The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) organised a Pan Commonwealth Roundtable for Vice Chancellors and Senior Officials to chart the future of higher education in a rapidly changing world. Co-hosted with the Open University of Mauritius (OUM), the event attracted 24 distinguished participants from 15 countries.
The primary objective of this two-day roundtable was to engage higher education leaders in constructive dialogue to formulate proactive strategies to position universities effectively in the face of global disruptions.
In her opening remarks, Professor Asha Kanwar, President and CEO of COL, emphasised the importance of fostering an environment conducive to lifelong learning and the need to recognise prior learning experiences, incorporate employability pathways and formulate policies that offer affordable options for persons with disabilities. She also highlighted the importance of investing in staff development, learner support, and technology.
The discussions centred around four key themes, each facilitated by a panel of experts, which emphasised the need for educational institutions to adapt to the changing demographics and evolving student population needs. The expected outcomes were specifically designed to aid in refining overall approaches to technology, quality assurance, micro-credentials, climate change and leadership.
The first theme, “Relevance”, focused on the critical need for educational programs to align with societal requirements. This theme was presented by Dr Jako Olivier, COL Adviser for Higher Education, with the panel moderated by Professor Romeela Mohee, Higher Education Commissioner, Mauritius. The second theme, “Technology”, explored the revolutionary impact of recent technological advancements such as generative artificial intelligence. This session was presented by Professor Kanwar and Dr Olivier with the panel moderated by Professor Dato’ Dr Ansary Ahmed of Asia eUniversity, Malaysia.
The third theme, “Climate Change”, led by Professor Kanwar, discussed the pivotal role that universities can play in promoting sustainable development. Dr Kaviraj Sukon from OUM moderated this panel. The fourth and final theme, “Leadership”, revolved around sharing effective practices to improve institutional efficiency. It was also presented by Professor Kanwar, and the panel was moderated by Ms Torunn Gjelsvik from the International Council for Open and Distance Education, Norway.
The roundtable aimed to catalyse discussions on enhancing the relevance of universities in a rapidly evolving global landscape, thereby contributing to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4). The high-level event concluded with several recommendations, including the need for universities to adopt forward-thinking and adaptable strategies to navigate global disruptions and changing student demographics. The recommendations also urged embracing technological innovations like generative artificial intelligence and effective data utilisation, supporting the Green Learning Agenda, and building upon effective leadership practices for increased institutional efficiency and effectiveness.