Last year AusAID personnel discussed with the participants of the Association of the Heads of Tertiary Institutions in the Pacific Islands (AHTIPI) the issue of organizing a symposium as part of UKFIET 2013 and asked me if I could deliver a paper examining the tertiary education sector in general and specifically the challenge of collective action in this vital area.
I attended UKFIET 2013 and presented the paper I had promised to do.
We met as symposium members to go over the papers to ensure greater synergy, and this meeting gave us an opportunity to also get to know each other ahead of the conference. I also used this opportunity to meet with Professor Keith Lewin of the University of Sussex. Professor Lewin had made an impressive presentation to the last meeting of the Forum Education Ministers’ Meeting (FEdMM) and the Ministers tasked USP with conducting serious, strongly empirical and policy-oriented research in the Pacific. Previous attempts to engage with Professor Lewin in the form of an Adjunct Professor and an advisor on the CREATE project methodology had not proved successful, so this meeting was very important. More will be said about this later in the report.
The three-day conference brought together a large number of academics, UN agencies, development partners and NGOs around the theme of post-2015 development goals. A number of parallel symposia were organized together with an interesting Opening Address by Ms Amina J. Mohammed, Special Advisor of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Post-2015 Development Planning who outlined the main developments that were taking place and who invited those present to continue to participate in the comprehensive preparations leading to the UN Assembly that will approve the final document.
Apart from the papers, there were important opportunities to network and to conduct important business for the University. Enroute to the conference, I was invited to have dinner with the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong, Professor Lap-Chee Tsui and Professor Kai-ming Cheng. This was very useful in ways that I will report later.
As indicated above, the conference covered a lot of ground ranging from developments around the post-2015 development goals to new pedagogies, teacher training reforms, issues of quality and equity, blurring of the boundaries of higher education and technical and vocational education, private sector participation in education and others. Please see the conference programme for full details. These documents have been lodged on the web for easy reference. The Book of Abstracts can be accessed at http://daranp.uberflip.com/i/166533/8
3. Strengthening Our International Network of Experts in Education
A significant additional outcome from my attendance at the conference was a strengthening of our network of major experts in education. I spent time with Professor Michael Crossley, who was part of the panel that reviewed our School of Education programmes and who is now an Adjunct Professor. He has continued to make a significant contribution to the process of transforming our SoE. I helped speed up the submission of the joint research project on improving teacher education and also talked about a book publication that he is leading that involves a large number of School of Education staff. He has agreed to extend his Adjunct Professorship for another term.
In addition, I spent time with Professor Simon McGrath from Nottingham University, who had earlier come to USP to assist with our plans for TVET, but who I had not met previously. Professor McGrath is a leading world authority on TVET and he is very keen to be involved with USP.
In addition, I spent time with Professor Mark Bray, the former Director of IIEP, who is now back in Hong Kong as the UNESCO Chair Professor in Comparative Education and Director, Comparative Education Research Centre at the University of Hong Kong (for more details of him, see (www.web.edu.hku.hk/academic_staff.php?staffId=mbray).
He has now agreed to become an Adjunct Professor and Advisor on Educational Policy and Planning. This is very important as we develop programmes in this area and obtain international accreditation for it.
Finally, two meetings were held with Professor Keith Lewin explaining our expectations, understanding his plans and situation, and trying to make sure that we meet the expectations expressed clearly at the last FEdMM for long-term, sustained, strongly empirical research on important policy issues in Pacific education.
Professor Lewin, Professor in International Education and Development, Director of Centre for International Education (CIE) 1995-2011 and more importantly, Director of the Consortium for Educational Access, Transitions and Equity (CREATE) funded by DFID is a world authority in this area, and we are working hard to persuade him to become part of our effort and to advise us on the CREATE methodology that he has led from Sussex (for more details on him, see www.sussex.ac.uk/profiles/1591). Although he has not agreed fully, I think we have managed to persuade him about our project and he has asked for some documents that we will send him. He will then let us know of his decision.
4. Dinner with the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong
I was pleased to receive an invitation to have dinner with the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong (UHK), Professor Lap Chee Tsui and Professor Kai-ming Cheng, our Advisor on Resource Mobilization. Professor Cheng had attended our July SMT/HOS/Campus Directors/Institute, Section and Centre Directors’ Strategic Planning Workshop.
The main outcome of from this dinner was that UHK and USP would explore a student and staff exchange scheme. Furthermore, Professor Cheng agreed that USP can nominate a member of staff to join their Learning Science Research Group. Professor Steve Coombs, Head of the School of Education would nominate a relevant staff to join this group.
The conference was a good opportunity to contribute our thinking of the evolution of tertiary education in the Pacific in a symposium organized by AusAID. It is vital that we become thought leaders, and it is essential that we voice our views regarding the regional architecture of tertiary education at this crucial time.
The conference was a good opportunity to hear scholars, development practitioners and UN personnel about important educational issues, and especially about how the post-2015 world indicators are likely to develop and how education needs to be a core element of it.
In addition to the papers and ideas, the conference gave me an opportunity to strengthen our links with some of the world’s leading scholars in education as part of my own support for our required efforts to transform the School of Education and especially the teacher training programmes and to ensure that the School becomes more respected as a source of sound research and policy advice. We secured two Adjunct Professors of international repute through this visit.