Higher education faces global challenges

  • International conference to debate role of higher education in 21st century

Dublin 22 June 2007: A large international gathering will debate the future of higher education at a conference in Dublin next week. The Minister for Education and Science, Mary Hanafin TD, will attend the opening of the conference which is hosted by Dublin Institute of Technology. The 165 registered delegates include heads of universities, senior academics and representatives of national and inter-governmental organisations from more than thirty countries around the world, including Ireland. Entitled "Higher Education in the 21st Century: Diversity of Missions", the conference has been co-sponsored by OECD, the International Association of Universities (IAU), the Irish Higher Education Authority (HEA) and the Irish Universities Association (IUA), in association with DIT.

Professor Ellen Hazelkorn, Director and Dean of Applied Arts in DIT, co-ordinated the conference programme and is delighted by the enthusiastic response from colleagues worldwide. 'There has been significant interest in the topic of this conference right across the board. Institutions and academics worldwide are all looking at the challenges facing higher education and are interested in sharing views. It is clear that traditional academic cultures and relationships are changing and new social dynamics are increasing the diversity within and between institutions of higher education. This will be a forum in which to discuss these issues and to create a better understanding of the way forward for higher education.'

According to Dr. Barbara Ischinger, OECD Director of Education, the conference will consider vital issues for higher education globally. 'HE institutions risk becoming victims of their own success. After 50 years of growth higher education is recognised as crucial for economic development and social cohesion, not just in the OECD countries but globally. However, resources are scarce and competition is fierce. 17000 universities operate in a world where reputation is defined by research output and the vital role of human capital development is undervalued. This conference aims to improve understanding of how this complex sector can move forward, and help institutional leaders define their mission, develop their strategies and establish their image.'

Speakers at the conference include Frans Van Vught, former Rector and President of the University of Twente, who will deliver the keynote address on Tuesday morning. Professor Van Vught is highly regarded internationally as an expert in higher education policy and management. Other speakers include Sir Howard Newby, Vice Chancellor of the University of West of England; Elizabeth Harman, Vice Chancellor of Victoria University, Melbourne; Sam Shaw, President of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, and Andreas Eshete, President of Addis Ababa University. Sean Dorgan, Chief Executive of the IDA and Chairman of the Governing Body of DIT, will chair a session on 'Contributing to National, Regional, and Local Development - Diversity of Mission?'

Professor Hazelkorn believes that the deliberations of the conference will be important in shaping future policy decisions about the role of higher education in society as a whole and how institutions develop in the 21st century. 'We believe the discussion will have particular significance for newer institutions - broadly, those established post-1970 - but it will also be of enormous interest for policy makers and funding agencies.'

The conference takes place in DIT Aungier Street, Dublin 2, from Tuesday 26 June at 09.00 until Wednesday 27 June at 17.30. The conference Welcome Reception will be held in City Hall on Monday 25 June from 18.30 - 20.00.

  • OECD study looks at 'Giving Knowledge for Free'

During next week's conference, OECD Director of Education, Barbara Ischinger will publicise a new OECD study entitled 'Giving Knowledge for Free: The Emergence of Open Educational Resources'. Identifying more than 3000 courses that are available openly to outside users by more than 300 universities worldwide, this study highlights the rapidly changing phenomenon of Open Educational Resources and the challenges this movement poses for higher education. According to the OECD, open resources expand learning opportunities for everyone, particularly non-traditional groups of students, and bring higher education resources within reach of growing numbers of potential users. The study warns that as a result of this phenomenon 'education authorities will soon have to grapple with new challenges such as copyright issues and the sustainability of business models.' For further details on this study see OECD website.

>> Conference website: www.heconference.dit.ie

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