Sharing African perspectives on diversity and inclusion on the world stage

The prestigious QS Summit on Higher Education: Europe taking place in Dublin this week will look at the forces impacting higher education and explore innovative long-term ways to ensure that institutions can continue to meet the skills and labour needs of a rapidly changing world. Jon Foster-Pedley, Chair of the Association for African Business Schools (AABS) and Dean and Director of Henley Business School Africa will be there to offer an African perspective.

The world is changing – fast and continuously – and institutions of higher learning are struggling to keep up.

This week, deans, directors and academic professionals from all around the world will meet in Dublin, Ireland at the QS Summit on Higher Education: Europe to explore this uncomfortable fact. Topics up for discussion will include, learning how to attract top talent, staying ahead of the curve in an era of digital transformation, post-pandemic transformation, and how to put – and keep – students at the heart of the education process.

QS Quacquarelli Symonds is doing great work in the education standards and innovation and is to be commended for opening up these spaces for debate,” says Jon Foster-Pedley, Chair of the Association for African Business Schools (AABS) and dean and director of Henley Business School Africa, who will attend the summit and participate as a panellist as part of the Business School Track.

Best known for its global rankings of universities and business schools around the world, QS is the world’s leading provider of services, analytics, and insight to the global higher education sector. Its mission is to empower motivated people around the world to fulfil their potential through educational achievement, international mobility, and career development.   

According to Daniel Kahn, a research and consulting professional specialised in business schools, the Business School Track at the upcoming QS Europe conference will cover a range of topics that are relevant in today's rapidly evolving business landscape. From exploring Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) to delving into the nuances of digital transformation, accreditation and rankings, essential business school skills, branding vs reputation, and sustainability.

“The agenda is brimming with thought-provoking discussions. What truly sets this conference apart is the exceptional line-up of speakers hailing from renowned schools and organisations,” he comments on LinkedIn.

Foster-Pedley, who will be representing both the AABS in his capacity as chairperson, and Henley Business School and its parent institution, the University of Reading in the UK, will bring a uniquely African perspective to these discussions. He will present on a panel: Empowering Students to Drive Change in Business Education: Fostering Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in European GME Programs that will be moderated by: Nunzio Quacquarelli, President, QS Quacquarelli Symonds.

Joining Foster-Pedley on the panel are Professor Anne Sinnott, Deputy President and Vice-President, Diversity and Equality, Dublin City University, Maria Farkas, Assistant Professor, Imperial College Business School, and Dr Jose Manuel Esteves de Sousa. Dean, Porto Business School.

“As a business school operating in a South African context with its history of racial exclusion, the imperative to foster DEI has been at the core of what we do,” says Foster-Pedley. “We are proud that we can say that our student body is now among the most diverse in the country, with more than 68% of our MBA class comprising black South Africans and more than 40% women.” 

Henley Africa has also enjoyed astonishing growth over the past decade, from a small outpost of its parent institution at the University of Reading in the UK offering the MBA to a handful of students, to a fully-accredited and campused business school in its own right offering a full suite of executive education programmes and graduating close on 1,500 student a year.

“This is not something that happens by accident,” says Foster-Pedley. “We have worked hard to make our education accessible, relevant and vital to all South Africans and I believe that what we have learned on this journey can make a valuable contribution to business schools in other contexts too.” 

He cites three key things that Henley Africa has done that have been core to driving DEI. First, they found a strong and authentic core purpose around which everyone has been able to rally, summed up in its purpose statement: “we build the people, that build the businesses, that build Africa”; Second, they have “junked the jargon and cut the cliches” to make the concepts they teach more relevant and understandable to a broader range of students; and third, they have cultivated an attitude of activism among students to encourage them in their turn to be change agents in their families, businesses and communities. 

“Business schools have a choice: we can be thermostats, regulating and maintaining the status quo, which is going to cook us in any case. Or, we can be change accelerants, developing business leaders who are activists. At Henley we’ve chosen the latter route. Be it for racial equity, equal pay, decolonising education, or fighting against debilitating climate change, it’s clear that we need our students to shake things up and do things better than we have. 

“The role of a good business school in the world today is to give people hope and harness them in a movement to make our world future-proof,” he concludes. 

The two-day 2023 QS higher Ed Summit: Europe, will run from 27 – 29 June in Dublin, Ireland. Henley alumni and partners are entitled to a 25% discount on in-person and virtual conference passes. Register now and get your discounted conference pass here.

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