Future of higher education in focus at IEASA conference

Dr Fanta Aw (left) and Professor Ramu Damodaran (right) were the keynote speakers at the International Education Association of South Africa annual conference. Photos: Sethu Dlamini

Dr Fanta Aw (left) and Professor Ramu Damodaran (right) were the keynote speakers at the International Education Association of South Africa annual conference. Photos: Sethu Dlamini

Published Sep 18, 2023


By Sejal Desai

About 262 delegates from South Africa and 22 other countries around the world gathered for the International Education Association of South Africa’s (IEASA) 25th annual conference and Global Leadership Summit held in Durban, recently.

The conference that was at the heart of IEASA’s silver jubilee celebration reflected on the theme “Looking Back – Looking Forward”. Moreover, there was a special focus on IEASA’s achievements to date, its experiences and lessons learnt; as well as on imagining the future of internationalisation of higher education in South Africa, and around the world.

IEASA is a registered non-profit organisation dedicated to advancing the internationalisation of higher education, which enhances the quality of teaching, learning, research, and community engagement. In addition, the association contributes to enabling graduates, university staff and citizens to contribute constructively and ethically to local and global knowledge and debates.

The conference brought together internationalisation leaders, academics, professional practitioners, students and innovators to share thoughts, research findings, lived experiences and good practice examples.

For delegate and keynote speaker Professor Ramu Damodaran, the IEASA conference held a special emotional significance as it was hosted in Durban – a city with a history that resonates with the history of Damodaran’s home country of India.

“This (Durban) is where our struggle for freedom began with the struggle Mahatma Gandhi launched against oppression here in South Africa, which later extended to India. I think much of the same sense of purpose, the idea of change being possible through non-violent means is what animates this conference – the power of higher education, scholarship, ideas and the leadership of ideas to make this a world fit for the 21st century.”

Damodaran, a member of the intergovernmental University for Peace to the United Nations delivered a talk on Higher Education and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Another honoured delegate, Dr Fanta Aw, the Executive Director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators said she was most pleased about the conference’s strong focus on the Global South and internationalisation.

“The conversations have been incredibly important and enjoyable; it’s wonderful to be here.”

President of IEASA and Director of International Education and Partnerships at the Durban University of Technology, Dr Lavern Samuels remarked on the significance of the theme of the conference. “We are reflecting on the past, the history, the trajectory of the organisation and its contribution to internationalisation; as well as looking into the future and how internationalisation can be more inclusive, address social justice issues, align to the United Nations’ sustainable development goals, and contribute not only to international education but to higher education and society more broadly.”

Deputy President of IEASA and Executive Director of Corporate Relations at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Normah Zondo said South Africa is emerging as a hub for international students and collaborations. “As higher education institutions channel their post-pandemic renewal into enhancing their international engagements – the opportunities for groundbreaking research, cultural exchange, academic excellence and career advancement are abundant. For international students and institutions ready to embrace these prospects, South Africa is open and ready for collaboration.”

Various other discussion topics included DHET policy: institutional strategies and policy frameworks for post-lockdown plans; decolonising and VUCA agendas; the global education 2030 agenda: implications for institutions of higher learning; and strategic leadership to promote justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in internationalisation.