By Hannah Phung
When the Leadership Foundation was approached by Umeå University for speakers to talk to them about the environment and future of higher education, I thought it would be a good opportunity for our members to engage in cross country dialogue. The Swedish higher education system is similar to the UK system in many ways so this would be a good opportunity to share experiences and take stock of what we do in comparison to our European counterparts.
The event took five themes with a UK and Swedish speaker presenting a view on each theme before opening to the floor for discussion. The themes were:
It is difficult to share the discussions without giving away the specifics or spending a long time explaining the background but what I can say is that they were open, honest and laid higher education bare and exposed – a little controversy was a good thing here and with a near 50/50 mix of Swedish and UK delegates questions just to understand each other’s situations could be challenging to answer. It got us to think about the idealised role of higher education in society and what role higher education does actually play. It was a really good opportunity to take a break from the work of running a university and think about what we are doing and why as well as appreciating our successes.
Some of the questions that came up included:
Being challenged by peers from overseas is a useful way to reflect at grassroots level in a way that colleagues closer to home don’t generally do, as we have all accepted the way it is. Taking a step back to be self-critical and self-reflective is something we all need to do on a personal and institutional level so I hope there will be more opportunities such as this where we can do it.
My Inspiring Leader is Madeleine Allbright, the first women to be the United States Secretary of State. I’m inspired by her because of what she has achieved despite all the tough situations she had to face. I admire the strength of her character and will.
For more information contact Hannah Phung firstname.lastname@example.org
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