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In the past few weeks, a new round of Thematic Peer Groups (TPGs) – select groupings bringing together experts from ACA member organisations to discuss themes of direct relevance for their activities and to enhance capacities – were organised by the ACA Secretariat online.
TPG Impact of Covid-19
ACA members participating in this TPG continued monitoring and evaluating the impact of Covid-19 on international higher education in their respective countries. The members reported growing optimism for the opening of the academic year 2021/22 in close to ‘normal’ conditions, resuming face-to-face teaching activities and on-campus presence. They also expect a growth in international student numbers in general, as well as in credit mobile students – both incoming and outgoing.
TPG Research on international education
Members of this TPG took stock of developments related to international staff mobility – an under-researched area when compared to student mobility, though crucial for institutional and for students’ development. The members addressed the terminological caveats and remaining gaps in defining staff and staff mobility, the data collection challenges as well as the remaining knowledge gaps and avenues for further analyses, building on national level studies and on projects such as ACA’s Erasmus+ Staff Mobility Comparative Data Analysis or UniWeliS. They also exchanged on the professional development theory. Impact of staff mobility on institutions, and specifically on teaching was identified as one of the many areas in need of further research. The group members will be working towards putting together a joint proposal in this area. In its next meeting, the group will tackle the topic of comparable student mobility data.
TPG European policies and programmes
This TPG has focused on exchanging the views on and preparing input for the most recent EU policy developments related to the co-creation of the European Strategy for Universities, the roll-out of the European Universities Initiative and the work towards the European Degree. ACA is an active contributor to these co-creation processes led by the European Commission and a member of several stakeholder consultation groups. ACA members play an important role in guiding and supporting higher education institutions in their countries in the implementation of the new policy directions at the EU level.
TPG Widening inclusion in international higher education
Members of the group had an extensive exchange on approaches to defining target groups whose inclusion is further needed in their respective countries. Building on previous discussions, a lot has been done since the beginning of this year, with all members sharing various approaches on the target groups they are planning to support. Some of them include ethnical or linguistic minorities, others focus on students coming from diaspora communities, and some are identified based on their personal status of a parent, or socio-economic background. These exchanges will be collected in a light state-of-play type of report with the aim to further inspire national level developments and to generate peer learning.
In parallel, a more elaborate annotation of the EC’s Inclusion and Diversity Strategy is planned for the coming months, including concrete examples and practical tips. As most of the members are preparing to draft their national strategies, group’s co-chair Ieva Serapinaite (Diku) presented the articulation process of the EC’s strategy where she contributed and Julia Oesterbauer (OeAD) presented approaches and goals of two national strategies on social dimension in Austria. Mutual exchange of methodologies and approaches in building national strategies remains high on the agenda for the coming period.
TPG New mobility formats
Members of the group used this opportunity to exchange on the latest mobility-related developments in their countries and plans for the upcoming academic year. They have reported on the high interest among HEIs in blended intensive programmes, indicating such models of collaboration might become more prominent in the coming years with extensive learning still to be done – in developing pedagogies, enhancing quality assurance procedures, and streamlining administrative support – to make them relevant and meaningful for students. To support these developments, the group is investigating students’ motivation for virtual and blended mobility options with a short snapshot survey currently being disseminated among HEIs in ACA members’ countries. Lessons learned from the students will be used for joint advocacy, alignment of terminology, and further development of support for blended mobility.