Conference Theme

Response to the Forces of Change and Emerging Trends of the 21st century in Higher Education

There has been a sense of urgency about the need for change in higher education institutions (HEIs) as a result of the rise of the knowledge economy, globalization and advances in technology. These global developments affect not only the economic, social, cultural, and political lives of people and countries but also the practices and processes of organizations, including higher education institutions. An inquiry into professional higher education-related organizations and associations highlights a number of common themes and topics that need to be (re)considered in response to the forces of change and the emerging trends in the 21st century. The following is a brief survey of major regional associations of HEIs across the globe and their objectives:

The European Higher Education Area (EEHA), an international collaboration of 48 countries, seeks system compatibility for increased staff and student mobility and the facilitation of employability. It also urges HEIs to strengthen quality‐assurance mechanisms and further institutionalize academic freedom, freedom of expression, student unionization, and institutional autonomy.

The European University Association (EUA) focuses on the teaching and learning, research, and quality assurance aspects of HEIs and discusses some key issues – sustainable development, energy challenges, European values, diversity, and inclusion as well as governance and autonomy.

The Higher Education Planning in Asia Association (HEPA), formed in 2017 by the pan-Asian Network of University Planners, examined an exciting new topic in education that demands our attention – Digital Transformation. Their recent survey in Asian universities showed that digital transformation happens through online and blended courses and that, while there are aspirations to achieve  further progress, there are also challenges. While the aspirations are improving the student learning experience and global rankings, while increasing satisfaction, research output, and student employability, , the challenges are mostly related to the lack of expertise, engagement, and interest by the faculty and students in terms of technology and digital pedagogy.

The Association of Universities of Latin America and the Caribbean (UDUAL), founded in 1949 and made up of 200 colleges from 21 countries, focuses strategically on the big issues such as technological change and the information society, demographic dynamics, climate change, equal rights, and university autonomy in the globalized world.

The American Association for Higher Education and Accreditation (AAHEA), established in 1969 as an independent non-profit organization, has dedicated itself to building for human capital for higher education in a democratic multi-racial society through effective educational practices. It aims to ensure quality, accountability, and improvement in HEIs with particular core values including institutional autonomy, intellectual and academic authority of faculty, and quality educational services.

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) is another independent body of leaders from the higher education sector, business and major political parties. It was formed in the UK in response to the demand of the Parliament for a more informed and reflective discourse on higher education issues. Some of the highlights of the HEC are disability, employability, internationalization, and the sustainability of higher education.

The work of all these leading professional organizations and associations is on the forces of change in HEIs where the action takes place. Universities should take a more active role in responding to these emerging issues and act as catalysts for the necessary changes through their research, education, and community service roles.  Moreover, they should closely examine the nature and impact of the forces of change and identify emergent trends to create opportunities for students and academics for capacity building in societies. 

Therefore, the theme of the 5th International Higher Education Conference (IHEC)  reflects the issues, topics, forces and changes of the 21st century in response to the following two questions:

  1. What is the nature of the recent forces and trends driving the transformation of higher education institutions?
  2. How can higher education institutions become the catalysts for change?

In light of above discussion,  the following sub-themes for the IHEC 2020 are specified under the core elements of HEIs as higher education administration, leadership, research, teaching and learning, and community engagement.

  • The roles / functions of universities
  • Higher education policies and their impacts
  • Insitutitonal autonomy & governance
  • The digitalization of higher education
  • Demographic changes, diversity, and inclusion
  • Equity and equality in access to higher education
  • The academic profession
  • Teaching and learning practices
  • Student engagement, graduation and alumni relations
  • Graduate employability: 21st century skills
  • Knowledge production and research
  • Higher education outreach
  • Lifelong learning 
  • Internationalization 
  • Immigration and refugees in higher education
  • Academic Support Services: College student counseling, advising, student affairs
  • University – community partnership and social responsibility