Welcome to Glasgow!

Welcome to Glasgow!

Over 5000 participants from more than 90 countries have arrived in Glasgow eager to start their EAIE Conference experience. Some already got a start to their week yesterday, with Campus tours, the first few sessions and the Newcomers’ Reception. Yet it wasn’t until this morning that everyone truly came together for the much-anticipated Opening Plenary featuring Glasgow native Baroness Helena Kennedy, QC. The day’s activities are plentiful and the week ahead promises to inspire you. Are you ready?

Bright and early this morning, EAIE President Laura Howard officially opened the 27th Annual EAIE Conference in Glasgow. We looked back on the achievements of some of our most exceptional members who were presented with EAIE Awards and looked forward into the very near future where a remarkable week awaits us all.

Access to higher education

Baroness Helena Kennedy, QC, passionate human rights lawyer, civil liberties champion, broadcaster, and member of the House of Lords inspired thousands of international higher education professionals this morning. Her dedication to equitable access to education is well-documented, both in her 1997 report (Learning works) that changed the course of UK education policy and the foundation in her name that provides financial support and mentoring to disadvantaged populations that have the desire – but not the means – to study. “To be creative and inventive should never be the privilege of the few”, she stated.

When Helena was young, she was awarded a government-funded scholarship that allowed her to study law in London. She recalls that “a door was opened to a secret garden of books, of art and culture, and of people from around the world”. This life-changing immersion into the world of education would never have been possible if only a small, elite group of students could afford to study. “I was brought up in the tenements of Glasgow, don’t be fooled by the title of Baroness”, Helena told the crowd of conference participants as she went on to defend the need for access to higher education “for all that want it, without being saddled with a mountain of debt”.

Like many other countries that offer free or relatively low tuition fees, the question of whether or not to raise fees is currently being debated in Scotland. Helena is strongly against this movement towards what she calls “the commodification of everything”, including education. “Higher education is now too often spoken of as a business and students as consumers”, but “our students should never be seen as cash cows” (hear much more on this specific theme in Dialogue 2).

Helena believes, as many of us do, that the importance of higher education goes beyond advancement of the individual, “we need to reclaim the idea of the common good”, she proclaimed. Helena’s message is that educating a population has deep societal impact and that everyone has a stake in ensuring that education is accessible even to the most vulnerable among us.

An important question

A question from the crowd at the end of her speech prompted Helena to speak of the role that higher education can play for the most vulnerable of all: refugees currently seeking to build new lives in Europe. Helena answered that, historically, universities have taken on the responsibility of accommodating fleeing scholars. Whether in the 1930s as people were fleeing prosecution in Europe or now as people are fleeing the terror in their countries, universities can protect scholars and allow those who had been studying in their home countries to complete their education. In this way, we all hold a responsibility to find a way for education to serve as a tool for the successful incorporation of this group into our societies.

Helena’s speech provided much for all of us to think and talk about as we head into the conference’s many sessions, dialogues and networking events. Our welcome into this year’s host city by “a daughter of Glasgow”, as the Baroness called herself, and a representative of the Right Honourable Lord Provost of Glasgow, was certainly a warm and thought-provoking one.

Today in a nutshell

On the menu for today we have a number of interesting sessions including all of the EAIE Expert Community Feature sessions. These have been spaced out so that you’re able to attend up to three different sessions. The time slots for these are 11:30−13:00, 13:30−15:00 and 15:30−17:00.

The day’s last sessions end by 18:00, by which time you should make sure to head to the Opening Reception at the amazing Glasgow Science Centre. Expect to interact with the science exhibit while meeting fellow participants and having a drink or two!

This is set to be a very busy week and you won’t want to miss out on anything that’s relevant to your particular area of interest. For that reason, here is our pro tip of the day: download the EAIE Events App. With it, you will have the conference programme, as well as any important information that may come up, right in your pocket!

EAIE Conference week is a time for knowledge-sharing, networking and new ideas. Make the very most of it and have a fantastically productive week in Glasgow!