Ministers, COGS, and Robots – Oh My!

Friday already and what a week.  The Hon Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training,  opened the morning with his optimistic outlook on the current and future state of the sector.  He referenced the goals set out in the National Strategy for International Education 2025 and emphasised how valuable the open lines of communication have been with the sector.  Much of the Minister’s address covered familiar ground, but I think it’s important to reiterate the accomplishments, work underway, and the potential successes still yet to be realised.

Following his official address, the Minister perused the exhibition hall.  Escorted by Phil Honeywood, he seemed to be receiving some explanation around a few of the posters on display before jetting back off to Canberra.

The closing plenary appropriately bookended the conference with a look at current and future trends in leveraging technology, and in particular, the concept and rise of cognitive computing.  The Global Education Industry Strategy and Solutions Leader at IBM, Simon Eassom, highlighted industry convergence as the biggest trend on the horizon, which is only possible through co-creation – a concept that has been peppered throughout this conference as being critical to establishing viable and sustainable ‘connections’.

We were introduced to the exciting and frightening world of cognitive computing where robots take over the WORLD!!!  Well…maybe not take over the world, but developers are giving it a red hot go in building computers that can be trained to understand, reason, and learn just like humans…

So as we ponder a world dominated by artificial intelligence and robots, it’s time that the 2016 AIEC conference comes to a close.  It has been a great week. Let’s say we do this again next year!  Look forward to seeing you all in Hobart!

– Dawn


The Dream Builder

Wow! Day three has been epic.  Great speakers, sessions, and many face to face connections simply made throughout the day that I’ve been consumed and not posting – yikes!

The morning served up a range of strategic discussions tackling national strategies developed by the UK and Australia to the aspiring desire to create a collective framework for a global education agent quality framework.  Both very big endeavours requiring significant commitment from the top, and an energy to see the work to fruition.  Having representatives from government and peak industry bodies in the same room nutting out these issues and working in unison is very promising indeed.

Moving on from a morning dominated by regulatory frameworks and government strategy, the afternoon plenary took us all back to the why we are all here in the first place.  The STUDENTS.

We hear it all too often that it only takes one person to make a difference and that in our roles as international education professionals, we can change lives.  However, all too often in my experience, we lose sight of the student and find ourselves frustrated and entangled in a web of bureaucracy, politics, and ivory towers without a student in sight.  Today’s plenary was a reminder of the power of education, and the potential impact that we all can make within our respective organisations, within our communities, and individually.

KOTO – Know One Teach One – is transforming lives through education, and at the helm, is the Dream Builder – Jimmy Pham.  Like many others in the plenary hall today, ten years on, I am again privileged to be hearing the KOTO story.  This time, we are honoured to not only to hear from Jimmy, but Huong Dang – a remarkable young woman that is an alumnus of KOTO and continuing to exceed each and every goal she sets out to achieve.

Huang’s story is humbling, inspirational, and an example of just one of  > 1,000 students that have had their lives transformed by KOTO.  What an incredible plenary.  – Dawn

Shakin’ it up to Stay Relevant

It’s Day #3, and I’m still reflecting on the latest and greatest work from Rob Lawrence that was presented yesterday afternoon.  I don’t know about you, but a highlight of each AIEC for me is around the gold that emerges from the ‘hot off the press’ data that Rob imparts onto us each year.  2016 has been no exception on both fronts, and I will now be throwing around terms like, “Super Structure Environments and Bleisure Zones” for the next little while.  We were introduced to napping and mobile work pods that organisations like Virgin are installing across Australia.

Creativity, problem solving, and social intelligence are now emerging as critical attributes in the workplace, so the big question now is how are educational outfits re-inventing themselves to deliver on these outcomes? If we’re serious about equipping our students for the workforce of the future, it’s clear that we need to rethink our models of pedagogy and partnering to set ourselves and students up for success.

Now with Day #3 underway, the first session brought a wee smile of pride to my weary Melbourne-nite face as Study Melbourne showcased recent initiatives that are building up Melbourne as a welcoming and preferred cosmopolitan hub for students.  A clear focus for Study Melbourne is around enhancing the student experience, but not without creatively linking with educational, government, and industry bodies to advance in these efforts.  Their formula isn’t unique in my opinion.  It’s just clear, focused, and effectively initiated.  Well done, Melbourne.

Signing off now to hear about how the UK and AUS governments are collaborating to implement national strategies…I think I’m about to learn a lot more about the impact of the BREXIT.

Bring on the Power of Chewbacca Mom

If you wanted a boost of inspiration to how you and your institution could be engaging with this generation driven by instant gratification – then this morning’s Plenary with Jackie Kassteen of Transformative Marketing Solutions would have perked you up.  From the vantage point of our own respective institutions, we are all striving to find the perfect formula for engaging with our clients – whether they be students, partners, or otherwise.  Many of us are so eager to push out content that we ‘think’ our audiences need/want, but how effective are we in doing this?  From research Jackie shared – the more content; the less impact.

