Turning another page in the EAIE story

Turning another page in the EAIE story

The end of another year. A moment for reflection and a time for making new plans.

A year of immense challenges

Let’s start with the tough stuff. The world has been a confusing, often disheartening and sometimes downright terrifying place in 2023.

It sometimes seems like we are going in the wrong direction on every possible level. The climate crisis is burning hot, and its consequences are felt more each year. Cruelty and suffering are playing out in wars in Ukraine and the Middle East. Populist politicians are fuelling polarisation in societies across the world when what we most need is to come together. It’s confusing and disheartening indeed.

Amid all of this doom and gloom, the work we do in international higher education appears more significant and more important than ever. We can’t look away from the conflicts. We have to face them and find ways to make sense of them. We have to look for our common humanity beyond the politics of hate and aggression. Our work is all about making human connections across differences of nations, cultures, generations and disciplines, as a basis for solidarity and cooperation. Nothing less.

Evidence-based leadership, for and with the next generation

Despite the manifold challenges, however, there is reason for hope.

I am reminded of the Opening Plenary of our conference in Rotterdam. Our keynote speakers, Jahkini Bisselink and Hajar Yagkoubi, were on stage as representatives of the young people of today, who deserve all of our trust and support. The talent of today’s young generation and their eagerness to be a force for positive change are the only hope for humanity. In the end, it’s their future. What they demand from us are actions, not words. Our responsibility towards them is to make sure the work we do has positive impact on the world around us. Real impact. Real changes. Real solutions. The only way we can keep our own commitment and our optimism alive is by making sure we keep supporting each other and lifting each other up, even in the most difficult times. That’s what it means to be a strong community of dedicated and caring professionals.

Aiming for impact means being self-critical, making sure all our strategies and actions are based on evidence and data. In the face of diminishing public budgets for higher education, this is an essential realisation. We need much more solid research to show that every euro invested in international education, every student who goes on the life-changing adventure of studying in another country, every collaboration we facilitate between teachers and students from different parts of the world, brings us one step closer to a more peaceful, prosperous, fair and dignified future for all the people of the world. Explaining the importance of our work should go beyond the level of feel-good stories, towards proof of causality between our actions and real positive impact in society. Demonstrating impact is one of the key elements in the EAIE Strategy 2026. In the coming years we must absolutely work on doing this in a more robust way. An example of the EAIE’s commitment to this work is the EAIE Barometer survey project, which is surfacing important information from our community about how internationalisation is playing out across Europe, and generating data that can feed into critical conversations about internationalisation policy, practice and impact.

Reinventing and adapting for the future

The EAIE, as the foremost association of people working in the field of international higher education in Europe and beyond, is committed to enabling that sector, building a robust and convincing narrative for internationalisation, convening and strengthening the community of dedicated professionals by providing the best possible opportunities for networking and professional development. In order to keep meeting that challenge in a sustainable and effective way, we must continue to reinvent ourselves and adapt our activities and our structures to the changing world around us. This is true for us as professionals but also for our cherished association, the EAIE.

This is why the EAIE leadership has embarked on a thorough process of reflection and changes to the internal structures of the association to make them more agile and fit for purpose for the years ahead. In the coming months these changes will become visible for our members and the wider community. Our ambition is to ensure that the sense of belonging we feel so intensely during our Annual Conference and Exhibition is carried on all year long.

In 2024, we will provide many more ways for our members to engage directly with their peers through new Communities of Practice. These Communities will bring together members according to their specific professional profiles and interests so that they can exchange information, ask questions and share resources directly with colleagues who are working on similar issues as them. The Communities of Practice will find their home on a whole new online EAIE Community Platform, which will be launched in the spring and which will provide a much richer and more direct way to facilitate communication between members and across the association as a whole.

Besides the Communities of Practice, which are designed to provide an optimal basis for peer-to-peer networking and collaboration, we are introducing a new structure for working on content creation within our association. This will be done through nine new Thematic Committees, consisting of seven experts each. The scope of the Thematic Committees is aligned with the EAIE Taxonomy, which is a robust classification system for all the different areas and topics which make up our field. In the new year there will be a call for candidates to become members of the Thematic Committees.

Besides the new structure and the new Community Platform, we are working on several other exciting new opportunities for professional development and networking. As we are ‘En route’ to our 2024 Conference and Exhibition in Toulouse, stay tuned for many exciting announcements in the coming months. I wish you all the very best for 2024.

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Piet Van Hove
University of Antwerp, BelgiumPiet van Hove is Senior Policy Advisor for Internationalisation at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. He is also the 2022–2024 President of the EAIE.