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Navigating the Future of Higher Education

By Shwetangna Chakrabarty
Navigating the Future of Higher Education

Katrice Horsley, keynote speaker and International Narrative Consultant and Storyteller, at the opening ceremony. (Photo source: Shwetangna Chakrabarty)

The Council of International Schools (CIS) Global Forum is a conference for international school college counselors on the future of higher education. It provides a comprehensive overview of the current trends, challenges, and opportunities in international admissions. The sessions, led by experts from around the world, cover a range of topics critical to educators, college counselors, and university officers. For the past two years, I have been fortunate to be a part of the CIS Forum Planning Committee (FPC) and was privileged to see the hard work and dedication that went into putting together this year’s forum (16-17 November) that brought together over 800 global educators in Dublin, Ireland. 

Katie Rigg, Director of CIS higher education services and student wellbeing, at the opening ceremony. (Photo source: Shwetangna Chakrabarty)

This year the focus of the conference was decided early on by the FPC and participants were asked to submit proposals aligning to the three 2023 forum themes:

  • Building blocks for professional knowledge
  • Regional and curriculum updates
  • Wellbeing for admissions and counseling professionals

The opening session was a powerful reminder of duties as members of higher education. Katrice Horsley, International Narrative Consultant and Storyteller, inspired us with her storytelling prowess, effortlessly reminding us of our role in the profession from Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice to artificial intelligence (AI) to student wellbeing in the process of deciding the future.

“The most powerful tools we have as leaders are our story and our voice” - Katrice Horsley.

This set the tone of the conference- exploring belonging and uniqueness through personal stories. Storytelling ran through much of the conference, from the keynote speaker, as well as through people sharing their individual stories throughout the two days of the conference.

Katrice Horsley, keynote speaker and International Narrative Consultant and Storyteller, at the opening ceremony. (Photo source: Shwetangna Chakrabarty)

The forum also offered a multifaceted exploration of the evolving landscape in higher education. Sessions ranged from discussing university options in Asia, highlighting opportunities and requirements in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, to delving into the demographics and behaviors of international applicants to Common Application member institutions. The importance of cultural understanding in student advising was emphasized, alongside a critical look at the mental health challenges and transition care for international students.

Further, strategies for global recruitment were discussed, with insights into the challenges of entering new markets, including the internationalization of Belgian universities and the changing dynamics of Irish and Dutch university admissions. A special focus was given to Dublin's rich cultural history, aiding first-time visitors in understanding the host city.

The future of higher education was contemplated, particularly the impact of AI, student mobility trends, and emerging educational models. The curriculum specific conversations were led by experts in the industry. For example, there was a workshop on recognition of the International Baccalaureate Career Related Program in higher education. Sessions addressed the complexities of assessing mixed international curricula, trends in international student recruitment, and the importance of supporting students with learning differences. Updates on IB services, the ethical dilemmas in international recruitment, and the growth of post-secondary institutions in Atlantic Canada were also presented.

Some very popular discussions included insights into the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) university admissions processes, the integration of concept-based curriculum in university advising, and the significance of authenticity in admissions essays. The role of new assessment frameworks focusing on employment skills was a key takeaway for participants. The participants noted that they would not have got specific information, like the changes in the Numerus Fixus programs in the Netherlands, if they had not attended the forum.

Critical conversations that will change the course of education in the next few years were the highlight for many participants. For example, the role of AI in education and assessment, and the implications of race-conscious admissions in the United States of America rounded off the conference. This comprehensive approach provided attendees with a deep understanding of current trends and challenges in the field, equipping them with knowledge and strategies to navigate the future of higher education. Other key challenges discussed were students in non-native English-speaking countries, diverse impacts of the pandemic on international admissions, and the growing higher education scene in Central Europe were highlighted.

Sessions also covered the embedding of employability skills in curriculums, managing difficult conversations with parents, and trends in developing student resilience. Rethinking secondary school transcripts, wellbeing for international recruitment professionals, time and stress management for school counselors, and transition support lesson plans for students were other important topics.

The forum culminated by recognizing excellence in admissions and guidance. Three specific awards were given away to deserving colleagues.

Awards presentation at the CIS Global Forum closing ceremony 2023. (Photo source: Shwetangna Chakrabarty)

At the closing ceremony, Robert Tomalin, the Chair of the CIS Board of Trustees, emphasized collaboration over competition. 

“The spirit of openness and sharing is crucial for elevating our collective efforts, ultimately benefitting the students we serve. We hope members created lasting connections and learned something valuable to continue serving your students in innovative ways.” - Robert Tomalin

And at the end, the much-awaited information, the venue for the next CIS Global Forum was disclosed. The 2024 forum will be hosted in Basel, Switzerland on 14 and 15 November! This is an event open to CIS member schools and universities.

This year’s conference successfully illuminated the evolving dynamics of higher education, equipping attendees with valuable insights and practical strategies to navigate the changing landscape. The experience can be summarized in three key takeaways: the impact of AI in higher education; the shifting landscape of university choices with the emergence of new destinations like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Central Europe; and the focus on transition programs to foster student wellbeing.

Shwetangna Chakrabarty is the Editor of The International Educator (TIE).

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