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International reflections on Going Global

17 May 2019 | Becky Smith Becky Smith, Advance HE Assistant Director International, reflects on three days at the British Council’s Going Global conference in Germany including some interesting LEGO® techniques.

Going Global is the British Council’s annual conference for leaders in international education to debate the future of further and higher education (HE). The event is always popular and usually attracts more than 1,000 delegates, the majority of whom are HE leaders at either an institutional or national level. 

This year’s conference, held in May, was in Berlin, Germany and the British Council invited Advance HE to play a significant role in the conference by leading a Masterclass as well as a panel discussion on HE leadership and an interactive session exploring the impacts of the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) on HE. These sessions were all really well-attended and set within the context of the conference theme: ‘Knowledge diplomacy and the digital world: does international tertiary education have a role?’

Universities are living in times of tremendous change with rising costs, reductions in public funding, more competitors, a rapidly changing world of work, policy landscape changes and uncertainty around funding streams in addition to the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR) and the Internet of Things impacting ways of doing. Leading a higher education institution requires an eclectic skill set that is arguably difficult to find but critical for success.


Advance HE’s Masterclass focused on ‘Leadership for a future world’ and was led by Tracy Bell-Reeves, Director of Programme and Events, and Jo Chaffer, Senior Adviser who explored with delegates how to develop the transformational HE leaders of tomorrow to be change makers who can lead institutions to be both sustainable and successful as well as the governance structures that will be required to respond to changes in HE regulations.  

In a later panel discussion with contributions from HE leaders in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Spain, panel chair, Tracy Bell-Reeves, set the scene by saying, “There is something for us as leaders about how we change the narrative if we occupy a space which is completely or frequently described as negative. It’s really important to think of leadership as an enabler.” Panel members were asked by the audience to consider whether HE leaders needed to be qualified to a high academic level. Dr Isabel Ortiz Marcos, Deputy Vice-rector for Academic Planning at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid in Spain felt that the complexity of HE organisations meant that they should be. However, Dr Halimur Khan, Director of the Professional Development Center at BRAC University in Bangladesh disagreed, “One doesn’t need to be a highly qualified physicist to run a university. If you are running a system, you need to know something about what a system is about, and then run that system.”

Using LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® facilitation techniques, Dr Ben Brabon, engaged a diverse group of participants in an active engagement workshop which considered questions such as HE curriculum design and stakeholder engagement in the 4IR environment in an effort to explore future design needs in the context of HE learning, research, community impact and knowledge diplomacy. Following the session, Ben Brabon noted that although technology is changing and influencing HE hugely, “…what we see is that humanity is at the centre of the student experience in a university,” and that certain attributes and competencies such as collaboration, connectivity and networking are still critical.

During Going Global, Advance HE also exhibited and met with a number of Ministerial delegations to explore mutually beneficial partnerships in the advancement of HE globally. From establishing effective governance to the development of leadership capacity and teaching and learning enhancement, many countries and institutions are interested in partnering with Advance HE and UK institutions to progress their work in these areas.

Advance HE has developed a strong relationship with the British Council and we have worked together on a number of successful projects in recent years including contributing a three-year transformational change programme for HE leaders in Ukraine, developing women to take on HE leadership roles in Uzbekistan, embedding employability into the curriculum in southern Africa and upskilling HE leaders in their knowledge of sustainable funding models in Nigeria.

Find out more about Advance HE’s Global Solutions which are fully adaptable for different types of institution, disciplines, modes of study and organisational, cultural and political contexts.

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