Warm greetings to all of our membership; colleagues; friends and all those that continue to express a keen interest in internationalisation, within the higher education aren. Please allow me to start off by expressing my sincerest gratitude and appreciation for the support I have received in my journey to becoming President of IEASA. It is with much joy, excitement and immense hope that I have accepted this baton to lead the organisation over the next year..
I must confess that I feel both humbled and honoured to be granted the stewardship of this venerable organisation. I am most grateful for the trust bestowed on me by the IEASA Council, the Directors’ Forum, and the broader IEASA membership. This fills me with boundless optimism for our shared future.
In the month of March 2021, we experienced an unprecedented start to our new academic year, which signalled a tumultuous period, filled with significant upheaval. For that reason, I consciously choose to focus my brief on the call for ‘Compassion and Cooperation for Change’. Historically, social conflict and disease pandemics have served as catalysts for change, and so we should not be surprised that many are now calling for further transformation in higher education in particular, and in society at large. The past year has brought with it a series of changes, wherein some have lost family members, spouses, sons, daughters, parents, friends and colleagues. Universities across the board have experienced the immense loss of both staff and students. It would be remiss of me to underplay the challenges incurred by the sudden switch from the way teaching; learning; research and international engagements are conducted and how this has in turn impacted our higher education ecosystem. I find it fitting therefore to call for compassion and cooperation for change in my foreword for the first IEASA newsletter for 2021, and my first communication in my new role as president.
At the start of this academic year, we find ourselves dealing with two parallel crises: the COVID-19 pandemic and the call for equal access to higher education, regardless of financial status. We have all been affected by these challenges, more especially members of university communities, who seem to bear the brunt of such burdens. IEASA’s main membership body consists of universities, as well as individuals employed at institutions that have expressed an interest in internationalisation, within the higher education sector. The general membership needs to lend its voice to all matters pertaining to internationalisation as IEASA is viewed as a leading light in this regard. This is with particular reference to the proactive engagement of the broader Study in South Africa campaign, the benefits of which are disseminated via various international channels.
As the incoming president of IEASA (2021/2022), I have been reflecting on how the organisation, and I as its new leader will be affected by these universal challenges. Much remains to be seen in this turbulent period, but what is certain is that the core mission of IEASA remains steadfast, and is deemed to be more relevant than ever. IEASA remains committed to developing and advising its members, via its vast international networks and communities of practice. We can accomplish our mission through the free exchange of ideas within an ethical, interdependent and diverse community. Such a community will be made up members, office staff, and a cohort of international students from across the globe. As a firm believer in collective leadership, I consciously choose to focus my efforts on ensuring that proper stakeholder relations are established, fostered and advanced during my tenure as president.
I wish to remind all IEASA members that the need to work together, in terms of sharing of best practice and collective wisdom, has become even more important than before. As we celebrate the promulgation of the innovative Policy Framework for Internationalisation of Higher Education in South Africa, IEASA is poised to become an integral player within the sector. Furthermore, the policy compels South African higher education institutions to engage in what is termed comprehensive internationalisation. This basically means that internationalisation should ideally permeate all aspects of the core business within the university. The policy further encourages higher education institutions to develop innovative models for institutional internationalisation, that will help ensure that every student registered has equitable access to some form of international exposure and experience.
Taking note of the disparities within South African higher education institutions, I therefore call for the formation of strong communities of practice by IEASA members, as well as active participation in the implementation of the government policy. This will require collective wisdom, compassion and cooperation for constructive change. When we find ourselves motivated by values of empathy, compassion, and cooperation, we can bridge any differences that may arise. We can equally learn to understand one another better, and in this way enact meaningful and sustainable change.
In concluding, I would like to reiterate my belief that both empathy and compassion serve as preconditions for mutual cooperation. Cooperation for me means coming together to find solutions for common problems, more especially on issues that we cannot overcome by working in silos. This will require us to listen to one another attentively and to appreciate each other’s perspective. It will require great resolve in order to inhibit our individual desire to merely dismiss those with whom we believe we do not share a common purpose.
Finally, I wish to offer my sincerest thanks and appreciation to the immediate Past President (2019-2020), Ms Orla Quinlan for all that she achieved during her term as president. I want to assure the IEASA membership that I will continue the great work she has started and that I willingly accept the baton, after serving as part of her Exco, during my term as Deputy President. With all of the new projects, processes and models I have in mind, I will certainly be calling on your continued support as members for their implementation.
I also want to take this opportunity to wish you as the general membership, every success in all of your endeavours during the 2021 academic year.
IEASA President (2021-2022)