Since early 2020, the global pandemic has disrupted societies, economies, and livelihoods. Academic interchange has been especially hard hit by lockdowns and travel restrictions. With limitations on traditional venues for exchange of ideas, the vibrancy of academic life has to be sustained by adaption and innovation. The pandemic prevented CHER’s annual conference from happening last year. To avoid that happening again this year requires four ways to invigorate the resilience and flexibility of CHER and ensure that a meeting of the minds in higher education research can occur in 2021.
First, the 2021 CHER conference will be virtual and fully online. While this is unfortunate because it does not allow for the members of the CHER conference community to meet, socialize and exchange ideas as in a physical conference, it is the best possible alternative to at least allow CHER conference members to meet one another virtually. It also assures that challenges related to travel restrictions are avoided. Moreover, it also avoids the possibility that one, a few, or several members may become infected, and therefore, we avoid endangering the lives of everybody.
Second, the 2021 CHER conference will be more limited than in pre-pandemic times in terms of scope and duration. Rather than taking the usual two and a half days, it will take place over three consecutive (European) mornings. This is necessary because experience dictates that full-day online conferences tend to be more tiring, and therefore less effective. As well, framing this year’s conference as a European morning event enables colleagues from Asia to participate and engage in scholarly conversations and dialogue with colleagues based in Europe and hopefully in North America too.
Third, the 2021 CHER conference can accept the option to be hosted from Asia for the first time in its history. The University of Hong Kong has a longstanding tradition of international and regional academic and scientific exchange of ideas. Its longstanding integration into the global academy becomes deeper by hosting the CHER 2021 conference. This historic event promotes closer relations between Europe and the Asian region at a time when dialogue among scholars and scientists can help address significant issues that influence the development of higher education systems.
Fourth, the adapted framework of the 2021 CHER conference will be panel oriented: the conference this year will not be based on paper presentations but more on panels. The reason for this is twofold. First, the conference organizers do not believe many papers could be presented in two European mornings. The optional route of organizing several parallel sessions would most likely lead to some sessions attended by a reduced audience. Second, the focus of the conference is on establishing dialogues and relation, and the best way this can be achieved is through a presentation format that highlights the exchange of ideas, values, and from this exchange establish similarities and differences that can promote the launching of collaborative research for the near future.