Recently in Bangkok the International Association of Universities (IAU), the UNESCO-based association of higher education institutions, held its 15th General Conference that takes place every four years. The event brings together its nearly 700 institutional and organizational members from around the world to focus on pressing matters facing global higher education. As an affiliate member, IIE participated in the event with team members represented from both the Bangkok and New York offices.
The focus of the conference was to exchange strategies and practices that demonstrate how HEIs contribute to innovation and sustainability. Offering macro perspectives from leaders in education across the globe, the three-day conference included a platform for HEIs to discuss what they can do to lead and be catalysts for change in a continuously changing global landscape.
This was the question posed at the IIE Summit in October where commitment partners and others came to discuss their progress, present ideas, and forge new partnerships. We are seeing that through our collective impact, the Generation Study Abroad network is making steady progress, sharing effective methods of outreach and engagement to new stakeholders—on and off campus—to reach our goal of doubling study abroad by the end of the decade. And we are also learning what we might need to do differently to reach our “moonshot.”
We are learning the following things through Generation Study Abroad:
Last week, I was honored to attend the World Student Scholarship Education Program in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on behalf of IIE, which, for nearly 100 years, has specialized in the management of some of the world’s most elite student programs around the world. This conference brings together government scholarship administrators and higher education institutions to develop partnerships, and share updates on how we are all moving the needle forward to develop new talent, strengthen key fields of study, and to build new pathways for students within and between each of our countries. Representatives from government agencies in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Russia, Kazakhstan and Bahrain were in attendance as well as U.S. and foreign higher education institutions.
In China and many other countries in Asia, we are witnessing what education experts call “brain circulation” — I saw it first-hand in September in Beijing, where I attended the inaugural Opening Convocation for the first class of Schwarzman Scholars, a new Master’s program designed to foster understanding of and international ties with China by giving the world’s best and brightest students the opportunity to develop their leadership skills and professional networks through a one-year Master’s Degree at Tsinghua University in Beijing. This program is just a recent manifestation of the trend.
Georgia’s Minister of Education and Science, Aleksandre Jejelava, is embracing what I consider a more positive educational nationalism—a drive to internationalize higher education institutions, faculty and student bodies. During my visit to Tbilisi I heard him speak about his vision of Georgian higher education, to "[offer] education to all of our neighbors and draw students from even beyond them." To do so, the Georgian government amended its visa regime to make it easier for international students to come to Georgia for study purposes. By the year's end, Georgia will be part of the European Union visa waiver system and hopes to welcome many more European students under the Erasmus programs.
What would the world look like if girls were encouraged to be dreamers, tinkerers and makers? What if female students were truly supported, mentored and nurtured? What if women the world over had the same educational and professional opportunities as men?
Through WeTech, we not only envision this world—we work to actively build it.
In 2013, IIE and its consortium of private sector and NGO partners made a real commitment to creating an employee pipeline of girls and women into the technology sector. Launched as a commitment to action at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, the Women Enhancing Technology program (WeTech) is a set of innovative activities that provides training and builds networks for girls and women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) across the world. For the past three years, WeTech has opened up new life possibilities for young females, preparing them for and connecting them to STEM opportunities. The work is ongoing. But three years in, we pause to take stock of the tremendous impact WeTech has made thus far.
This August, 36 young women pursuing undergraduate degrees in Computer Science and Engineering from universities across India and China completed the first year of the WeTech Qualcomm Global Scholars Program, an exciting new initiative made possible through Qualcomm’s support.
During the program, each Scholar received financial assistance through a US$5,000 scholarship and also had the unique opportunity to be mentored for a six-month period by a Qualcomm professional to further enhance her professional development and leadership skills.
As the Program Officer for Women Enhancing Technology (WeTech), administered by the Institute of International Education, I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in this program since its inception in 2015 and see the transformation of these young women throughout the course of their mentorships.
At the Institute of International Education’s Annual Gala this week in New York City, IIE presented seven Fulbright alumni with the inaugural IIE Global Changemaker Awards in celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Fulbright Program.
Fulbright, administered by IIE on behalf of the U.S. Department of State, builds relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries, impacting local communities and the world by providing innovative and inclusive educational exchange opportunities for current and future leaders.
International education is increasingly being viewed as a means to developing human capital and cultivating leaders that can drive change and progress, especially in developing countries. Fellowships, study abroad, global research and internship programs are examples of international education exchanges. Through an exchange of students and young professionals across national borders, these higher education opportunities provide access to relevant knowledge and skills necessary for having an impact of policymaking and for a career in public affairs.
While the impact on recipients’ career and personal development is indisputable, evidence on the impact on the national public sphere, particularly in marginalized communities, has yet to be ascertained. How can international fellowship and scholarship programs influence policymaking? Can alumni of such programs foster change at a local, national, and global level by serving as key agents in government institutions?
“I sometimes was in doubt if I could realize my dreams but because of the support from the HER program there is no doubt for me now. I’m equipped with what I need to face the challenge I might face as a woman.” - HER Graduate
The month of July is a rainy one for Ethiopia. For IIE and the graduates of the Higher Education Readiness (HER) program, however, the 28th of July stands out as a bright and remarkable day where we got together to celebrate 100 girls who successfully graduated from high school and the HER program. These graduates come from underserved communities and families, and the HER program assisted them with a pathway to university and a hope for their future.