Today’s universities operate in a competitive international environment, which is affecting them both in their teaching and research missions. This is no longer a major concern for only a small number of elite institutions, but a reality for the broad spectrum of European universities. Governments see universities as key actors in the globalisation of higher education and research, which they consider as important for national and regional competitiveness and prosperity. This is also reflected in the elaboration of international strategies for higher education and research at both national and European level.
Internationalisation affects all elements of the university mission. Against a backdrop of demographic decline and underfunding in many parts of Europe the continuous growth of the international student body, although often seen as an opportunity, also brings with it considerable challenges in terms of adapting services and student support.
At the same time research has become an even stronger driver for internationalisation than student mobility in recent years. Investments have been made to promote excellence and attract the most talented graduate students and young researchers, while expanding research collaborations and joint programmes have transformed the global research landscape in response to the need to address global challenges.
In this context the development of strategic approaches to internationalisation is a necessity for European universities. EUA’s first Annual Conference in Belgium, hosted by Ghent University from 11 to 12 April 2013, will therefore focus on this topic. The conference will explore different interpretations and drivers of the globalisation of higher education as well as internationalisation processes in institutions. While governments tend to pursue internationalisation strategies to improve regional and national competitiveness, universities see them as a means of enhancing the quality of their teaching and research activities. Working group sessions will focus on these different elements.
The second plenary session will address the profound changes taking place in the structure and form of national systems and the extent to which these changes stem from pressure to make systems more efficient and internationally competitive, be it through the introduction of targeted funding policies and ‘excellence initiatives’ or through mergers and other forms of institutional consolidation.
There will also be the opportunity for further discussion of global rankings and their impact, with EUA’s second Rankings Review being published and presented in a final plenary session at the conference in Ghent.
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The EUA Annual Conference 2013 will bring together university leaders, researchers, students, policy makers and partner stakeholders.
© Ghent University, photo Hilde Christiaens