2011 Chair’s Report, Michele Schweisfurth

September 2011

Welcome to all members, old, new and prospective.  We have a busy agenda for this year’s AGM but I would like here to mention a few highlights from this past year and to point to some future initiatives.

The year that was

Day-to-day BAICE:  The BAICE Executive Committee has met three times since the last Annual General Meeting, to discuss BAICE business.  Meetings always include reports from officers, and standing items include the next conference and associated organisations.  Paul Fean and Cheryl Rounsaville stepped down at the last AGM as student representatives, although both stayed in post while replacements were arranged and settled into their new roles.  All other members of the current committee are either still serving their first terms, or are kindly willing to continue in their roles within the framework of the constitution, and so we have not sought nominations for new or additional officers for announcement at this AGM.

BAICE website:  This has been an important year for website development, and Terra Sprague and Michael Crossley should be congratulated on the substantial improvements that have been made.  They will be launching the new website at this meeting and so watch this space.  Increasingly, webpages and social networking are where people will find BAICE and the wealth of information and opportunities that we can provide.

BAICE finances:  As the treasurer, Malcolm Mercer, will report, BAICE finances are in a very healthy state.  Royalties from the Association journal, Compare, have helped us to secure this excellent position.

CompareCompare has gone from strength to strength this year.  New editors and board chair have consolidated their roles; quality work in a number of formats is being published in special and open issues; and newer writers are offered professional development opportunities through workshops and ongoing support.  A report from the editing team will provide more detail on these and other successes.

BAICE-funded activities:  In the past year, BAICE has funded a number of events and initiatives.  One event at the Institute of Education on the theme of Education, Development and Peace, organised by a group of students and alumni of MA International Education and Development at the IoE , and administrators of the online network ‘International Connections in Education and Development’ (ICED).  A second project, organised by Sheila Trahar at the University of Bristol, captured stories of working in an intercultural higher education environment, which will lead to a publication.    There was also a very successful on-line forum organised by Paul Fean and Cheryl Rounsaville, which included participants from around the world.  While all of these events have been successful, we have been a little surprised at the fact that there have not been more applications for BAICE funding for events, and we would encourage members to make the most of the opportunities on offer.

BAICE @ UKFIET:  This is our conference too, and we have worked with the planning committee to ensure that we are offering meaningful financial support to delegates, and that our part of the programme fits with the overall conference plan.  Thank you to our 2010-11 President Professor Birgit Brock-Utne for the thought and planning she has put into her Presidential address, and for the support she has shown BAICE over the past year.

As was the case for the last BAICE conference, BAICE has offered funding to UKFIET conference participants from developing countries.  This year two delegates have benefited from this opportunity.  BAICE has also offered a discount to all members attending the UKFIET conference, and so if you are here your membership has paid for itself.  But of course there are many other benefits.

BAICE representation:   BAICE has worked to secure representation in important forums in higher education and policy sectors.  We proposed a number of nominations to the REF Education Panel and Professor Julian Elliott of the University of Durham is the first BAICE representative to serve on such a panel.  We hope that others among our nominations will be asked to act as assessors to ensure that comparative and international research is judged appropriately.  We were encouraged as an Association to get involved in policy debate on how comparisons are being used to shape or justify policy; to this end, Paul Morris recently represented BAICE at a Parliamentary Research Enquiry.

BAICE students:  Our new student representatives, Anupam Pachauri and Lizzi Milligan, have been hard at work promoting student participation in BAICE.  The website is increasingly responsive to the needs of students, and BAICE-funded events have been organised by, with and for students.  We are please to remind all student members at the conference of the BAICE student prize for the best paper.  The written paper must be submitted to the judging panel by the beginning of 2012, and the winner will receive a £500 prize.  Last year’s winner was Kate Jere, whose paper was entitled:  Improving access and retention of vulnerable children in high HIV prevalence communities of Malawi: the potential of open, distance and flexible learning (ODFL)

Looking forward

BAICE conference 2012:  We look forward to the BAICE conference in 2012, to be hosted by the Universities of Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin, on the theme of ‘Education, Mobility and Migration’.

BAICE President 2011-12:  We are delighted to announce that Professor Jo Boyden has agreed to act as BAICE president for 2011-12.  Jo is Professor in Development Studies, University of Oxford, and an authority on child development and children’s rights.  Her interdisciplinary work has spanned child labour, education, children in conflict, and childhood resilience.  She will be very well-placed to address next year’s conference theme.

Special Interest Groups (SIGs):  On the AGM agenda is an item to discuss incorporating SIGs into BAICE’s work.  A number of things have prompted this suggestion.  Our opportunities to participate in policy discussions in the UK means it would be very useful, for example, to consolidate our expertise on UK policy and the use of comparisons.  I am also aware that there are some substantive themes – such as Inclusion and Special Educational Needs – which could also usefully be pulled together in a SIG, for a multitude of purposes:  organising conference sub-themes; putting together research funding bids; lobbying; publications.  Similar Comparative Education national organisations have SIGs but we do not necessarily have to follow the patterns used elsewhere.

Finally:  These are difficult times in higher education in the UK.  Pressures and accountabilities are biting within institutions, while the Research Excellence Framework, core funding cuts, tuition hikes, research funding stringencies and the star-sink game of league tables of all kinds are all pressing in the wider higher education context.   In this environment, I feel blessed – as I hope you do – to have such a hard-working, collegial and creative committee giving freely of their time in order to promote the shared interests of the constituency.   This is an important time for solidarity within the field, to ensure that it thrives.   We welcome suggestions from members as to what we can do to secure our continuing success, and to do even better.

Michele Schweisfurth

University of Birmingham

September 2011