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Published: 2018-03-23 12:56 | Updated: 2018-03-26 16:46

Internationalisation the theme for KI’s Educational Congress

Brian Hodges

Karolinska Institutet’s biennial Educational Congress took place on 15-16 March. The main focus of this year’s congress was on medical educational research and the internationalisation of education. Leading researchers in both of these fields participated, as well as the Chair of the Swedish Government Inquiry on increased internationalisation of higher education institutions.

Utbildningskongress 2018

“Higher education must be considered equally as important as research and it is not possible to attain high levels of quality in education without internationalisation,” said vice-chancellor Ole Petter Ottersen on opening the congress.

Karolinska Institutet’s Educational Congress is a biennial initiative to improve competences among the university’s educators. The main focus of this year’s congress was on medical educational research and internationalisation.

“We want to support and encourage teachers in their pedagogical activities and provide opportunities for an exchange of knowledge among educators at KI. We have found ourselves one step ahead in the internationalisation of education, however, we now need to move forward,” said Annika Östman Wernerson, dean of higher education.

Internationalisation must permeate everything

Betty Leask. Foto: Erik CronbergOne of the congress’ opening speakers was Betty Leask, emeritus professor at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia and author of the book Internationalizing the Curriculum. She spoke about the importance of widening the concept of internationalisation. It is not simply a matter of mobility, courses in English and the number of international students. Internationalisation is an attitude that must permeate all activities. It includes intercultural competence, globalisation and openness – and should be a component of learning objectives.

According to Betty Leask, universities should be educating professional citizens who are flexible, innovative and open to new ideas, making them better professionals in meetings with patients.

“The quality of education is raised by focusing on internationalisation at home. And these measures must be purposeful, planned and aimed at all students and teachers, not only those who will be travelling abroad,” said Betty Leask.

National strategy for all higher education institutions

Agneta Bladh is the Swedish Government’s special investigator and chair of their internationalisation inquiry. Her role includes proposing both a new national strategy for the internationalisation of higher education institutions in Sweden, and how students can gain an international perspective in their education. At the congress, she presented her recently delivered summary report, Internationalisation of Swedish Higher Education and Research – A Strategic Agenda.

“Swedish higher education institutions must be able to establish themselves abroad, and overseas stakeholders must have the opportunity to establish themselves in Sweden. International experience should be considered a merit and we need to include ethical perspectives in international collaborations,” said Agneta Bladh.

Prize-winner among keynote speakers

Another keynote speaker was Brian Hodges, professor at the University of Toronto, Canada and recipient of KI’s 2016 Prize for Research in Medical Education. He spoke about how technological developments are opening the way for new professional roles in healthcare and that technical solutions can free-up more time for patient contact and empathy. He also mentioned the importance of understanding the limits of artificial intelligence and that this perspective should be included in study programmes.

Today, pedagogical development is about ensuring that students will be able to execute their future professional roles, but also develop as people and be equipped to participate in a multilingual and international labour market. Several speakers pointed out that the goal of KI’s study programmes is not merely to prepare students for their future professions in medicine and health, but also to be good citizens of an increasingly global society.

The Educational Congress is organised by the Centre for Learning and Knowledge on behalf of KI’s Board of Higher Education, this year in collaboration with the Gunnar Höglund and Anna-Stina Malmborg Foundation.

Text: Sabina Bossi and Sabina Giulini