Wednesday, June 5th, 2002
WHAT IS WEM?
In just three short years, the World Education Market (WEM) has become one of the more important gatherings of education-related organizations and individuals in both the private and public arenas. WEM first began in the year 2000 and is organized by the Paris- based events organization Reed Midem. Typically held in late May, the first two conferences were hosted in Vancouver. This year (2002) WEM moved to Lisbon, Portugal and will be there for at least one more year.
WEM positions itself as a “marketplace,” and the commercial aspect of global education is front and centre. It is a stage for business leads and deal making. Given the intersection of idealism and commercialism in the education domain, at the inaugural WEM in Vancouver there was a healthy debate among not-for-profit public institutions and private commercial ventures in regards to the ultimate goals of education. At WEM there are companies selling various education products ranging from records management to language software to on-line learning tools. Joining these companies are many academic institutions and government representatives from around the world, including many from developing nations looking for investment in a sector with dynamic growth.
Like the education industry itself, WEM has incredible potential to grow. There is a definite opportunity for a truly global exhibition and conference to attract several thousand participants and become the focal setting for the international education agenda. At present, WEM with its 2,000 annual registrants has the inside track to move in that direction.
CANADIAN PRESENCE @ WEM
Showcasing Canadian expertise, products and services in the education sector and grouping some 20 Canadian companies and institutions (including Higher-Edge), the Canada pavilion was orchestrated through the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade’ s (DFAIT) Education Marketing Unit team, headed by Simon Williams.
Directed by Elise Boisjoly from Industry Canada the “Canada Spotlight” highlighted Canada’s comparative international advantages, as well as the country’s commitment to a “digital inclusion” model.
DFAIT officials told Higher-Edge that the same strategic location and very attractive pavilion display would likely be secured for Canada’s presence at next year’s WEM.
CHINA @ WEM
China made its first concerted impression at WEM. Although the number of booths was small, an extremely large number of Chinese delegates attended who consistently promoted a welcoming approach to foreign interest and investment in the Chinese education market place. While private schools in China are proliferating at a rapid pace (the May 31st 2002 issue of The Los Angeles Times reported that private universities are making a comeback in this country after being obliterated post-1949), the Chinese delegation also amply represented the public education sector, supported by academics, and senior education and foreign ministry officials. The vast preponderance of the print material distributed by the delegates was in English, evincing an earnestness to promote effectively to a global audience. Unlike for the Nigerian delegation, there was no country-specific forum in which wider education about the Chinese education environment could be availed, something sorely needed, and hopefully on offer in next year’s conference. In all, WEM’s service as a one-stop meeting place was particularly at service in regards to those interested in intense edification about Chinese education matters.
NIGERIA IMPRESSIVE AT ITS FIRST WEM OUTING
Showcasing a dozen key sectors in the Nigerian education arena and supported by the attendance of a number of high ranking government decision-makers, Nigeria featured one the most creative and attractive displays in its first participation at WEM.
The Nigerians were under pressure to impress abroad and at home. With one of the largest country delegations sent to WEM, back in Nigeria some press criticized the mission for lacking focus and merely being interested in Portuguese festivities. However, the criticism was unfounded, as the packaging and quality of the presentations by the various Nigerian delegates and the speeches and presentations at different sessions were superb promotion for a country in desperate need of investment in its fledgling education sector. Indeed, Nigeria proved to be one of the most successful international components at this year’s WEM, planting many seeds, which properly cultivated can have tremendous benefits for the growth of Nigerian education initiatives.
UNIVERSITIES SHARING THEIR VIEWS ON INTERNATIONALIZATION
Moderated by the University College of Cape Breton’s own Dr. Jacquelyn Scott, the panel discussion “Universities Abroad” canvassed representatives from universities in Australia, New Zealand, Finland and Canada’s College of the North Atlantic. The panel was noteworthy in exemplifying ways in which each of these institutions has developed distinct definitions of “internationalization” and similarly distinct methodologies to achieve its vision. To Canadians, probably the Australian approach appeared the most stark in contrast to Canadian norms. In the case study presented (University of South Queensland) we saw both a profit-centred vision and a business-modelled methodology working in tandem to achieve a major arm of revenues for USQ. While the raw entrepreneurial approach might not be one in concert with the visions of many Canadian higher education institutions, the presentation had much wider appeal as a mini-primer of “customer- service” (read student-centred) initiatives.