Setting higher education priorities for the Commonwealth | Report from day two of 20CCEM

Traditional Ceremony Opening Ceremony (Credit: Fijian Government)

The ACU is at the 20th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (20CCEM) in Fiji to represent its member institutions across the Commonwealth and be the voice for higher education. On the second day of CCEM, higher education priorities for the next three years were discussed at the Higher Education Forum.

The ACU jointly coordinated the HE Forum with our partners: the Fiji Higher Education Commission, Fiji National University, and the University of the South Pacific. Representatives from all three organisations were in the room for these important discussions – the session was chaired by Professor Nigel Healey, ACU Council member and Vice-Chancellor of Fiji National University, and facilitated by Dr Joanna Newman, ACU Chief Executive and Secretary General, and Professor Amit Chakma, Chair of ACU Council and President of Western University, Canada.

Some of the key priorities identified include:

  • Gathering accurate graduate outcomes data to support employability initiatives
  • Encouraging lifelong learning, innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Supporting access and inclusion
  • International mobility and scholarships
  • Improving quality of teaching, research, and learning
  • Universities' role in promoting respect and understanding
  • Stemming the issue of brain drain by developing online learning
Ahnivar Ancelmo Peralta, a Commonwealth Scholar from Belize, with Frank Bainimarama, the Fijian Prime Minister at 20CCEM (image credit: Fijiian Government) CSFP Scholar Ahnivar With Fijian President (Credit Fijiian Gov)

The ACU's crucial role in these areas and commitment to advancing higher education across the Commonwealth was acknowledged by Baroness Patricia Scotland, Commonwealth Secretary-General, in her opening keynote address at the conference, where she highlighted that: 'Education imparts the knowledge, develops the skills, and values and attitudes that will equip Commonwealth citizens to lead sustainable lifestyles... By linking administrators and academic staff of our universities, promoting high standards, and facilitating student mobility within the Commonwealth, ACU makes a vast impact – including by building national capacity, resilience and sustainability, towards attainment of the SDGs.'

Integrated Partners' Forum

These priorities will be put forward as part of the Integrated Partners' Forum (IPF) statement, which will be presented to ministers on Thursday 22 February 2018.

Why do we need to set these priorities?

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognise the role of higher education in development through SDG4, which focuses on ensuring quality education for all. The SDGs are an ambitious set of targets for the global community to achieve by 2030. These priorities are a way for Commonwealth nations to commit to achieving measurable progress in higher education over the next three years, which will in turn help achieve the SDGs by 2030.

What will the world look by 2030?

There is rapid growth in demand for higher education across the world, and it is forecast that there will be an increase from the 200 million places required today to 320 million places by 2030. This exponential growth needs to be balanced against the demands of an ageing world and the impact of increased automation, which could see 7 in 10 workers employed in jobs that could be replaced by machines.

In addition to a growing skills gap between what employers demand and education provides, by 2030 there will be over 100 cities with populations of over 5 million. With this increased urbanisation and imbalance of demand from emerging economies versus supply in developed economies, stricter immigration policies and money increasingly becoming a barrier to high income destinations, what will happen to those universities facing a decline in public funding? Will the private sector and disruptive online learning grow to meet the increasing demand?

More information

The ACU delegation includes Dr Joanna Newman, ACU Chief Executive and Secretary General, and several key figures in international higher education, drawn from member institutions.

Read the round-up from day one at the conference.

You can keep up-to-date with the latest from 20CCEM by following us on Twitter.

With thanks to the Fijian Government for the image (for more see their Facebook page).