Dr Muir Houston, Depute Director of CR&DALL, recently attended the 16th International Higher Education Reform (HER) Conference: Digital Society and Higher Education in Mexico City between the 11th and 13th September, 2019. The conference featured a mix of Keynotes, Plenary Panels, and Parallel Paper sessions. Dr Houston's report follows:
I was invited to participate in the first Plenary Session: Digitalization of Higher Education - Possibilities, Practice and Policies, on the opening day. I also presented a paper drawing on my expertise in the field of research governance in the 3rd Parallel Paper session on Friday the 13th entitled: Research in the Digital Age: Secondary Data, Social Media and Governance Issues. The conference was truly international and featured contributions from Russia, Japan, South Africa, Chile, USA, Spain, Ireland, Scotland and regionally from universities and colleges across Mexico.
Interestingly, given the focus of the conference, simultaneous translation was provided by AI software which attempted to translate Spanish to English and vice versa. While this did work to some extent – being thrown a little by my Scottish dialect - there were also some humorous misinterpretations.
The keynotes were of particular interest and focused on a range of issues in-depth and stimulated ingesting discussions including questions and comments from the floor. Inés Dussel, Department of Educational Research, Center for Research and Advanced Studies, Mexico delivered the first Keynote on The Future of Knowing in Digital Times. Schools and Universities Facing the Challenges of Mobile Connectivity Media.
The second keynote Japanese Higher Education in the Digital Age was delivered by Shinichi Yamamoto, Professor Emeritus of the Universities of Tsukuba, Hiroshima and Oberlin, Japan who introduced the concept of Society 5.0 which aligned the 4th industrial revolution with developments in the Internet of Things (IOT) and is a major focus of Japanese higher education policy.
The third keynote Online in an Offline World, delivered by Judith Kalman, Department of Educational Research, Center for Research and Advanced Studies, Mexico City, looked at issues of access and the challenges of ensuring equity in the digital age and the increasing importance of access in attempts to address the digital divide for those often marginalized in the online and connected world; and, Publish and Impoverish: Reflections about the Use of Simplistic Forms of Accountability in Higher Education Research, by Professor Gustavo Fischman from Arizona State University, USA was a critical analysis of academic capitalism in the form of Open Access publishing, the role of journal impact factors and the impact on individual academics in terms of performativity and career progression.
The final keynote: Nadja Starocelsky of Southern University of Chile, Chile delivered the fourth keynote The Role of the IT Director of Higher Education in The Era of Digital Society: The Need to Create Synergy, and discussed the linkages between technologists, IT support services, administration and planning and academics in the digital university. There was also an interesting and thought provoking Panel Session on Plagiarism in the Digital Age which covered all levels with cases cited involving school children, students, academic staff and even Government Ministers.
The conference was hosted by Cinevestav at the Department of Educational Research, Center for Research and Advanced Studies, Mexico City and the delegates were well looked after by the host and Conference Chair Professor Germán Álvarez-Mendiola and his excellent team who ensured the event ran smoothly and delegates were able to concentrate on the conference activities and sessions. The programme also included a Cultural Excursion with delegates visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Teotihuacan to see the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon.
Next year’s conference, Higher Education Reform 17, will be hosted by CR&DALL in Glasgow in August/September 2020; more details will be circulated shortly.