ECR 2014: The Future of Higher Education

On Saturday 1 November, the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) hosted a one-day workshop on the future of international higher education which it sponsored jointly with the U21 RE Cluster.

Over 60 people attended the workshop, primarily coming from the Asia-Pacific and Australia/New Zealand regions. The guest speakers and attendees were all from U21 partner institutions in Australia (University of Queensland and the University of Melbourne), New Zealand (University of Auckland), Singapore (National University of Singapore) and mainland China (Shanghai Jiao Tong and UNNC). Additionally, Hong Kong University’s Professor YANG Rui, a leading expert on international education, delivered the keynote speech. Post doctoral students and some administrators from UNUK and UNMC were sponsored by their institutions. Most of the attendees were either Early Career Researchers (ECRs) or PhD students, and there was much networking, especially among the latter.

After Professor Fintan Cullen of UNNC's welcome to the delegates, the workshop was kick-started by a thought-provoking speech by Professor YANG Rui on the need for east Asian universities to develop pedagogic and administrative models which draw heavily on cultural and intellectual resources from their own countries rather than solely from the so-called ‘west’. This was followed by two sessions in which invited speakers from U21 universities presented on ‘virtual learning and education’ (Shen Wei from Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Paula de Barba from the University of Melbourne) and on ‘the future of higher education’ (GAO Yuan from the University of Melbourne and Rose Martin from The University of Auckland).

The afternoon was devoted to three simultaneous break-out sessions on ‘virtual learning and education’, ‘entrepreneurship and education’ and ‘equality of education’, led respectively by NUS’s Stephen Wee Hun Lin, UNNC’s Felix Arndt and the University of Queensland’s Edobor Michael Erhabor. These sessions were all well-attended and contained some lively discussions, some of which were stimulated by the morning presentations.

It was a very productive day, with the benchmarking discussion inspired by GAO Yuan’s paper being particularly timely for the planning process that is presently going on at UNNC in particular and had resonance around this region of the network.