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20 University Managers Gathered in Edinburgh to Change the Equity Landscape: Highlights from the Training

Project Updates


16 Dec 2019

“These types of events are absolutely necessary in improving higher education at both a rapid and sustainable pace. I can’t wait to take my ideas gained from this training home and see how they manifest themselves in practice.” – concluded Dr Edizon FERMIN, Vice-President for Academic Affairs, National Teacher’s College, participant from the Philippines.

The first ASEF Capacity Building Training on Equitable Access to Higher Education took place between 24-27 November 2019 in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. The University of Edinburgh hosted the event among its historic walls, a home to revolutionary ideas and intellectual exchange for the past five centuries.

The training brought together 20 participants and 8 resource persons representing 21 ASEM countries. The diversity of the participants’ profile enabled to look at issues from different perspectives, from an access officers’ point of view up to the vice-chancellors.

The overall aim of the training was to equip managers in higher education institutions in Europe and Asia to be able to advance equitable access & success in their institutions. The training was conducted by Dr Graeme ATHERTON, director, and Mr Martin WEBSTER, consultant of the National Education Opportunity Network (NEON), a professional organisation for widening access in the UK. On the first day trainers demonstrated why access to higher education (HE) matters, and what specific concepts lie behind the definitions used in this area. The global access picture was discussed, how does it differ in Asia and Europe, and what policies are out there to define equity groups, set participation targets and what measures are implemented across the world.

On the second day participants mapped and analysed a variety of stakeholders and familiarized themselves with the access landscape and practices of Pakistan, presented by Dr Nishat RIAZ, Director Education, British Council Pakistan, and learned about good practices presented by Mr David WOOLLEY, Director of Student and Community Engagement, Nottingham Trent University. As a closure of the day, participants had to solve factionary access challenges and come up with action plans addressing institutional changes, advocating policy makers, working with students and community, or measuring impact of access policies.

The World Access to Higher Education Day took place on the third day of the training, where participants got to network with professionals from the UK, and listen to presentations delivered by prestigious speakers and organisations, such as Sir Peter SCOTT, Commissioner for Fair Access Scotland, Dr Jamil SALMI, ex Head of Tertiary Education at the World Bank, author of the research report titled “Measuring the Impact of Equity Promotion Policies: Lessons from National and Institutional Case Studies”, and Thomas JORGENSEN, presenting the project outcomes of the INVITED project of the European Association of Universities (EUA).

The fourth day of the training was dedicated to reflections on the emerging themes of the WAHED Global Summit, and what room is there for cross-regional cooperation. The focus of the day was however the finalisation and presentation of the participants’ individual action plans, which they proposed to implement in their home institutions to improve access & success in HE for disadvantaged groups.

“I really loved the opportunity to meet people involved in similar roles in other countries. It was an eye opener to hear some of the issues and challenges that exist in developing countries.” Ms Deidre CREEDON, access officer, Cork Institute of Technology

ASEF is dedicated to enable university managers and administrative staff to take action in the field of equitable higher education and looks forward organising a second session of the training in 2020. If you are interested to learn more about the initiative, visit the home page at and sign up to our newsletter for professionals to receive the open calls for applications first hand.

Photo credit: Ellen BLAIR, student of The University of Edinburgh

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