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ACA Strategic Summit 2021 – highlights

On 6 May 2021, ACA hosted its first annual Strategic Summit, a high-level event bringing together over 40 leaders from 24 internationalisation funding agencies (many of them ACA members) from Europe and the United States. The distinguished participants discussed issues of strategic importance for international higher education post Covid-19.

The day-long and intervention-rich programme covered reflections on the lessons learnt through the multiple challenges, both ongoing and overcome, encountered by ACA members and the summit’s guests during the past year, as well as by the wider field of international education. The day also featured discussions on the many accomplishments brought about by the pandemic and wider geopolitical developments. Last but not least, the leaders discussed how they imagine and carve a way forward, for internationalisation funding agencies and for our field, as key players in co-shaping a better future.

Along many engaging sessions, the in-depth discussions and networking moments, the programme also featured inspiring keynote presentations by Ulrich Grothus, ACA President, by Allan E. Goodman, President and CEO of the Institute of International Education (IIE) and Cristina Riesen, Co-CEO at Taskbase, and Founder Educreators Foundation.  

The summit concluded with a set of important acknowledgements and powerful shared messages, that will guide the work of funding agencies, as well as ACA’s input in the ongoing policy- and programme-making processes at European level:

  • Navigating and leading through uncertainty is in the DNA of international higher education; it's something to embrace and make the most of.
  • Out of the pandemic, we'll need to continue to strategically leverage the many lessons learnt in terms of adaptability, flexibility, creativity, innovation, etc. There's no going back to the previous 'normal'.
  • There's greater interest and need for the benefits of international education than ever before – we must be ready for the post-pandemic surge, and deliver in line with this demand and interest.
  • To build a better future, we need to innovate – we can't simply aim to recreate the same, but with new (digital) tools. Innovation is also necessary in shaping a new narrative for internationalisation (and mobility), one that reflects better the added value of our field, and that is outcome, rather than activity-driven.
  • In addressing the ambitious objectives we've set for inclusive, sustainable and digitally-enhanced internationalisation (and mobility), we'll need to balance conflicting expectations and possible points of tension between these goals, and find creative solutions to deliver on this comprehensive vision.

The next edition of the ACA Strategic Summit will take place in spring 2022.