Global Summit on Student Affairs 2014
The Global Summit for Student Affairs, held in October 2014 in Rome, gathered together selected senior student affairs staff from 37 countries and 6 continents to formalise key goals and strategies to address key challenges for higher education across the globe.
The Global Summit was organised by the European University College Association (EUCA), in collaboration wth IASAS and Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. The event aimed to initiate high-profile debate on how student affairs and services can promote access, inclusion and integration, support and development and employability.
Dr Birgit Schreiber, Director of UWC's Centre for Student Services and Support and recently elected Africa Chair for the International Association of Student Affairs and Services (IASAS), represented South Africa at the Summit, along with Dr Saloshni Pillay from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who is president of the Southern African Federation of Student Affairs and Services (SAFSAS). Both were specially selected to ensure that the global conversation on student affairs is shaped by African voices.
“Being invited to the Global Summit is a huge honour,” says Dr Schreiber, who is also an NEC member of the South African Association for Senior Student Affairs Practitioners (SAASSAP). “It demonstrates that our student affairs model, the framework and practices which we have developed, can offer lessons to others. Also, specific engagements on certain matters enable us to benefit hugely from these shared conversations.”
Student Affairs experts such as Prof Rob Shea, President of IASAS, Prof Kevin Kruger, President of NASPA, and Prof Gianluca Giovannucci, President of EUCA, discussed strategies for access, inclusion, support, development and employability, and key collaborations were set in motion. Special attention was paid to massification of higher education, social justice and civic engagement and student mobility within a context of disciplinary and theoretical development of the domain.
“The years at university are fundamental for academic engagement,” noted Prof Giovannucci, “but are also the time when young people can best develop all the complementary competencies needed to meet the challenge of living an active civil life and making contributions to the national and global economy.”
Jigar Patel, Principal of McKinsey & Co, UK, presented the EU report on Education to Employment: Getting Europe's Youth Into Work. The McKinsey report is one of the most important cross-national studies on the relationship of higher education with employment, based on rigorous research that involved more than 8,000 students, student affairs practitioners, university executives and representatives from the corporate sector in 8 countries. The report highlighted the articulation gap between higher education and the labour market, and made suggestions for closing the gap.
Silvia Costa, Chairman of the Cultural Committee of the European Parliament, reminded the delegates that Student Affairs divisions at universities are poised to play a key role in shifting universities' gaze towards developing responsible and global citizens who take agency to ensure sustainable conditions for a globalised world.
“Summits of this sort are important and relevant to student affairs practitioners all over the world. We all share issues, and the developing world has a lot to offer – our lessons here in South Africa, and especially our work at UWC, contributes towards strengthening the impact of Student Affairs on overall student and international success. Our experiences and lessons offer significant insights into the challenges many countries are facing.”
And it works both ways, of course. “We also benefit from our exchanges with our African colleagues, and those from India, South America, Eastern Europe, and others who grapple with similar issues we grapple with in South Africa,” Dr Schreiber believes. “We learn from each other, and we develop a shared understanding of what it means to live on this planet. We find a common language to impact our students’ development on their role in terms of local and global citizenship.”