CBIE Conference by the Numbers: Americas, Southeast Asia and Europe, how about Africa?

First published on CBIE-BCEI WITHOUT BORDERS on July 21, 2016

CBIE’s 2015 Annual Conference was attended by more than 800 participants from 40 different countries. Same number of participants as in 2014, but notably, a 15% increase in the number of countries represented.

Most of the participants came from education institutions in the Americas, North and South. Canada made up more than half of the total participants. Asia and Europe (mostly UK), Latin American countries and Southeast Asian countries were also well-represented. I am guessing the two side events – Canada-Southeast Asia Forum and Emerging Leaders of the Americas Networking Session – facilitated such a strong turnout from the latter regions. Meanwhile, Tanzania was the only African country represented. I don’t have the actual figures but when I attended NAFSA in 2014, the trend was the same (perhaps this could be a topic for my next blogpost…).

Tracking Representation

When I managed the ASEM Rectors’ Conference for Asia-Europe Foundation (headquartered in Singapore), my team tracked representation like crazy. ‘Balanced representation’ is one of the metrics for evaluating the success of a project or an event – i.e. all Asian and European countries ‘must have’ at least one representative.

After the launch of each open call, our team would be excited to check registration alerts. Every morning had an extra buzz. Because of the time difference between Europe and Asia, we would find registrations from European colleagues already waiting in our inboxes. We would then send around emails with names of universities and countries recently included in the roster. Occasionally, we would shout out the countries that had registered (“Mongolia!”), especially if they were participating for the first time.

Such impassioned efforts were designed to: (1) find out which of those we had targeted registered; (2) confirm the ones who actually participated, and by the end of the event or project (3) demonstrate improved or increased representation of targeted countries and universities. Our promotion and dissemination efforts the following year would be informed by these stats.

The ASEM Rectors’ Conference and CBIE’s Annual Conference are two different forums for higher education discussions but I wonder if CBIE identifies a target, both in numbers and representation, each year. I would be curious to see how African higher education is represented at this year’s Conference, when CBIE celebrates its 50th anniversary.


Helen Balderama is International Partnership Officer at the University of Manitoba. She was formerly Program Manager to the Education sections of Asia-Europe Foundation (Higher Education) and UNESCO National Commission Manila.

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