EI’s 7th International Higher Education and Research Conference was held in Canada, from 10-12 September, and was attended by more than 130 participants from all corners of the globe.
The three-day event took place in the Vancouver Community College, where participants from 49 member organisations in 33 countries deliberated common issues that concern the sector in different regions, such as rankings of higher education institutions, the globalization and commercialization of the sector, and equity and inclusivity.
President of Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), Penni Stewart, opened the conference by referring to the profound global economic crisis and the dramatic shift in the politico-economic landscape since the last conference in Malaga in November 2007, and the impact on higher education institutions and academics.
President of the British Columbia Federation of Labour, Jim Sinclair, addressed participants and spoke out against moves over the last ten years from “low tuition fees and high minimum wage to high fees and low minimum wage” and called for unions to make the case for society to pay for quality public services. EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, welcomed the presence of two of the nine new member organisations representing the sector since 2007: the Federación Nacional de Docentes Universitarios (CONADU) from Argentina, and the Syndicat National de l’Enseignement Supérieur (SNESUP-FSU) from France.
He referred to the 1997 UNESCO Recommendation on the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel and the need for affiliates to make use of it in calling governments to account. In particular, higher education unions must fight the insidious encroachment of the market in education, a direct challenge to collegiality and academic freedom.
"Against this privatized vision," said van Leeuwen, "we must more forcefully articulate why higher education and research is important as a public service. I would also submit that the way forward lies in reaffirming the role of higher education staff as actors in society, as those on the front-line tackling the major challenges we face today."
The General Secretary also launched EI’s latest global online petition calling on the Colombian government to release Miguel Ángel Beltrán Villegas, a university professor and trade unionist, who has been held in prison for more than a year on charges that violate his exercise of academic freedom and the fundamental right to freedom of thought and expression.
The Vancouver Conference adopted its report and a supplement to the EI Policy on the Globalization of Higher Education and Research launched at the Porto Alegre Congress in 2004. This supplement focuses on ways in which EI and its affiliates can develop new tools, tactics and strategies to carry forward the work needed to defend the sector and the profession.
To consult the report or other documents pertaining to the event, or to read Fred van Leeuwen’s full speech, please click on the links below.