It was a very good year! Perhaps not quite in the same sense as in Frank Sinatra’s classic song, but I have the impression that the EAIE really made significant progress on many fronts. One of the more obvious milestones was the Annual Conference & Exhibition in Seville. Not only did we have a record attendance of 6000 participants from 95 different countries, we also took strides in making the conference more sustainable and offset its carbon footprint. On top of that, we ran two successful Academies in Marseille and Warsaw, organised a Spotlight Seminar on Marketing and Recruiting in Amsterdam, and moved forward with our strategic goals. All in all, the EAIE is certainly living up to its strategic ambition of driving responsible European higher education.
Among these milestones though, there are borders and boundaries being set around the world. The EAIE does not exist in isolation and world events do affect our work. From the American travel ban to Catalonia’s call for independence, these events give us reason to reflect on our mission as international educators. We’ve seen new borders erected or advocated. We’ve witnessed direct attacks on universities and international higher education practitioners in a number of countries. We’ve also noticed the introduction of policies which either jeopardise international mobility or flat out make it impossible. As a community, and in collaboration with our overseas partners, we must work towards reversing these policies and their consequences to our work. Joining forces with others to make our voices heard and making efforts to reduce borders and boundaries by opening ourselves up to the world will be evermore significant.
Being the voice
Advocacy is something relatively new for the EAIE, and as one of the main pillars of the 2016–2018 Strategy, it’s something we will continue to do more of in the future. One of our goals was to establish close links with key players in European higher education and I have been happy to see our cooperation with the European Commission bearing fruit in 2017. We submitted a statement as part of the Erasmus+ midterm review in August and were invited to the programme’s 30th Anniversary closing event in Brussels, in the presence of Commissioner Navracsics. We’re also playing a role in responding to and influencing emerging issues and major events in the field. In this regard, we spoke out to defend the Central European University in Hungary, as we felt the university’s possible closure was a direct hit on what international higher education is all about.
Another topic that quickly spilled over to all sectors around the world was the #metoo campaign, sparked by Hollywood actress Alyssa Milano. International higher education is not immune to sexual harassment and the EAIE is committed to addressing this issue. The time for conversations to happen in our universities, in our associations and in our communities is now! The 2018 Spring issue of Forum magazine will focus on ‘Gender in internationalisation’ and will be an important avenue to discuss all facets of the ‘gendered world’ we live in. The topic of sexual harassment specifically will be a subject matter we continue to contend with in 2018.
Advocacy must be backed by a strong community, and so another of the EAIE’s strategic goals is to strengthen our collaborative community by working towards a more balanced European leadership, membership and wider community. In an effort to reduce the ‘EAIE borders’ for members and participants from less represented countries in Europe, we started to work very closely with our three chosen priority countries, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. This bore its first fruits already at the Seville conference, where we saw significant increase in the numbers of participants from these three countries. This is just the first step though, and in 2018 we will further broaden and deepen our collaboration with central Eastern Europe.
Let’s be the change
I want to personally thank each and every individual who contributed to the EAIE’s success in 2017. We can only do what we do because of your commitment and belief in the power of international education. I’m so proud to be a part of this community and to lead the EAIE as its President. No matter the current reality, I know that our community will continue to do great things. I urge you to reflect on the inspiring plenary videos from EAIE Seville 2017 and to take these challenges with you into 2018. Let’s make 2018 even better!
Markus Laitinen of the University of Helsinki, Finland is the President of the EAIE.