Higher Education goes global

With more higher education students than ever before choosing overseas study, the improvement of access to university for people worldwide is coming into increasingly sharp focus for higher education institutions the world over. Anne Keeling reports from the British Council’s annual Going Global conference, held in London in June.

group of international students
Many of the world's leading universities joined governments and global businesses in central London at the ninth annual Going Global event, to address the growing issues of access to university for the world's 'transnational' students.Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Burmese opposition leader, gave a video address to the conference, in which she said that Burma had been left behind because of its weak education system and undemocratic politics, and because its people had never been given a chance to realise their potential."Now, when we are in a position to take a more active part in building up the future of our country, we want to equip our young people so they can make the best decisions. That to me seems the most important part of education – to help people make the best decisions," she said.Jo Johnson, the new UK Minister for Universities and Science, stated in an address to the conference that the UK aimed to grow and improve its international education offerings. "We will roll out the red carpet to the brightest and best, to the talented workers and brilliant students that help Britain's success," he said. "There is no cap on the number of overseas students that come to study at our universities," he added, while stressing that a number of measures were in place to ensure that this applied only to genuine students.


Researching success and change

At the conference, the British Council announced the results of new research into the pathways to leadership of more than 1,000 successful global leaders.In partnership with Ipsos Public Affairs, the British Council studied professional leaders from 30 different countries and observed the pathways to leadership from the perspectives of the leaders themselves. It considered leaders from the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.The research found that a degree in social sciences plus international experience were the two characteristics most commonly shared by professional leaders around the world.Gaining international experience was a common characteristic identified in the research. Almost half (46 per cent) of leaders have international experience, a third have international work experience, and a third have international education experience at degree level. Many said the international experiences helped them to communicate with, and work with, people from different backgrounds.Where leaders travelled internationally for their education, 40 per cent studied in the US and 17 per cent in the UK.Jan-Willem Middelburg, director for Education and Consulting at Pink Elephant, in the Netherlands, who took part in the research for the study, said, "I learned more in that first year studying [abroad] than in all the years afterwards. You're in a completely different environment. You have no structure to fall back on, so you really need to make sure that you're successful on your own. I strongly believe that it's a matter of taking accountability for your own success."Also during the conference, a manifesto for improving global access to higher education was launched by surveying delegates. Their three top choices for achieving equal access were:1. A funding model to remove wealth barriers to participation.
2. Addressing barriers that exist in countries or regions.
3. The development of pre-university programmes to aid transition to higher education.

Women in education

Opportunities for women in higher education were addressed throughout the conference.In her presentation, Fahima Aziz, vice-chancellor of Bangladesh's Asian University for Women, said, "It is assessed that poor-quality education costs the world over $129 billion a year. Women shoulder a disproportionate share of the illiteracy burden; more than two thirds of adult illiterates are female (UNESCO, 2014). We need to change the structural and cyclical perpetrators of this crisis, a product of substandard teaching and inadequate investment in high-quality education."Professor Fanny Cheung, pro-vice chancellor and vice-president of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that, in Hong Kong, female undergraduates outnumbered their male counterparts by 53 per cent to 47 per cent. However, she added, only 35 per cent of the faculty and 4 per cent of the deans at the university were women.This issue was also addressed by David Ruebain, chief executive of the Equality Challenge Unit, who said that the chronic under-representation of women in higher education leadership in the UK was now a political imperative.

The impact of demand for further and higher education

Nearly a quarter of young people across the world now enrol in further or higher education courses, according to a new international study debated in the session Big, Bold and Brave during the conference.The study, Managing Large Systems, conducted by the British Council in partnership with UNESCO and the World Bank, states that the phenomenal growth of further and higher education has created super-large education systems. According to the study, there are nine countries with such systems: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, the UK and the USA. Two-thirds of all the people in the world who are enrolled in further or higher education study in these nine countries.Growth in demand has brought both challenges and opportunities for these super-large systems. They do better in global rankings and have greater opportunities for international collaboration, but they struggle with such problems as maintaining quality during times of fast growth.It was agreed at the conference that the management and future of these large systems was critical to the growth of global talent, and that challenges could best be tackled by international knowledge sharing and the exchange of ideas and experiences, a theme that resonated throughout the conference.Ciarán Devane, chief executive of the British Council, said, "We acknowledge that all our futures are interwoven, that development and success come from mutual benefit and shared understanding. The best solutions to challenges are those created by pooling resources, finding the links between disciplines, and between different parts of the world, sharing expertise, and bringing a range of perspectives and experiences to bear on conventional ways of doing things."For more Re:locate news and articles on education, click here

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