ACA Annual Conference 2011: The excellence imperative. World-class aspirations and real-world needs.

Vienna, 22-24 May 2011

Theme

Recent years have witnessed the emergence of a new paradigm: that of the world-class university.  The paradigm is closely linked to the parallel emergence of international institutional rankings and league tables, which rely heavily on criteria almost exclusively related to research, mostly in the ‘hard’ sciences.  But higher education institutions around the world differ immensely in mission and activity focus, and only some of them are truly research-led. Teaching-focused universities and colleges, the vast majority of higher education institutions, almost by definition fail to qualify as “world-class” in this sense, because they aspire to other forms of excellence than those measured by international rankings. 

This conference will explore the question of what makes an excellent university or college. In doing so, it will consider not only the research function of higher education, but also its educational role – teaching and learning – and manifold further functions and missions, such as higher education’s role in maintaining and building civil society, in addressing today’s global challenges, and in international cooperation, amongst others. In other words, it is intended to seek to identify different forms of excellence, geared to different aspirations.

Plenary sessions

The conference will be organised in three sessions.

Session I will present and critically evaluate the paradigm of the world-class university. It will present its main features, and demonstrate its research bias. It will also explore the links between notions of ‘world class’ and the methodologies of international league tables, present an example of an outstanding European university, and assess the position of European higher education by the global measures of ‘word class’ currently in vogue.

Session II will widen the view, moving beyond the question of excellence in research to encompass further missions of higher education institutions. Notably, it will cover excellence in teaching and learning, the (in Europe) new concept of liberal arts education, universities in the developing world, and the societal role of higher education in the context of social inclusiveness, democracy, the intercultural dialogue, etc.

Session III, finally, will explore excellence in internationalisation. It will try to develop the basic elements of a “post-instrumental” form of internationalisation. It will address the role of language policies, and it is to look into the university’s role concerning immigrant populations, or, to put it differently, develop the essential elements of “internationalisation at the doorstep”.

Workshops

There will be four parallel workshops, devoted predominantly to issues around internationalisation. The themes are:

• Quality in international mobility
• Internationalisation at home
• Language policies
• Institutional responsibility

Details on the workshops will be published at a later stage.

Target groups

The ACA Annual Conference 2011 is intended for a broad range of audiences, from government, international organisations, NGOs and, above all, higher education institutions.  From among the latter, we particularly address institutional leaders and staff specialising in strategic affairs and internationalisation.

Speakers

In the selection of speakers, we follow a simple policy: only the best. Presenters at an ACA Annual Conference are chosen exclusively from a small group of internationally reputed experts from the fields of higher education research and higher education policy. We do not invite plenary speakers we have not personally seen perform.

For more information on the speakers, click here