The EAIE is coming up: interview with Bart Combee

How can students and Rotterdam’s residents profit from international collaborations?

Two more weeks until the EAIE opens her doors to the largest European educational conference in the Ahoy stadium in Rotterdam. Chair of the Executive Board Bart Combee is excited for what he anticipates is about to take place during the conference. “The EAIE is a great opportunity to show the world how our education and research are impacting society.”

Bart Combee is eagerly looking forward to the 4 day conference, which will start at the end of September. “It’s going to be inspirational. We will be learning new things from many international colleagues, hear about new initiatives and start new collaborations. Since I was born and raised in Rotterdam, I’m very excited that such an event is taking place in my city.”

Strengthening each other
“The world is becoming a global village with ties that bind. This is not only true in the areas of education and research, but also for challenges we face as a city such as the Energy Transition, climate goals and social polarisation. Our colleagues abroad are dealing with these same issues, so it’s helpful to be able to exchange knowledge and strengthen each other.”

International experiences for students
With that, Bart is touching on the core of the vision for internationalisation: “We want to improve the quality of our education and research. We do that partly by investing in our staff’s professional skills. For example, we exchange subject related insights with our colleagues abroad. But we also do this by facilitating international experiences for students. This can be an exchange program, to let them study abroad, but internationalisation is more than that.”

Especially internationalisation at home is taking flight. Students work together online in international groups on projects dealing with social issues. Examples of this are the BIP’s, in which students both come together and work individually from their own locations, and the COIL’s, in which the students do all their work together online.

Global Professional
“You need great collaborations between institutions in different countries to make these projects succeed,” Bart explains. “But thanks to these international experiences, the students develop knowledge and skills they need to become future global professionals. This involves language skills, but also intercultural skills to work with people from other cultures or ethnical backgrounds.”

Communication styles
As Chair of the Executive Board, Bart knows first-hand how valuable it is for students to have these experiences. After he studied Economics at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, he worked in international business, the healthcare sector, became the Director of the Consumer Association and later on President of the worldwide federation of Consumers International. This required him to work closely with people from all continents.

“Not only did I have to make an effort to express myself in another language, I also had to deal with different styles of communication. In some nations you first have to build relationships before you talk business, and in other countries they first talk about the details. If you are not aware of such communication styles, it can hinder you collaboration.”

Serve the City
Bart is involved with the EAIE in many different ways: from delivering the opening speech during the Partner Day and Campus Experience to attending some of the sessions. He wants to inspire people, but also make them think.

“An international and diverse city like Rotterdam also has it’s downsides, such as that fact that not everyone is profiting from being connected to the world out there. To some people, globalisation is a threat rather than an opportunity. I believe we should somehow serve the city. How can everyone benefit from the fact that we are all here together? That is something I want us all to think about.”


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