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APAIE: Asia Pacific HE seeks ‘bolder goals’ beyond mobility

Alumni engagement, substantive partnership building and improving the student experience topped the discussion agenda at the Asia Pacific Association for International Education‘s annual conference in Melbourne last week, signalling what many in the region say is a phase of professionalisation in the Asia Pacific.

Monash University vice chancellor Margaret Gardner delivers a keynote address on internationalisation of HE in the Asia Pacific. Photo: The PIE News.

“The collaboration we seek to build between universities could be bigger, could be stronger; we could have bolder goals"

Speaking with The PIE News at the event, APAIE’s incoming president, Sue Elliott, commented: “We’ve seen people move far beyond the normal conversation of internationalisation of student mobility and research collaboration, to using internationalisation of universities as being a genuine activity.”

“We’re now very good at student mobility. Now we’re thinking about something that’s a lot more transformative”

“We’re now very good at student mobility, we’re now very good at research collaboration,” she said.

“We’ve got a lot of those early steps and now we’re thinking about something that’s a lot more genuine, a lot more transformative of our universities and of the student experience.”

Delivering the keynote speech at the conference’s gala dinner, Margaret Gardner, vice chancellor of Monash University, underlined the importance of moving beyond a focus on student mobility alone to consider the “value-add” to students.

“We all move students between universities; we expect they get another experience and it changes their view of the world,” she said.

She warned particularly against MoUs that do not extend “much beyond an international hand-shake agreement”, saying that institutions should aim for true integration in their overseas partnerships.

She cited her own university’s partnership with Warwick University in the UK, which facilitates “one of the largest single flows of students anywhere in the world”, totalling 113 students last year.

However, she emphasised that beyond the numbers, the programme’s real strength is enabling students to learn from each other while working to create a two-day conference of undergraduate research and a joint research journal.

“The collaboration we seek to build between universities could be bigger, could be stronger; we could have bolder goals,” she said. “Because when we integrate, the things that happen are unexpected, they are truly international, and they are transformative for the students and the academics involved.”

Magnus Olsson, senior representative of StudyPortals presented at the event and noted the rapid development of university strategies in the region. “Asian universities are still quite far behind when it comes to international student recruitment and internationalisation; however, the interest is there”.

“They are getting more knowledgable, they’re getting more professional, they’re getting more savvy on how the international education market works [compared to two or three years ago].”

“Asian universities are still quite far behind when it comes to internationalisation; however, the interest is there. They’re getting more savvy”

Discussions revealed that alumni engagement is a way many institutions that already enjoy high rates of student mobility, particularly in Australia, are moving towards the next phase of their internationalisation strategies.

Meanwhile in China, Xiaojing Zhang, director of the international office at Renmin University, noted that the Ministry of Education’s recently-released plan for higher education includes a commitment to increase the number of foreign taught faculty in higher education institutions.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of the conference, Elliott said that despite being a young organisation, APAIE is already operating “at a higher level”.

She noted that the more than 1,600 delegates at this year’s conference included many from beyond the Asia Pacific region. High-profile exhibitors included for the first time a contingent of Russian universities under the country’s flagship 5-100 initiative, as well as delegations from Germany, France, Peru and many other destinations.

Taking up the mantle of APAIE president from Katsuichi Uchida, Elliott said that during her two-year term, she hopes to see the association’s role as a facilitator of international partnerships and professionalisation of internationalisation grow, spurred on by collaboration with fellow organisations such as AIEA, NAFSA and IEASA.

“Building on the wonderful work of President Uchida, I wish to expand on the connections we have within and beyond the region, create more opportunities for rich interaction and hopefully step into that important space of professional development,” she said.

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