ACA Annual Conference 2012: Tying it all together.
Internationalisation, excellence, funding and the social dimension in higher education

Helsinki, 10-12 June 2012


There are conferences galore focused on the internationalisation of higher education and on international mobility. There is no shortage of events dedicated to world-class universities or “excellence”, to use a trendy expression. Gatherings to address questions of funding for higher education and on social issues at the tertiary level are likewise not in short supply. But these issues are usually only addressed separately and with little to no reference to one another. Rarely are the various relevant higher education themes discussed together. This leads to a reduction of perspectives, to a “single issue view” of higher education.

The 2012 ACA Annual Conference tries to avoid this mistake. It attempts to take a “holistic” view, by tying all these themes together and thus exploring their relevance to one another. For example, what is the relationship between social commitment and “excellence”? Or, to put it differently, can a university both cater to disadvantaged groups in society and be world-class? Does it perhaps even boost academic performance to provide wide access and be socially inclusive? What is the link between internationalisation (and mobility) and funding? Are the best-performing institutions strong in both respects, as Jamil Salmi claims? Is a lack of funds always a disadvantage, or could it also be an incentive for radical reform?

These are just a few of the many questions (and “synergies”) which the ACA Annual Conference will explore. Leading specialist from Europe and beyond will analyse the interrelations between the issues of internationalisation, funding, social commitment and “world class”, and guide participants through the channels linking these issues.

Session and workshops

The conference will be organised in four thematic streams, dedicated to internationalisation and mobility, excellence, funding and the social dimension. The parallel workshops will have the same thematic foci. We would like to stress, however, that each session and workshop does not approach its theme in isolation, but in relation to the other three themes and the challenges inherent in them.

New this year, the conversations at the conference will be guided to some extent by a set of papers commissioned by ACA on the central topics under consideration. The ideas generated during the conference will in turn serve to inform a more nuanced understanding of the issues addressed by these papers which, in their final form, will be compiled into a publication to be released by ACA in the second half of 2012.

Target groups

The ACA Annual Conference 2012 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.


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 in front of an audience.

Our opening keynote speaker is Anita Lehikoinen, the Director General for Higher Education of Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture. The final keynote will be delivered by Sir Peter Scott, of the Institute of Education at the University of London.