Stay in the loop! Subscribe to our mailing list

Hello Goodbye : Bernd Wächter’s swan song

‘Hello goodbye’ was the title of a well-known song by the Beatles. Paul McCartney, the author, said it was about ‘duality’. The song went through my head when thinking about the changes ahead in the ACA Secretariat. After almost 22 years as the Director of ACA, I will go into retirement on 1 September. Bernd says ‘goodbye’. On the same day, ACA’s present Deputy Director, Irina Ferencz, will become the new CEO of ACA. Irina says ‘hello’.

I have enjoyed my time as the Director of ACA tremendously. Having had the good luck to be able to build on the foundations which were laid by my predecessors Julia Race and Alan Smith (the father of the Erasmus programme), I think I contributed to developing further the profile and the range activities of ACA. Landmarks were very many publications, particularly those in the series ACA Papers in International Cooperation in Education. ACA also began to run its own event series, such as the European Policy Seminars. On top of this, ACA considerably widened it thematic range, from international mobility which stood at the outset and remains important to this very day to English-medium instruction (EMI), national and institutional internationalisation strategies, and the relative importance of European higher education in a global comparison, to name but a few. Some of ACA’s work had a surprising impact. EURODATA, a study on the dry issue of international mobility statistics, made EUROSTAT, OECD and UNESCO change their approach and definitions in next to no time. A little study dating back to the beginning of the millennium called The Globalisation of Higher Education was mentioned as one of the sources which convinced the European Union of the necessity to create the Erasmus Mundus Programme in 2004.

Of course, all of this was not possible without the excellent, committed and never-tiring staff of the ACA Secretariat, without the inspiring leadership of outstanding ACA Presidents, such as Sir Peter Scott, Rolf Tarrach and Sijbolt Noorda, to name but three of them, as well as the founding fathers of ACA, Christian Bode of DAAD and Pieter van Dijk of Nuffic. And of ACA’s real owners, its members. The ACA membership I almost alienated in my first years. I experienced General Assemblies and Board meetings as tedious bureaucracy. The members forgave me and made it clear to me in a very gentle way that strong membership relations were the backbone of ACA. I have also enjoyed working with exciting internationalisation professionals in the ‘four quarters of the world’. Professor Ulrich Teichler (Kassel) is one of them.

I am leaving ACA in good hands, which is reassuring. In the hands of my very able successor Irina and a phantastic crew. Irina has been on the ACA team for 12 years already, and she has contributed in a very major way to the successes depicted above. She has the power, the energy and the fresh ideas ACA needed, especially in days like ours where the going gets rough. I wish her and the entire ACA team and the entire association success and luck.

I am leaving serene, but also a bit sad. ACA has been my home for the past 22 years. My home not only in intellectual terms, but also in emotional ones. Or, to put it in the words of Raymond Chandler’s Phil Marlowe, who famously said each good-bye was like to die a little.