AFAD organized a conference on internationalization
Two weeks ago, we at the AFAD prepared an international conference dedicated to the development and future direction of the internationalisation of art academies in Europe. In recent years, the institutionalization of internationalization has become an important issue for many universities. However, what does this change in the implementation of internationalization mean? What do new factors such as diversity, inclusiveness and equality mean for internationalization and its implementation?
After two years of online meetings, we finally had the opportunity to welcome colleagues from other European art academies in Bratislava to the annual meeting of ELIA - European League of Institutes of the Arts. During the two days of lectures and round table discussions, we addressed the issues of internationalization of universities, the possibility of maintaining and developing international relations in times of crisis and war conflicts, as well as specific examples from practice.
Marcel Benčík, Vice-Rector for International Cooperation, evaluates the contribution of the conference for the AFAD:
"For us, it was mainly an opportunity to show that we are a really active member of the ELIA network, that we are a physical school located in a specific environment and context. At the same time, we could show that we were able to organize such an event and are ready to be an integral part of the whole network. In addition to being visible, we could attract people to come to Bratislava and show them that it is an interesting academic city, also in terms of art and culture.
However, in my opinion, another even more important thing was that we had the opportunity to influence the theme of the whole event. On the one hand, we co-authored a selection of lectures, where we nominated keynote speakers, and at the same time, we identified a framework topic that focused on what is happening in Central Europe within the cultural world or art education. Moreover, we could show that this region is something exceptional or something else."
As part of the conference, Michal Fedák, Executive Director of SAIA - Slovak Academic Information Agency, who was proposed by the AFAD as the keynote speaker, took us through trends and an in-depth analysis of the activities of foreign students and academic staff in Slovakia. Moreover, the other keynote speaker was Kvet Nguyen, a photographer and graduate of the Department of Photography and New Media at the AFAD, who focused on the importance of cultural diversity, inclusion and the concept of otherness. An important part of the first day's programme was an online meeting with colleagues from the Lviv Art Academy. In an online interview, the rector and vice-rector shared the stories of their students, as well as their own experiences of running an institution of higher art education in wartime.
Vasyl Kosiv, Rector of the Academy of Arts in Lviv, said in his speech:
“We are extremely grateful to the governments in your countries and all the art schools for their support. However, this support requires that we leave Ukraine. Many students, teachers, artists and scholars from Ukraine are being offered various programmes abroad. Of course, this is extremely important, but we also need support here at home. After all, the outflow of students and staff to the West comes at the risk of the institutional destruction of art education.
Let me just announce that we are currently working on creating a fund to support art education in Ukraine. To paraphrase the well-known remark of our President Zelensky "We need a support for art education in Ukraine, not an evacuation of it."
Marcel Benčík on the preparation of the international conference ELIA stated:
"The outcome and content of the meeting were related to two key things that have happened in recent years. We were supposed to organise the ELIA conference as early as 2020, but covid came in. We kept postponing it until today. Covid has strongly influenced what it means to be in a physical or online environment. We even considered for a while holding a conference online, but I disagreed. I believed that the possibility of a physical meeting would be much more attractive and better.
At the same time, however, the war in Ukraine started, and on the one hand, it affected the fact that people from Western Europe were afraid to come here because they thought they would be too close to the war zone. On the other hand, we have built stable partnerships and long-term relationships with Ukrainian schools. Thanks to this, we were mainly able to communicate to the participants from Western Europe what is happening in Ukraine now within the academic environment and art education, and how those schools actually work in a war situation."
“How are you implementing a borderless internationalisation strategy?” was a question that opened a lively debate. Participants reflected on the meaning of borders and shared thoughts and experiences on how institutional strategies are developed and implemented within institutions. It soon became apparent that universities and academies in the ELIA community are at different stages when it comes to internationalisation. Some schools have a strategy, which is fully integrated into the institutional action plan; others do not have sufficient resources available and are struggling with the administrative workload.
In general, the PIE community shared a need for the internationalisation to be taken to the next level and to be embraced by the whole institution. Internationalisation strategies are too often seen solely as a student recruitment tool led by the international offices. However, the growth of an international student population requires the intercultural awareness of the academic staff and a careful look at the curriculum.
If you missed the PIE meeting in Bratislava, the recordings of the plenary sessions are now available to ELIA members in the members' space, MyELIA
For more information about ELIA network see: ELIA website
This project was supported by Tatra banka Foundation.