CGHE conference to explore the new geopolitics of HE

CGHE’s third international conference, The new geopolitics of higher education, takes place on Wednesday 11 April.

The conference focuses on headline issues – the great growth of educational participation and of research, higher education and inequality, the new controversies about universities, the implications of populist politics for science and education, European systems under pressure, free speech and social rights, and the changing global balance of power in higher education – including the incredible rise of science universities in China, which is moving to the top position in the world in some areas.

The opening keynote speech and annual Burton R. Clark Lecture on Higher Education will be given by Professor Michael Ignatieff, the distinguished political philosopher, author and accomplished public commentator, and former Liberal Party Leader in Canada, who is now President of the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary.

Central European University, the leading academic centre for the social sciences and humanities in Eastern Europe, is under continuing threat of closure by the ‘strongman’ government of Viktor Orbán, which is expected to be re-elected next Sunday. Says Professor Ignatieff:

“Academy freedom and university autonomy are under attack as privileges of a professorial elite, but they should be understood as ‘counter-majoritarian institutions’ – like a free press and an independent judiciary – an essential counter-balance to majority rule.”

The case of Central European university has attracted worldwide concern and support. Michael Ignatieff will be introduced at the CGHE conference by UCL Provost Professor Michael Arthur.

The conference will also hear from two other leading scholars, each touching on key issues of the times:

  • Professor Nian C. Liu is Dean of the Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, and the founder and leader of the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities – the first and perhaps best regarded global ranking of universities that focuses on their research achievements. In his keynote speech on ‘The performance and role of Chinese universities’, Professor Liu will address the spectacular rise of science and universities in China, and what it means for the world as a whole.
  • Professor Claire Callender holds a joint appointment at the UCL Institute of Education and Birkbeck College. She is one the UK’s foremost experts on higher education participation, financing and student loans, with a special focus on the position of part-time students, whose numbers have declined sharply in England since the full fee tuition loans system began in 2012. Professor Callender’s keynote speech on ‘Student choice in higher education – reproducing social inequalities?’ will argue that present marketization policies in England, designed to promote and improve student choice, are having the opposite effects to those intended – they limit or constrain student choice, and they contribute to worsening social inequalities in higher education.

The conference will also feature a panel session on higher education and equality, including Professor Vikki Boliver from Durham University, Professor Rajani Naidoo from the University of Bath and Dr Dung Doan from the Australian National University in Canberra. The session will be chaired by higher education policy expert Professor Ellen Hazelkorn from Ireland.

The afternoon sessions will include papers from CGHE researchers working on income contingent loans systems, the changing governance of UK higher education, new private providers in the UK, the future academic workforce, student learning and the consumer paradigm, the role of MOOCS in professional development, graduate labour market trends in Germany, returning international student graduates in East Asia, and the contribution of higher education to public goods in each of Japan and China.

“This will be a brilliant conference”, says CGHE Director Professor Simon Marginson. “It will showcase some great research and discuss profoundly important issues. In the climate of uncertainty which now grips not just UK and European universities but the societies in which they sit, it is reasoned, relevant and committed public discourse that provides the way forward – not cynical data manipulations, fake news and storms of orchestrated emotional abuse. The CGHE conference will provide its participant audience with a front-rank position in debates that are vital to our future.”