EAIE 2013: Paddy Ashdown takes centre stage

EAIE 2013: Paddy Ashdown takes centre stage

As the crux of the 25th Annual EAIE Conference gets underway under bright and sunny Istanbul skies, EAIE conference participants have been arriving in their droves at the Istanbul Congress Center to start an exciting journey of knowledge exchange at this milestone event. A vast array of sessions took place today together with an engaging dialogue discussing the importance of transnational education. 

The Exhibition also opened its doors, giving participants direct access to more than 580 higher education organisations and service providers from 49 countries.

During the Opening Plenary, the Turkish Minister for Education, Dr Nabi Avci spoke of the responsibility that universities around the world have in educating their students on diversity, global awareness and human rights. British politician and UN diplomat Paddy Ashdown then took to the stage, providing his fast-paced, insightful views on the future of higher education in these turbulent times. Ashdown spoke of the four key influences which will profoundly change our future world.

A shift of power

The power that was once locked in democracy has now erupted onto the global stage. It is no longer confined by frontiers of nations or financial systems. This has had both good and bad consequences. It has enabled international trade and international business, among other things, but it has also aided international crime and terrorism. Ashdown spoke of the need to construct a system of international law, “In this turbulent world, we must bring governance to the global stage in order to live in peace.”

Dominance of the West

For the first time in 400 years, since the Ottoman Empire, the West is being challenged. Those in the West need to build allies and partnerships with those elsewhere; partnerships in higher education being of utmost importance. Ashdown mentioned Turkey as being a critical link between the West and the Middle East, noting how Turkey understands very well the importance of an interconnected, global future for the benefit of its citizens and others.

Networks are key

The vertical structure of industry, the specialisation of tasks, for example, is no longer the way forward. Today, it is all about networks. “It is not what you can do, but what you can do with others that matters.” We must embrace the idea of working together on a global stage. Our ability to do this will determine all of our futures.

Drive the development of intellectual capital

Future wealth and success of advanced nations depends on intellectual capital and the ability to develop and exploit the knowledge within each country. In order to ensure intellectual capital is developed, higher education systems must be flexible, they must challenge, and they must have the ability to imagine. “Education is priceless, and is the only thing that can guarantee a peaceful future.”

Ashdown also spoke about the importance of lifelong education and his closing thoughts were passionately emphasised when one participant asked the question of how to transfer Western values and a Western education to those rapidly developing countries in the East: We should not and cannot label our values ‘Western’ values, this will dramatically and dangerously reduce our view of the world. Instead, we all must strive for universal values, regardless of our cultural differences.

A fitting start indeed to a conference which aims to create the ideal platform for weaving the future of global partnerships.