Dean Forbes


IEAA-EAIE Symposium

Advancing Australian-Europe Engagement

Sydney, 11-12 October 2009

Professor Dean Forbes

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International)

Flinders University

It has been an extraordinarily information rich day and a half! 

In presenting this report I will be putting forth my own ideas. I am not speaking on behalf of either the IEAA (the International Education Association of Australia) or the EAIE (the European Association for International Education), although I am a member, and loyal foot soldier, of both. 

The audience here today numbered around 80, and has included the Presidents of IEAA and EAIE, and the President of NAFSA (the Association of International Educators).  All 80 of us are engaged in international education, in one way or another.  Collectively we have enormous accumulated experience of international education, and the issues associated with it.

Speaking for myself, to give an example, I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the taps and plumbing systems in bathrooms around the world.  Being from a university, I still haven’t worked out how to generate a commercial return from the IP, but I am thinking about it.

I want to begin by summarising some of the features of the relationships between Australian and European higher education institutions that have been highlighted in the last two days.

  1.   There have been elements of a convergence in higher education in Europe and Australia due to globalisation.   We had different starting points in the 1990s, and there remain healthy differences between  Australia and Europe, and within Europe, but our focus is becoming more similar.

  2.    We have a mutual interest in the sustainability of international student (and staff) mobility.

  3.    Universities in both regions are increasingly embarking on double and joint degree programs, and it is recognised that Europe has driven down this road faster than has Australia.

  4.    There is a significant amount of academic interest in Europe and the European Union in Australia, which has strong government support, and a thinner spread of interest in Australian studies in Europe.

  5.    The pattern of research links between Australia and Europe are significant, with more collaboration than between Australia and the US.  There is clear evidence that international collaboration is associated with higher levels of citations.

  6.    Australia, with a population of just 22 million, is only a fraction the size of Europe.  The resources Europe is putting into international education not surprisingly vastly outstrips the support that can be given by Australia.

  7.    Proportionately speaking, more Australian university people travel to Europe for conferences, institutional visits, and so on, than Europeans who visit Australia for similar kinds of events.  The reverse is true for student mobility.

  8.    Increasingly, Europeans are acquiring English language skills; Australians are less likely to have acquired European languages.  Therefore there is generally a reliance on the common use of English to facilitate links.

How, then, can we collectively, through the IEAA and the EAIE, add value to the Europe-Australia connection?  After listening to the dialogue there are five and a half issues that I want to highlight.

  1.    First, we need to continue the excellent dialogue of the last couple of days.  A meeting should be scheduled to coincide with the Nantes meeting of the EAIE in 2010.  The dialogue might centre around a smaller group and a more focused conversation.  It could perhaps be supplemented by a more public paper giving session within the formal EAIE program.

  2.    Second, leadership in international education has been a major focus of discussion.  We could cooperate in an exercise to identify the key skill sets required in both Australia and Europe, and perhaps run a workshop around some key areas.

  3.    Third, some joint effort could go into strengthening our understanding of the effectiveness of international university networks.  Information on university networks could be compiled, and analysed, and perhaps a methodology developed for evaluating the benefit of being in networks. 

  4.    Fourth, the two associations could identify issues about which both want to lobby governments.  An example might be the importance of international education to our universities, and to our students, graduates and staff.  We could share the research in developing the case for government.

  5.    Fifth, we could cooperate to explore the environmental impact of increased levels of international student and staff mobility.  The global debate on carbon emissions trading is intensifying, and mandatory reporting by large entities possible.  Universities increasingly stress their green credentials.  We know that international travel is a major contributor to the carbon footprint of Australian universities.  What does this mean for the future of international education?

  6.    Sixth (the half point, because it is directed to only one organisation), the IEAA should establish a Europe Special Interest Group to provide a mechanism for building on the symposium and strengthening the links with Europe.