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Centre for Online and Distance Education

Academics as learning and knowledge diplomats


Written by
Dr Linda Amarane-Cooper (CDE, University of London) and Dr J Simon Rofe (SOAS, University of London)

At the Berlin 2019 Going Global conference, and drawing upon our subject research in diplomacy, we asked our session participants to reflect on their own work as senior academics and professionals within the international higher education sector as a form of diplomatic practice, paying explicit attention to the three founding principles of diplomacy: the troika of negotiation, representation and communication.

It is at the convergence of these three that the practice of diplomacy takes place. We considered approaches used in promoting multi-layered learning communities which serve to enhance knowledge exchange between learners – both those deemed ‘students’ and those deemed ‘teachers’ – across a range of stakeholders on a global scale engaged in international higher education – not just universities.

These communities, hosted through a variety of flexible digital platforms and appropriately supported and curated by trained colleagues, have the opportunity to co-produce knowledge and solutions not only to immediate academic tasks but provide potential to address the global challenges of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Participants contextualised these experiences within their own sphere of influence and practices, drawing out models that included the role of the academic as a ‘consultant to the workplace’ and the importance of negotiation, representation and communication to their success.