“Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success”. These are the famous words of Henry Ford which came to life during the 3rd QS-MAPLE (Middle East and Africa Professional Leaders in Education) Conference. The Conference made its way to Africa’s economic hub, Johannesburg, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Rosebank on 7 and 8 May 2013.
The University of Johannesburg (UJ) co-hosted the conference with Nanyang Technological University (NTU), a rare collaboration between Africa and Asia. Nanyang is described by many as the fastest-rising university among the world’s top 50 universities as it is ranked 47th, 11 places higher than last year.
The QS-MAPLE Conference provides university leaders with a platform to network and form lasting relationships with delegates from other universities. Delegates were welcomed by the Managing Director of QS Asia, Ms Mandy Mok, who gave brief background information on the two co-hosts of the Conference.
“This is a crucial time for a conference of this nature, especially with Africa and the Middle East experiencing such growth in their higher education”, said Mok. The QS-MAPLE Conference has a mission, which is to help build world-class universities in Africa and Asia. Representatives from universities in Asia, the Middle East and Africa gathered to make a contribution towards remedying the deficiencies facing institutions of higher education and sharing ideas on how to improve the learning environment at their institutions. Prof Ihron Rensburg, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg delivered an inspiring keynote speech to delegates at the official opening. He stressed that higher education could help countries jump stages of economic development.
The opening plenary also included an amazing performance by the A Cappella Music Society of the University of Johannesburg welcoming the delegates with warm celebratory African songs which created an African feel and set the mood for the Conference.
The delegates then commenced with the parallel sessions where session presenters were given a platform to present their case studies of internationalisation and also share their experiences. The Conference was organised around seven tracks:
· Quality Assurance and Accreditation
· Learning and Teaching
· Internationalising the Student Experience
· Transnational Education and International Partnership
· Branding, Marketing and Recruitment
· University Governance and Management
· Research and Research Training.
One other important and exciting aspect of this conference was the inclusion of three Africa panels. These plenary panels, led by leading African academics and leaders in higher education provided an African perspective of the challenges and opportunities to internationalisation of higher education in Africa. The topics covered were; Executive Education, Research and Innovation and Intra-Africa Experiences of Internationalisation in Higher Education.
These tracks allowed for exciting debates as delegates agreed and disagreed on various issues. The sessions continued on Day 2 (8 May) with just as much enthusiasm. The delegates shared interesting statistics on how postgraduate studies affect a country’s economy. The conference concluded with the exclusive screening of ‘Elelwani’, the award-winning film directed by UJ’s Ntshaveni wa Luruli. The film is due to be released in South Africa in August.
This was the second QS-MAPLE Conference held in South Africa, with the first one being held in Durban in 2012. This year the QS-MAPLE Conference has surpassed all expectations as it attracted university leaders from over 100 institutions in 42 countries including Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Egypt, Hong-Kong, Iran, Nigeria, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi-Arabia, Thailand, UK and US as well as a large number of UJ partners. Besides the hospitable nature of South Africa, this also indicates a growing interest among nations to work together in improving the quality of education around the world.
The QS Ranking workshop preceded the conference and was held at UJ and attended by university leaders from 114 countries.
The Conference was one to remember as it helped universities acquire a more heightened sense of synergy and harbour a culture of togetherness; and will assist them in producing students who will be able to face challenges of the 21stcentury.
The next QS-MAPLE Conference will be held in Abu-Dabi.