Stay in the loop! Subscribe to our mailing list

A world-class seminar on world-class higher education

What does the term ‘world-class’—when applied to a program, an institution, and even an entire system of higher education—really mean? What does it take to achieve such a status? What is excellence in higher education? What are the effects of ranking exercises and what are the alternatives to the current approaches to institutional rankings? These are some of the fundamental questions that speakers and participants endeavoured to address at ACA’s third European Policy Seminar of 2010. A sold-out crowd of approximately 100 gathered on 15 October 2010 at the Club de la Fondation Universitaire/Universitaire Stichting in Brussels to share information and ideas with regard to the theme World-class. The brave new world of global higher education and research.

Individually and collectively, the presenters touched on a wide range of highly compelling subjects. These included the complexities and challenges of developing and maintaining healthy “pyramid-style” systems of higher education to support some small number of world-class institutions at the top; worrisome evidence of “mission convergence” in contexts where excellence is narrowly defined; and a recipe for building world-class institutions. Participants were also provided with insight into European efforts to counter prevailing approaches to institutional rankings and encouraged to “orchestrate new noise about global excellence” that recognises the unique contributions of non-research oriented institutions. Words of caution were also voiced about the ongoing power of popular rankings in the face of resistance within the higher education community to, among other things, develop meaningful metrics for fundamental activities within the academy, such as teaching.

 ACA is extremely grateful for the contributions of the outstanding speakers, and the high level of engagement of the audience. This fascinating and timely theme will be extended and expanded at ACA’s annual conference next year. Co-organised by the Österreichischer Austauschdienst GmbH (OeAD), the conference will be held in Vienna on 22-24 May 2011, under the title The excellence imperative. World-class aspirations and real-world needs. We hope to see many of you at this exceptional event. ACA European Policy Seminar: World-class. The brave new world of global higher education and research