EAIE Community Summit: the year ahead

community-summit

For many working in international education, variety is the spice of life and ambiguity offers marvellous possibilities for learning and personal growth. Yet, even the most adventurous and tolerant might be thinking that 2020 has dealt out more uncertainty, and for many personal loss, than most of us are were prepared to endure. So, how do we work our way forward in the face of so many unknowns? Enter the EAIE Community Summit: the year ahead.  

At times like these, we are reminded of the saying: a problem shared is a problem solved. The spirit behind this saying is captured in the notion of community, and community is something that clearly defines the EAIE in very fundamental ways. What the COVID-19 crisis is asking of us now is to rely on community more than ever before and to think about enacting community in some new and innovative ways.

Making meaning together

Having bravely and creatively found our way to the end of the current academic year, we’re now all working doggedly to think through what’s coming next: what will the next academic year look like and how can we learn from one another when it comes to preparing for the possibilities on the horizon in meaningful ways?

To tackle these questions, the EAIE Community Summit: the year ahead aims to connect members of our community for a special four-part, interactive online programme to inspire, share and learn. Over two days, and four insightful sessions we will touch on issues of concern that have been raised repeatedly by many of the hundreds of participants who have joined us in the EAIE Community Moment webcasts and webinars we’ve hosted since April. The sessions will provide an opportunity to interact directly in small groups with other members in the community, to share our collective challenges going into the new academic year.

Day 1 of the Summit will feature a morning session focused on ways that institutions are thinking ahead to the particulars of the student experience during the coming academic year. From the mechanics of online service provision, to the uncertainties of in-person social distancing protocols, to the complexities of assessing and meeting students’ personal and emotional needs in the (post) COVID-19 context, there is much to consider in this area. Special guest, Bert van der Zwaan, author of the book Higher Education in 2040. A Global Approach, will join this session to discuss some of the key issues that will frame the work of universities in the years ahead.

The afternoon session on Day 1 moves the conversation in the direction of virtual exchange and online international learning. Given the likelihood of ongoing mobility limitations, the next academic year will surely see institutions making ever stronger commitments to technology-mediated international learning. Learning from the experiences of recent months, drawing on expertise that pre-dates the current emergency, and thinking creatively about new possibilities can offer useful practical insights for moving forward in the coming weeks and months.

Day 2 of the Summit turns our attention first to the questions surrounding marketing and recruitment at a moment of deep uncertainty. Some key questions here include, how are institutions calculating their aspirations for international student recruitment? And how are they framing their positions on international engagement to prospective partners of different types? Developing meaningful narratives for external audiences is a vital exercise in international higher education. What can we learn from each other in this area?

Finally, even in the best-case scenario of a rapid resolution to the current pandemic, we are all facing a prolonged period of intensity and uncertainty. Navigating these turbulent waters will require different kinds of skills and supports. Fortunately, our community has access to significant reservoirs of insight and advice when it comes to facing challenging times with resilience and fortitude. Michael Ignatieff, Rector and President of Central European University will provide some insight into how we can constructively walk the challenging road ahead. This final session in the afternoon of Day 2 will provide an opportunity to consider approaches to caring for ourselves and our institutions as we look to the coming academic year and beyond.

Zooming out and zooming in

An exciting aspect of our June Summit is the opportunity it will present to consider the topics at hand from both wide-angle and very personal perspectives. Each session will feature a group plenary, followed by a very small discussion group format, where participants will be able to see each other and speak directly to one another. Additionally, every participant will be able to post information and ideas on an online bulletin board and spend time perusing the submissions to gain insights from across the spectrum of individuals and institutions in attendance.

While 2020 has been a year of firsts in so many unfortunate ways, the EAIE community has shown itself to be incredibly strong and resilient despite the challenges. We are hopeful that the first ever EAIE Community Summit: the year ahead will stand out as a bright and positive example of our collective effort to move the field of international education forward, at a time when our work is more important than ever. We very much hope you’ll join us.

By EAIE