Don’t be alarmed or discouraged though.  Her message was more nuanced than just ‘less is more’.  It’s about the genesis, shape, and feel of the content that creates impact.  I think we see it all around us but may not recognise it.

‘Co-created’ and ‘user generated’ content is gold, typically more cost effective, and if done well – achieves the greatest reach.

Key messages for me:

  • Student numbers are the measure but not the GOAL.
  • What is our GOAL?  Creating global citizens is no longer a USP, so what is it?
  • Standardised test scores and degrees are no longer paramount for employers.  They are seeking graduates that can THINK, so how are we living up to that?
  • People tend to buy a product or service based on how it makes them FEEL, not based on what it does.

Of the many current examples she shared, we were re-introduced to Chewbacca Mom – a video about a woman from Texas that filmed herself laughing uncontrollably whilst wearing a Chewbacca mask that went viral on social media earlier this year. This video embodied how this ‘user generated’ content created an unexpected platform for a range of organisations to benefit, because viewers found it to be conversational, believable, and authentic.

It certainly prompted discussion amongst delegates about how many of our educational institutions are needing to shed themselves of what is seen as an antiquated approach, and instead, embody their own Chewbacca Mom that yields the authentic message to get the cut through that we all want to achieve.

AIEC 2016 has KICKED OFF!!

Hello, fellow delegates! I’m Dawn Hewitt, and I am thrilled to be attending and blogging my way through AIEC’s 30th anniversary conference.  It looks to be a big week of big things, and if the President of IEAA, Chris Ziguras is right, be ready to be inspired and to think, “This is huge…this changes everything!”

For a conference focused on ‘connectivity’, the first plenary did not disappoint in challenging attendees to think beyond the traditional constructs of ‘connecting’.  I trust that no one attending this opening would have expected that they would be standing shoulder to shoulder with their colleagues singing out in the plenary hall exemplifying the power of how inclusive and connected communities can be created.  Tania de Jong of ‘One Voice’, shared the successes of her organisation through the simple concept of song.  She urged attendees to consider alternative avenues for linking people, places, and purpose in the context of our international students.

Study Melbourne appropriately folded in a special surprise for the plenary by debuting their international student choir, which performed three diverse pieces especially for the conference.  Melbourne may not have turned on the sunshine today, but that didn’t hinder anyone from ‘singin’ in the rain’ and serving up a healthy helping of energy and optimism to jumpstart the conference. I’m ready and raring to go!

And that’s a wrap!

Well, I think everyone landed safely and reached their intended destinations after flying with IDP Airlines at the conference dinner last night. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dance floor fill so quickly or a band so surprised by the energy of the dancers! This morning’s pick-me-up breakfast in the exhibition hall was pretty quiet, I must say.

This morning, we heard from Stephen Oliver, who is currently making a documentary about climate change, focusing more on the solutions rather than the challenges. Stephen has filmed a number of documentaries looking at different sustainability issues in the food chain and believes it’s an exciting time to tell stories on-screen and is a brilliant medium to get the message out there. He suggested that stories and education go hand in hand and is a powerful combination to empower communities to make the world a more global, responsible and sustainable place.

The Honourable Simon Birmingham, having flown in from Brisbane on the 6am flight to join us, was very positive in his outlook of the industry. He is looking forward to finalising the national strategy on international education this year, which represents a shared vision across government, institutions and industry.

Key priorities include promoting a high quality of education system, reviewing how to further improve the student experience, enhancing business/institution partnerships, and expanding the technology delivery mode of universities to step up to the challenges of a rapidly changing digital age.

The Senator highlighted that graduate employability and enhancing international students’ career prospects were central to the strategy. This is a topic which has been discussed in many sessions over the last three days and is a challenge which is certainly not restricted to Australia.

Today’s highlight for me was Annabel Crabb’s conversation with Senator Penny Wong, closing the conference. What a fascinating and humorous account of the Senator’s experience growing up between Malaysian and Australian cultures, her arrival in parliament and her thoughts on international education.

I saw many people nodding in agreement to the Senator’s remark that international education has continuing significance in positioning and integrating Australia in the region. Being more Asia-capable – introducing more capacity for other language speaking and working cross-culturally – is becoming intrinsically more important for Australia.

The Senator is very optimistic about our country in the region and believes that we’re the most successful multi-cultural country in the world, with many things we can leverage of, including international education.

Also, who knew Penny Wong is an awesome chef?

