Global Engagement hosts third annual Global Partnerships Conference
By: Anna Loewy
Last updated: Friday, 1 July 2022
Under the banner “Shaping the Future,” Global Engagement launched the Global Partnerships Conference 2022. Attendees from around the globe participated in six original workshops, delivered in partnership with thirteen guest speakers, Sussex faculty, and alumni.
“The Global Partnerships Conference,” said Professor Richard Follett, “Is a celebration of the work University of Sussex’s partners do and all we can achieve together.” Through ‘Shaping the future,’we explored the interrelated themes of how recent disruptions to the way institutions operate – including technological shifts, are shaping the future of international education, and at the same time how we might align international engagement activities to the delivery of the SDGs?
The line-up of international guest speakers included Prof. Ying Tang who joined the conference from Southwest University, China for the debate about digital transformations in higher education. Prof. Tang was joined by Dr. Esther Wilkinson, Head of Internationalisation, Jisc, and Prof. Samuel Amponsah, Director of Distant Education, University of Ghana. Each illuminated the discourse by drawing upon research findings and experiences. All agreed that the digital transformations that accelerated due to COVID are here to stay; but that it is key that higher education strategies effectively, working closely with partners, staff, and students, putting them at the heart of decision-making so that technology remains the enabler rather than the driver of change, and that higher education leaders drive strategy for students’ benefit.
One of the most striking sessions was that which explored Academic Support in Difficult Times: Conflict and Change. The session included speakers Charles Cormack, (Cormack Consultancy), Zeid Al-Bayaty (Centre for Academics at Risk, Cara), Naimat Zafary, Chevening Scholar, University of Sussex, and Tamsin Thomas, Senior Strategic Engagement Manager at Duolingo. Against the backdrop of ongoing conflicts including in Ukraine and Afghanistan, Zeid Al-Bayaty shared staggering insight into the demand for the support of academics at risk. Applications to Cara have soared in the last year and the last nine months have been Cara’s busiest period since the Second World War. A number of twinning arrangements between Ukrainian Universities and UK partners have been put in place to try to ensure the integrity of the Ukrainian institutions and education technology applications such as Duolingo are able to offer fee waivers and facilitate students sitting exams thereby breaking down some of the barriers which can prevent students from taking up a university place.
Turning to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Ailsa Lamont, Director, Pomegranate Global, Prof. Ayo Atsenuwa, University of Lagos, and Fumani Mthembi, Director, Knowledge Pele. Prof. Atsenuwa highlighted the many advantages of international partnerships that come out of shared knowledge and inclusive decision-making. Sussex Alumna, Fumani Mthembi reminded us, “Partnerships require an aliveness to respond to opportunities that exist in the market. The more people you have around a table means access to expertise and research.” The group reflected that universities still have a responsibility to reflect upon their practices in ensuring the SDGs are achieved.
Rounding off the conference, Hannah Wallace, Head of Student Engagement at the University of Sussex, Prof José Manuel del Val Blanco, and Prof Ana Elena González-Treviño from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) shared experiences of encouraging participation of students, from nontraditional or disadvantaged backgrounds, or indigenous communities in higher education. Successes include increasing engagement from all students across co-curricular and academic activities. A principle for enabling widening participation ought to be recognising the importance of self-determination for what and how students will study at university, as well as financial and pastoral support to help with adjusting to different living conditions.
In the words of Professor David Maguire, “It is worth reminding ourselves that our international outlook at Sussex is a great strength and one we are fully committed to enhancing as higher education becomes ever more global.” The Global Partnerships Conference reminded us of the value of partnerships and the importance of a global outlook as pathways to a sustainable, equitable future that leaves no one behind.