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!

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