Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Resetting the Compass

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Resetting the Compass

Article excerpt

Resourceful academies in the global South and East have much to teach the 'developed' North and West, Sir David Watson observes.

There are many ways to do high-profile international meetings, and the method that is chosen should affect the outcome. The annual Emerging Markets Symposium at Green Templeton College, Oxford has followed the model of "locking away" leaders for three days - but with some special features.

The participants commit to studying a substantial volume of analytical material assembled by doctoral and postdoctoral students at the college, to stay throughout, to make at least one substantial input, to listen to each other, to observe the Chatham House rule, and to take away and attempt to implement practical ideas. Several participants have noted that they leave with more sophisticated, and in some cases significantly different, positions from those with which they arrived. Our plan is to emerge with policies and practices to be promoted and pursued in many settings.

In each of the three meetings to date, we have assembled as many as 50 high-level practitioners, policymakers and recent political leaders. The symposia have addressed overarching issues that must be better understood if human welfare is to be improved. Last year the focus was achieving health and human security, especially in rapidly expanding cities. This year the topic was tertiary education, which we interpreted as incorporating all forms of post-compulsory and lifelong learning. Our chair, Shaukat Aziz, the former prime minister of Pakistan, termed this a "game-changer" for emerging economies.

The personal conclusions I have taken away include our collective readiness, after tough discussions, simply to ignore the battle for institutional victory in the "world-class" university league tables. Not only do these fail to measure most of the targets in our sights - such as teaching quality, contributions to social mobility, services to local and regional business and communities, rural interests and links with other public services - but they also have proved powerful distractions for both governments and institutional leaders (who should know better).

Another was the necessity of balancing the individual and social returns on participation and success in higher-level education and training. This also led us to look carefully at styles and means of co-payment - models through which both the state and the individual contribute to the cost of tertiary education - that ensure both personal and social investment in success. A third insight was the challenge of riding with, rather than attempting to get ahead of, the "cloud" of information and communications technologies. …

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