President Alice P. Gast joined education experts from around the world at a conference at England’s University of Nottingham in mid-February. The Lord Dearing Memorial Conference honored the higher education contributions of the late former Chancellor of Nottingham, and provided a forum for accomplished educators to shape the debate on its future.
Gast’s presentation in a session discussing the global economic crisis and higher education comes at a time when experts agree that international education faces challenges on a number of fronts. Globalization is bringing rapid change to universities across the globe, and worldwide economic struggles are impacting the ability of institutions to respond. In addition to budget challenges, there are fundamental changes in the size and makeup of student populations and the learning process itself, according to several news reports.
She was joined on the panel by educators and administrators from the London School of Economics, the University of Kent, the University of St. Andrews and Nankai University.
The conference was organized and hosted by David Greenaway, vice-chancellor of the University of Nottingham, and included a speech by the Rt. Hon. Lord Mandelson, Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills, on the state of public funding for higher education in the United Kingdom.
Dearing, who served as the Chancellor of the University of Nottingham from 1993 to 2000, was the primary author of the landmark 1997 report, Higher Education in the Learning Society, which was an outgrowth of the work completed by the country’s National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education.
In it, Dearing and his colleagues addressed issues related to widening participation in higher education to ethnic minorities, women, alternative students, students from lower socio-economic groups and students with disabilities. It also examined the contributions of graduates to the economy.
Before her trip to the UK, Gast traveled to Saudi Arabia, where she spoke at the fourth annual Global Competitiveness Forum in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. She participated at the invitation of Amr A. Al-Dabbagh, governor and chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority. At that forum, Gast joined top business leaders, international political leaders, and selected intellectuals and journalists to discuss solutions to the world’s most vexing issues. The focus of this year’s forum was sustainable competitiveness.
Also participating in the invitation-only forum were CEOs John Chambers (Cisco), Michael Dell (Dell Inc.), Jeffrey Immelt (GE) and others. Gast was joined on a panel devoted to environmental sustainability by leaders of World Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club, and Oxfam.
Last fall, Gast was invited to Kyoto, Japan, to join leading scientists from 85 different countries to discuss science and engineering education at the sixth annual Science and Technology in Society (STS) forum .