Reflecting on EAIE Dublin 2012

Reflecting on EAIE Dublin 2012

The 24th Annual EAIE Conference has come to an end. The theme ‘Rethinking education, reshaping economies’ ran through it all. For me a few things really stood out. Our keynote speaker at the Opening Plenary, Professor Sugata Mitra really challenged the concept of education and had all of us rethink education. Are we really doing it right? Are we being too protective of our old structures? The time when the teacher was the holder of supreme knowledge is over – knowledge is now accessible to all in a very different way – the teacher needs to be the mentor guiding the students, directing them to knowledge, with critical thinking, always questioning the facts.

Our keynote speaker at the Closing Plenary, Caroline Casey, gave us a different approach to rethinking education, but an equally challenging one. In our field of international education we talk a lot about diversity: diversity of higher education institutions, cultural diversity, diversity in the classroom etc. However, we are very limited in our concept of diversity, excluding a large group of individuals, the disabled. Most of us, of course, have support for disabled students on our campuses and they have fairly good access to education. It is in the next phase that we fail – supporting them in their search for jobs. Caroline’s message was very clear – disabled are as important as anyone else on the work market and we should recognise that diversity of gender and culture is not enough to make the work environment diverse, we need to open up for the disabled. The EAIE can certainly be an actor in that process.

This conference marks the end of my term as president of the EAIE. I could not have asked for a better wrap-up: the people, the site, the city, the weather, everything was just perfect. I have had two very fantastic years in this position, seeing the progress of the Association, working on many interesting projects with colleagues from all over the world. The engagement and enthusiasm of our members and leadership are absolutely outstanding and I think that is reflected in everything we do. It is truly our Association.

During these years it has become very clear to me that international education has a large role in the shaping of future societies. So many bridges can be built through education, facilitating co-existence and co-operation worldwide. The contribution of higher education could be even larger than today if society would realise that and recognise it. Very few fields are so trained in diplomacy as international education, always working with different cultures and traditions. That the intercultural competencies of international officers contribute to good leadership is something that is seldom recognised.

My best wishes of success to you all in your different ventures and I hope to have the opportunity to work with you for many years to come.

Gudrun Paulsdottir

EAIE Immediate Past President