but also with colleagues facing quite different challenges, perhaps from a university or other organisations many thousands of miles away.”
She added that universities must “persuade our communities that a university is not an ivory tower, but a place where all with a desire to learn and to better themselves are made to feel welcome”.
Aromar Revi, Director of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements and Co-Chair of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, said:
“Cities are the greatest drivers of productivity and innovation that we know…But also they are places where we concentrate poverty and inequality.”
“Urbanisation is one of the most significant challenges facing humanity.”
In a wide ranging speech, Mr Revi highlighted the development of cities around universities and the spread of higher education institutions around the world throughout history.
Referring to the modern world, he said China was becoming the most significant hub in knowledge creation.