Student Summit 2013

Can Pöge, of the University of British Columbia, and Rohan Watt of the University of Queensland, share their experience.

Over two days, 44 students from 18 universities across 13 countries met to discuss how our university experiences shape our visions for the future of education. For the first time ever, students had significant input in the Universitas 21 Presidential Symposium.

As a team we were asked to complete a task, to come up with a shared vision of how higher education would look in the future, encompassing ideas around teaching methods, mode of delivery and the nature of content. We were then asked to present this in the form of a challenge to the Presidents and Vice-Chancellors of our universities.

After hours of robust discussion, the U21 student representatives developed the following vision of the role and nature of higher education in society:“Higher education should develop exceptional global leaders, who are equipped with knowledge, skills and character to make a positive impact on society”. Creativity and innovation were key factors in determining how these elements came together in an overarching vision.

The two day Summit uncovered how truly diverse our student bodies at U21 institutions are. The students present were leaders of their student governments or demonstrated exceptional ability in their academic endeavours. Key to the Summit’s success were the varying experiences of participants stemming from a difference in university administrative structures, and how those experiences related to student representation and the student voice. We found that students become more engaged with their education when they contribute to forming the framework in which they study. Each student present was able to offer a unique perspective towards a common goal: to improve higher education worldwide.

Forming a consensus among 44 student leaders was no easy feat. We learned as much about ourselves as we did of others - learning to compromise in this sort of environment is certainly a soft skill you can’t learn in the classroom! We soon found that just by facilitating these discussions, the U21 Student Summit demonstrated key facets of whole-person education. This posed some interesting questions about the role of university education, and forced us to reflect on new and emerging technologies in the classroom, and consider which traditional elements should be retained.

The U21 Student Summit was definitely a rewarding experience for us all. We not only enjoyed the privilege of contributing to the dimensions and structure of higher education in the future, but also had the chance to reflect on what learning actually entails. We would like to once again thank all Universitas 21 member institutions and the University of British Columbia for making this possible.

Can Pöge
University of British Columbia

Rohan Watt
University of Queensland