I attended the 10th International Workshop on Higher Education Reform (HER) hosted by the University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Education, Oct. 2-4. This is a small conference that moves around each year – last year it was in Pittsburgh, previous locations include Berlin, Vancouver, Shanghai, and Mexico City. One of the chief instigators of this series of conferences is long time CSSHE member and former board member Hans Schuetze. Here is a photo of the main conference venue, the rectorate of the University of Llubljana.
It looks a bit fancier than the often utilitarian buildings on Canadian campuses. And the inside is also a bit fancier – here is Hans sitting under a very fance chandelier as he listens to one of the keynote presentations.
The participants in these Higher Education Reform (HER) conferences come from universities and colleges all over the world. Talking to them during the sessions and the breaks is an education in itself, and tends to broaden one’s conception of what higher education systems are like in places that are very different from Canada and the nearby United States. Even places that don’t seem so different, such as Austria and Germany, operate their HE systems in ways that are quite different from ours. During one of the many interesting presentations at the conference CSSHE board member Lesley Andres, along with Hans Pechar, described how the academic career track – from graduate student to full professor – differs considerably in Austria and Germany, as compared to the pattern in North America that we are more familiar with. The pattern in North America seems to lead to more satisfying academic careers, maybe because our systems are to a lesser extent the result of historical baggage.
One of the keynote speakers at the conference was from South Africa, where the historical baggage from a colonial legacy is one of the many problems that academics have to cope with. Conversations with conference attendees from other parts of Africa reinforced the conclusion that here in North America academics have to deal only with “first world problems,” which seem relatively minor compared to those faced by academics (and other educators) elsewhere.
I’m sure that many members of the CSSHE have more experience with higher education in other countries than I do. One such internationalist is Rhonda Friesen from the University of Manitoba, a CSSHE board member who has led the creation of a new CSSHE affinity group focused on International Higher Education. Just last week the CSSHE board approved this new affinity group. It will, no doubt, be meeting at the CSSHE conference next May at Brock University. If you are already involved in international higher education, or just want to broaden your horizons, be sure to attend.
by Walter Archer, Ph.D.