In 2014, the international higher education associations of the world came together in South Africa for what became known as the Global Dialogue. The aim then was to achieve a more balanced discourse in internationalisation, and a concrete outcome was the Nelson Mandela Bay Global Dialogue Declaration. The Declaration contained several actions for the participating associations to take up, including the intent to have a follow-up meeting. I had the pleasure of representing the EAIE at this important second gathering.
The Second Global Dialogue (GDII) took place in Mazatlan, Mexico 17–18 January, hosted by AMPEI, and was attended by associations from around the world, including North and South America, Australia, Africa and Europe. Several themes were selected for GDII, including taking stock of our achievements since 2014, exchanging views on how Sustainable Development Goals affect our work, discussing ways in which access and equity could be promoted in international education, and how the current political realities might challenge the support we had become accustomed to in our field.
Work, commitment and evidence
The discussion was too rich and diverse to be fully covered in this blog post, so I will just pick a few personal highlights. It became very clear that all of the actions listed in the Nelson Mandela Declaration needed further work and commitment from all associations. Issues of quality and diversity remain a challenge, learning outcomes and curriculum need constant attention, and equal and ethical higher education still eludes us.
I was part of the opening panel, where I described some European political challenges, including Brexit and the rise of nationalist political movements in many countries. In the discussion that followed, participants agreed that the best way to counter these harmful effects to international education was to significantly strengthen the knowledge base of our work. We need much more research and studies on the positive effects of internationalisation, both at the micro and macro levels. Most importantly, the findings of these should be communicated to stakeholders in a very clear manner.
All about SDGs
On the issue of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the common consensus was that we must not only focus on the ‘Quality Education’ goal, but instead look at how all 17 goals touch upon international education. Moreover, it was agreed that SDGs are a matter not only for the developing world, but for all of us. I was left with the impression that SDGs are still relatively unknown, and I am therefore happy that they will be featured in sessions at the next Annual EAIE Conference in Seville! To further this discussion, it would also be important for us to connect with other actors dealing with SDGs – especially ones outside education.
GDII further discussed issues of equity and access, as it is quite clear that internationalisation, and international mobility in particular, are not distributed evenly around the world. Brain drain was cited among the possible harmful consequences of inequity, and significant increases in scholarship programmes were seen as a gateway – alongside provisions for fostering development in origin countries.
The participating associations did not prepare a statement or declaration this time, as the stock taking made it quite clear that the Nelson Mandela Bay Declaration was far from exhausted and still valid. I left the Dialogue with a sense of needing to continue these types of discussions in the future. After all, the EAIE is committed to addressing issues of global concern.
Finally, after returning from a week of collaboration and contemplation, I urge all readers to render their support to our colleagues in the United States and elsewhere across the globe, so that free movement of students and academics, regardless of religion, culture and country of origin, may once again prosper.
Markus Laitinen is the EAIE President.