From education to employment

Global HE leaders gather in Birmingham to plan brighter future for students

Delegates from U21 universities gather on the University of Birmingham campus

Life changing student experiences within refugee camps, the future impact of Artificial Intelligence and young people working together to tackle UN Sustainable Development Goals, were some of the themes inspiring delegates at the U21 Annual General Meeting and Presidential Symposium taking place at the University of Birmingham.

U21 is a unique global network that brings together world-leading, research-intensive universities with a common belief in the value of collaboration and internationalisation. From China to Chile, South Korea to the United States, U21 is a global network of over a million students and more than 200,000 staff – representing 28 universities, including its latest member The University of Sydney.

University of Birmingham Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Adam Tickell said:

“As a founding member of U21, we are particularly proud to welcome academics, professional staff and students from around the world to our beautiful Birmingham campus to celebrate the 25th anniversary of U21 and host the network’s Presidential Symposium and Annual General Meeting.

“The network brings together leading global universities to further improve the student experience and help researchers better engage with each other, whilst creating innovative educational opportunities. This event and the symposium, in particular, provided a valuable opportunity to reflect on how knowledge, ideas, and opportunities within the U21 network will help our global community of students build a better future.”

A keynote speech from Oxfam CEO Dr Danny Sriskandarajah on the theme of ‘The Leaders of The Future’ opened the Symposium, before delegates listened to a range of case studies from U21 member universities:

  • Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC)  – Student leaders taking part in new international mobility opportunities across ‘non-traditional’ destinations in Latin America, Asia and Africa.
  • University of Edinburgh -An ideas lab allowing students to collaboratively tackle real-world challenges linked to UN Sustainable Development Goals – covering issues such as fashion overconsumption, youth homelessness, and supporting refugees.  
  • University of Hong Kong – Students performing eight-week summer internships teaching English at migrant schools and within refugee camps in Myanmar and other parts of Asia – surviving Covid and recent political unrest by moving online.
  • University of JohannesburgOnline education on Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the Fourth Industrial Revolution introducing students and the public to AI, its applications, and implications for society and the future of work

The case studies provoked a lot of discussion with symposium delegates debating many topics, including: 

  • How do hybrid and blended teaching change our understanding of learning?
  • What is the future of work for this generation of students?
  • What future skills will our students need to be leaders?

U21 Provost Professor Jenny Dixon said:

“The theme of this year’s AGM is ‘The Leaders of the Future’ – that’s especially significant as the world continues to battle the pandemic, address issues of sustainability, and tackle the impacts of climate change. All critically pertinent to the next generation of young leaders, who are passionate about the future of humanity”.

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