Third annual forum on international education brought together local and international experts, academics, and tutors.
CZEDUCON 2021, a conference organized by the Czech National Agency for International Education and Research (DZS), just finished its three-day run with a score of almost 700 attendees and 40 events. The online live stream of the forum was not one-sided, thanks to a chat window and online polling, attendees had the opportunity to communicate directly with the speakers. Simultaneous speech transcription was provided by the Teiresias Centre of Masaryk University, Brno, in the interest of making all the events accessible to the widest possible audience.
Dozens of guests from Czechia and Europe commented on new trends that emerged in the area of international higher education and outlined the new challenges we’re facing as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the conference also reflected other changes higher education will undergo in 2021. New Erasmus+ Programme began its first of seven years. New priorities emerged at the European level, and consequently, a new vision for the European Education Area has been set and a new Digital Education Action Plan has been adopted. At the national level, the Strategy for Internationalization of Higher Education has been formulated in a stand-alone document as a part of the Strategic Plan of the Ministry for Higher Education for 2021 onwards.
The theme of this year’s conference (Un)prepared for change? was suitably reflected in the opening panel discussion the Impact of COVID-19 on the internationalization of higher education. Director of DZS Dana Petrova, Deputy Minister of Education, Youth and Sports Pavel Doleček, Rector of Prague University of Economics and Business Hana Machková and Rector of Masaryk University Martin Bareš agreed that while the current pandemic changed the climate of the internationalisation of higher education significantly, new possibilities for cooperation of international experts have emerged thanks to digitals tools in education and communication. Moving online has contributed to easier organisation of global conferences and workgroups and made it possible to invite international experts to thesis defences.
In its second day, the conferenced shifted its focus on the priorities of the new Erasmus+ programme: inclusion, diversity, sustainability, digitalisation, and participation. Roman Klepetko, Head of Higher Education Mobilities and Projects Unit, was there to introduce the topic. Klára Tichá Dowse spoke on her area of expertise, social responsibility. There have also been lively discussions during the day on the topic of digitalization of administration, such as In the Beginning, There Was EWP: Dynamic Digitalisation of International Relationships. Speakers from International Departments of six Czech universities were able to share their experiences with fulfilling the goals of the new initiative Erasmus without papers which aims to digitalize the administration of student mobilities.
On the last day of the conference, the speakers also delved into the topic of digitalisation. Digitalisation is not just a matter of digitalizing the project administration or higher education exchange trips, it concerns marketing and the process of education too. Representatives of one Czech and four international universities shared their experiences with virtual mobility as well as the results of surveys. “Students who were capable of independent study and self-regulation were more motivated and had more success with online learning. Loss of motivation is a key factor for students. We need to reshape online education so that students can find their motivation again,” said Rasa Pocevičienė of the Siauliai State College in Lithuania, summaring a point all the panellists agreed on.
“We should put our focus on cooperation. It’s not a revolution but evolution that will lead us to internationalisation. We, as international educators, form bridges between local and international environments.”Christopher Medalis of Palacky University in Olomouc captures the meaning of internationalisation of higher education very well. Cooperation and communication among experts, academics and tutors in a global environment are the steppingstones for overcoming current challenges in higher education.
Hopefully, CZEDUCON 2021 represented a bridge of inspiration and information for you as well during the last three days. We would like to thank everyone who attended, be it as a speaker, commenter or viewer, and contributed to opening many topics of discussions and sharing many different viewpoints on the current development of international higher education. Next year’s CZEDUCON is planned for November 30 to December 1, 2022. Recordings of all events will soon be made available on www.czeducon.cz.