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4th August 2019

by Maddi Mitchell, University of Western Australia

The Matariki Global Citizenship Forum in Durham brought together a mixture of creative and fascinating minds all to challenge how we, and our universities can empower learners. My experience really emphasised the importance of how much empowerment comes from people and relationships. For individuals and communities to receive empowerment with its full intention, there needs to be a relationship and genuine investment from both sides. As time went by throughout the forum the connections that we all made with each other allowed us to really see the passion and thought that was invested in each workshop and presentation. In my opinion without this connection, to leave a long-lasting impression and to see this spark of empowerment all the way to action, would not be possible.

What made a particular impression on me was the presentation from, and quite frankly just the presence, of Uppsala University. Their delivery of the CEMUS education model was refreshing and gave me reassurance that the education system is responding to the needs of the learners. The way CEMUS has created a space that encourages and gives students the courage to experience failure is exactly the kind of educational environment any learner needs. To me, these are the exact values that should drive empowerment.

Someone made an interesting point that “conditions change, so why do our habits resist change?” We can see how well programmes such as CEMUS are received by both students and staff, so it makes me wonder why our institutions are so hesitant and slow to adopt these approaches to education?

While it was apparent that we all had different ways of empowering our learners, it was an incredible experience to be able to share everyone’s success and challenges. The five days of the forum allowed us to learn the different personalities of each university and student and has invited me to view and explore the value and possibilities of education with a much broader scope, that I (scarily) may not have ever got.