Young leaders: higher education must adapt to stay relevant

Tuesday 02 June 2015

The British Council’s Going Global conference in London concluded today with a panel of dynamic young leaders providing unique perspectives on university and college education.

During the closing plenary, five young leaders alongside UK spoken artist and recent graduate George Mpanga, better known by his stage name George the Poet,told more than 1,200 higher education leaders from 80 nations that universities have a global responsibility to be more flexible to ensure their students stay engaged and emerge from their studies as global citizens.

Speaking at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference centre, Josh Barnett, Students’ Union President at Cardiff Metropolitan University, said: “Higher education is there to push us and to offer us many different avenues to explore. Universities need to invest in students to ensure that they become global citizens and understand not just how something works in one place but around the world.”

While all panellists recognised the contribution that higher education has made to their own lives, a common theme was that universities must now strive to adapt to remain relevant into 2020 and beyond.

Tina Liu, who obtained her Ph.D. degree in Transport Studies and Applied Econometrics at UCL and now leads the Drewry China operation, said that higher education leaders must constantly ask themselves ‘what is the purpose of education?’ and that while university needs to be a ‘safe place’ for students, it must also strike a suitable balance by acting as a ‘proxy to the real world.’

George the Poet acknowledged that his time at university was a ‘transformational experience’ but that “the space of education should [now] evolve to accommodate for new ideas."

Mosa Mangaka Leteane, President of the Student Council at the University of the Free State in South Africa, said: “The current rigid nature of higher education and the attitude of ‘copy, paste, graduate’ must change. Students need to be encouraged to think critically and challenge their professors instead of having limits and restrictions placed upon them.”

Chrisann Jarrett, law student at LSE and founder of the ‘Let us Learn’ campaign, added: “Into 2020, I would like to see more flexibility [from universities] about what students can study. Syllabuses need to reflect global interconnectivity and international outlooks.”

The conference was closed by Dr Jo Beall, Director of Education and Society at the British Council, who echoed the young panellists’ views by telling the room of current leaders that “universities across the world face common challenges” and that “international higher education needs to react in a way that keeps up with demand”.

“These issues include the type of education and skills [universities] should offer their students; the networks they must build to be successful in research and innovation; the challenge in responding to the needs of their local and global communities and ultimately how they can steer their institutions through the fast moving international landscape of higher education. Higher education is a global endeavour and requires globally developed and tested solutions” Dr Beall said.

Dr Beall also announced that in 2016, the Going Global conference will be held in Africa for the first time. Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education and Training, Republic of South Africa formally inviting delegates to Capetown, where the conference will be held from 3 – 5 May 2016.

Dr Nzimande said:  “Every culture and every continent has a contribution to make in knowledge production and it is important to use platforms such as Going Global to open up that dialogue. We look forward to continuing to doing so in South Africa in 2016.”

More details on the conference can be found at: http://www.britishcouncil.org/going-global

Follow the conversation coming out of the conference on Twitter using #goingglobal2015.

Ends

Notes to Editor

For More Information please contact Tim Sowula tim.sowula@britishcouncil.org 07771 718 135

The Going Global conference, taking place at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London on June 1 and 2, has attracted more than 1,200 leaders of international higher education representing 70 countries and including 130 vice-chancellors, chief executive officers, Presidents and Vice-Presidents.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

We work in more than 100 countries and our 8,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes.

We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publicly-funded grant provides less than 20 per cent of our turnover which last year was £864 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally.

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