Phew! I am thoroughly exhausted after four days of meeting people, attending sessions, enjoying the entertainment, absorbing new ideas, case studies, best practice examples and some really fascinating insights into the world of international education. Just before I catch my flight back to Melbourne, I’d like to wish you all a safe journey home and hope to see you all at AIEC 2016!


An extra dose of inspiration

I didn’t make it to quite as many sessions as I would have liked today, as I was on IELTS booth duty. However, this was great fun as I got to speak with many delegates I wouldn’t have had the chance to otherwise.

This morning’s plenary session was surprisingly touching as well as extremely inspiring.

His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AO, the Governor of South Australia, gave a very moving account of his life story, peppered with plenty of humour, starting with his journey as a refugee from Vietnam on the first boats fleeing the war. He went on to recount the warm welcome he received when he reached Australia and his own experiences as an international student. He finished by sharing his belief that embracing this global interconnected world in which we live today will create a sustainable, inclusive and fairer global community in the future. Something which I think many would echo.

We received a double dose of compelling and inspirational presentations this morning. Dr Kirsty Sword-Gusmao followed, speaking about her experiences in Timor-Leste through her work as Goodwill Ambassador for Education and Founder of Alola, an NGO improving the lives of women and children. She really is a passionate advocator for education being the key factor in a better, richer, healthier and more dignified country.

I also enjoyed the panel session at the end of the day highlighting the hot topics in international education which had representatives from Brazil, Europe and the USA and showed how diverse the challenges are.

Marcus Laitinen from EAIE presented some interesting thoughts on the refugee crisis in Europe, concerned more with the long-term consequences and how education can help with their integration. There are many schemes in place across Europe offering educational places to refugees, and I was particularly struck by a new initiative called Science for Refugees which aims to match refugee scholars to universities through a web portal.

Vitor Amoral from the Brazilian Association for International Education presented his perspective on Brazil. Education (as we all know) is important for the development of a country, and we are seeing an encouraging movement in Brazil where discourse is being translated to action and, international education is very slowly moving up the political agenda (Science Without Borders aside).

From the USA, we heard that the big giant isn’t sleeping any more – as Brett Blacker from IEAA put it. Dr Fanta Aw from NAFSA spoke about the US having finally realised that recruiting overseas is a great idea, especially since the changing demographics of the US mean that as numbers of high school children drop, universities will increasingly look towards international students to make up their numbers.

This evening I am jetting off to the conference dinner. I must dash now – I have a plane to catch! Now where did I put my boarding pass…

So, how global, responsible and sustainable is international education?

Being a bit of a numbers fan, I was delighted to hear that there are over 175 speakers at AIEC, and more than 1100 delegates from 380 different organisations. What a great chance to mix with such a large number and variety of people in the international education industry! The only catch is deciding which sessions to attend…

My first stop was the opening plenary by Professor Arjen Wals from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Arjen delivered a very interesting talk on the role of education in creating a sustainable global ecology. One question he raised and which really struck me was ‘is international education diversifying or homogenising responses to this issue?’

A superb panel discussion followed, analysing the theme of the conference – global, responsible, sustainable.

Top ideas for me were:
– What it means to be sustainable depends on where you are and when.
– The changing values of future students: Generation Y are more conscious about sustainability on a global scale. Are they likely to take a more responsible approach?
– What is international education going to look like in 15 years’ time? How global, responsible and sustainable will the sector be then?

Some really pertinent questions were raised. However, these seemed to generate more questions than answers, and goes to show the dynamics and complexities of the international education sector.

Another highlight today for me was the café session run by the Pie News about student experiences. This was a really fun and interactive session where we split into groups with a few international students in each. The students were then put under the spotlight and quizzed (in the nicest possible way!) about their experiences and challenges of studying in Australia. I had three fantastic students in my group and each one had a different story to tell.

The next session on my list was delivered by Dave Coulter from IDP Education and Cath Gomes from RMIT University. Listening to the findings of IDP’s student buyer behaviour research, I noted that many of the points raised in the previous café session resonated in the results presented here.

I’m not going to go into much detail on the findings as it’s all so fascinating I’d probably go over my word count. I know IDP are going to publish an infographic of this data and the (now infamous) running men so you’ll be able to get your hands on this information too.

Something I did find interesting (and I hope will pique your interest too!) was around the information sources different cohorts of students looked at on fact-finding missions, which varied between groups. However, in a digital age, personal contact still plays an important role.

My head is certainly full of challenges and ideas raised by all the presentations I saw today. I hope I’ll be able to fit more in tomorrow!

And we’re off…

Welcome to AIEC!

My name is Stephanie Bethencourt and I am the Stakeholder Relations Officer at IDP Education, based in Melbourne. I have been asked to be this year’s guest blogger and I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences at the event over the next few days.

