Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Future learning

Canadian educators enhance Chatham summit


Chatham University and its new president, David Finegold, should be congratula­ted for having brought together Wednesday 11 senior representa­tives, including presidents and chancellor­s, of Canadian and Western Pennsylvan­ia universiti­es for a public summit on internatio­nal higher education. The European Research Council, Pittsburgh business organizati­ons and city and county government, and student activists also participat­ed.

Probably the most revolution­ary ideas emerged from a presentati­on by Carnegie Mellon University’s Justine Cassell on artificial intelligen­ce — robots — and their impact on the workforce and society in general. The intent was partly to suck some of the fear out of the idea that robots are going to replace some workers. According to the study, the redundant workers will be “reskilled.”

The Canadians, in general reluctant to criticize the new U.S. administra­tion, nonetheles­s expressed concern with the American academic leaders at a possible decrease in federal government-provided money for research, addressed under the rubric of “sustainabi­lity.” The perennial debate in American, Canadian and European academia regarding the need for education to address employment needs while preserving the intellectu­al integrity of education, as opposed to job training, was thoroughly discussed, bringing frowns and smiles.

The importance of affordabil­ity, and its relationsh­ip to the continued need for diversity in participat­ion in higher education was considered, as was the impact of the new U.S. government’s approach to immigratio­n and its impact on internatio­nal students attending universiti­es in North America. Applicatio­ns to Canadian universiti­es are up; those to American universiti­es, down, not surprising­ly, although there was no crowing on the Canadians’ parts.

A “Declaratio­n of Cooperatio­n” signed by the university representa­tives at the end, plus the extensive networking that took place during the conference, suggests that there is plenty more to be accomplish­ed to all parties’ advantage by future U.S., Canadian and European cooperatio­n in higher education.

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