The 25th annual conference of the Consortium for Higher Education Researchers (CHER) took place in Belgrade, on 10, 11 and 12 September 2012 and it was jointly organized by the Centre for Education Policy and the Centre for Education Policy Studies of the University of Ljubljana. This year’s CHER conference gathered more than a hundred researchers in the field of higher education studies from all parts of Europe, as well as from Canada, South Africa, Hong Kong, South Korea, New Zealand.
This year’s CHER conference was entitled “Higher Education and Social Dynamics,” by which the organisers tried to, once again, stress that the interaction between higher education and society is always a two-way street and by all means a vibrant one. In the course of three days, theoretical and empirical contributions in more than 80 research works were presented, covering a variety of topics - academic profession, governance, funding, policy, quality, internationalisation, access, to name a few.
Each of the conference days was opened by a keynote speech. Hugh Lauder (University of Bath) challenged some of the conventional wisdom on the link between higher education and human capital, followed by Srbijanka Turajlić’ (University of Belgrade) insight on some of the higher education reform dynamics in the Western Balkans region, focusing on the changing nature of the teacher – student interaction. Finally, Maarten Simons (University of Leuven) challenged the audience to look at the university through the prism of what it used to be in the medieval period - “a kind of public gathering with education at its heart,” in order to better understand the contemporary university – society dynamics. Notably, these three perspectives respectively, global, local and historical, complemented and inspired numerous debates which took place not only across the session rooms, but also during the breaks and social events around the conference.
The organisers were especially honoured to host the conference at the unique occasion of celebrating 25th anniversary of the Consortium of Higher Education Researchers. The Anniversary Panel, organised to mark this occasion, represented an opportunity to look back at how CHER came to be, how it grew and what it is today. Urlich Teichler and Frans van Vught, one of the consortium’s “Founding Fathers” joined us for this occasion.
Since this year’s conference was also special as it for the first time takes part in this part of Europe. At this year’s conference, we were particularly glad to host more presentations and participants from the countries in Eastern, Central and South-Eastern Europe than it has been the case at the CHER conferences to date. Not only because this conference takes place in Belgrade, but also because there is a notable increase in intensity of higher education research in these countries in the previous years.
The conference was followed by the symposium entitled "Past, Present and Future of Higher Education Research: Between Scholarship and Policy Making," which took place on September 13 in Ljubljana. Through a series of discussions, the participants sought to address the relationship between higher education research and higher education policy making in the past and in the future.
Prior to the CHER 2012 conference, on 8 and 9 September, the first workshop of the recently established ECHER network was held in Belgrade. The Early Career Higher Education Researchers (ECHER) network was established to respond to the need for early-stage higher education researchers to have more opportunities to gather, meet, network and collaborate. ECHER is a network for early career researchers in the interdisciplinary field of higher education research, institutional research and researching higher education practitioners. For this occasion, ECHER organisers invited experienced researchers to share their experiences in higher education research and publishing, such as Jussi Välimaa, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Higher Education and Christine Musselin, one of the coordinator editors in the same journal and member of the CHER Board of Governors.