This is the second time I’ve been lucky enough to attend AIEC, and I must admit that last year in Brisbane I was quite overwhelmed by everything going on. So this year, I’ve decided to come prepared and am thoroughly looking forward to what is gearing up to be a fantastic event.

One of the things I really enjoy is getting the chance to meet up with colleagues from Australia and around the world. It’s not often that everyone comes together and it’s great to put faces to names that you email and voices you speak to over the phone.

This afternoon’s Welcome Plenary, by Dr Phoebe Wynn-Pope from the Australian Red Cross, was very inspiring and thought-provoking. She spoke about the work of the Red Cross in bringing humanity to even the most dire of conflicts through international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention. Impartiality is a key feature underpinning this and their aid goes to those in the greatest need, overlooking race, gender and religion. Without this understanding from those involved on all sides of any war, the Red Cross would not be able to deliver their aid.

But, you may ask, what has this got to do with education? Everything apparently. Educating people about the laws of wars – during times of peace and periods of conflict – plays a key role to promoting understanding and tolerance, and pays dividends to ensuring that humanity can be found in the midst of conflict. Certainly some food for thought to start the conference.

I heard many delegates echoing my thoughts during the Welcome Reception, which was a fun way to end to the evening. I still have the samba beats of the SA Samba band ringing in my ears!

Framing International Student Responsibility

By Ly Tran, Senior Lecturer, School of Education, Deakin University (Australia)

Understanding international student responsibility and institutional responsibility towards international students is essential to ensure and enhance the well-being and educational experience of this group. However, international student responsibility is a notion that is often neglected. Research on student responsibility concentrates exclusively on domestic students and is framed predominantly within the school context in relation to classroom discipline, learning and citizenship education. In practice, the extent to and the ways in which international students and involved parties including parents, teachers, host universities and host communities are responsible for the education, wellbeing and development of international students are rarely spelled out. How to support and gear students towards building and enacting responsibility in an educationally, culturally and ethically productive ways is little known either.

International student responsibility and their capacity to exercise responsibility should not be framed merely within the academic domain. Instead it should be viewed from a relational stance that takes into account the diverse tangible and intangible interrelated aspects of cross-border mobility status. International student responsibility transcends the classroom boundary, extending to the home and host communities and other relationships that have been formed via their mobility experiences. Spatial, intellectual and cultural mobility as a result of overseas education shapes and reshapes students’ perception of their own responsibility and the ways in which they enact their responsibility. Being in educational mobility provides them with the unique transnational social fields to develop responsibility towards the home and host country. This also gives students the condition to perceive and develop responsibility for global citizenship.

International students can exercise both personal and social responsibility. Personal responsibility is the responsibility towards the self as an actor in international education and a member in the classroom community, the social community as well as their family. This is interrelated with the social responsibility. These dimensions of responsibility can be fluid, dynamic and complex as they involve both a sense of obligation and sense of intrinsic commitment. Personal responsibility encompasses the obligation towards their academic learning as well as wellbeing. The status of international students is also often interconnected with a responsibility to ensure a return in their investment in overseas education. In some cultures, efforts towards acquiring a good academic, financial and social return in investment in international education are intimately embedded in the responsibility to fulfil their filial duty and respond to the family’s aspirations.

International student responsibility should also be seen in parallel with their capacity to exercise responsibility. One’s capacity for responsibility can be shifting or developing due to their engagement in cross-border life and in pursuit of education far away from family support and out of cultural comfort zone. Student responsibility is associated with their capacity for rational agency (Ericson and Ellet, 1990:4). Both personal capacity and external opportunities to exercise their agency are essential for students to act responsibly (Bandura, 1977). As personal capacity as well as individual perceptions of responsibility vary among students, the extent to which they act responsibly also differs. Enhancing student responsibility is indeed nurturing good citizenship.

Within the neoliberal commercialisation principle that drives international education, host institutions have been seen to largely hold accountability for providing the educational services for international students who are often positioned as consumers. This practice has to some extent drawn attention away from questions about institutional responsibility for building student capacity for exercising both personal and social responsibility. The locus of institutional responsibility should extend beyond simply providing the educational services to actually enabling international students to develop full capacity to enact responsibility in educationally, culturally and morally productive ways. In order to achieve this, it is important for host institutions to ensure the productive conditions and external opportunities for international students to exercise responsibility as intercultural members and learners. It is also important for host institutions not to ignore the ways in which student mobility intersects with personal agency and personal capacity as well as multiple and transnational logics of legal, social, cultural and academic practices in viewing international student responsibility.


Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.
Ericson, D. P., & Ellett, F. S. (1990). Taking student responsibility seriously. Educational researcher, 19(9), 3-10.

Interested to find out more? Join Ly Tran and other panellists in the Thursday morning session “Revisiting the responsibility of international students: perspectives from students, institutions and research” at AIEC 2015 in Adelaide this October!