43 year old John Edwards is the new Secretary-General of EURASHE. Get to know him better through this interview, where he shares his views and wishes on the future of EURASHE, inspirations, and interests.
Hello John, could you please introduce yourself to the EURASHE network? Who are you?
I am from a research and policy background having worked for nearly a decade at the Joint Research Centre. I was based in Seville, Spain which is quite far from Brussels (and MUCH hotter too) but institutionally speaking is very close since the JRC is a Directorate-General of the European Commission. I have a background in regional development as well as EU policy, but with an increasing interest in higher education over recent years. I am both Portuguese and British (English-Welsh) and have six children, which keep me busy out of work. If I have any free time I may catch a football game involving Manchester United or go for a walk in the country.
How do you feel being the new EURASHE Secretary-General?
I am absolutely thrilled because we have a great team in the Secretariat, an experienced Board with a committed President and so many interesting members. EURASHE has been around for thirty years but I truly feel that this is the time to make a signficiant step forward. Professional Higher Education can be a key factor for the green and digital transitions so there is an opportunity for us to make a real impact.
What experiences from your previous jobs will help you in this new role?
The JRC is all about evidence for policy and I want to research and communicate the policy relevance of PHE. I have been studying and working at the intersection of innovation, industrial, education and economic development policies, all of which EURASHE has a stake in. Previous jobs in Brussels have shown me the value of working with others to achieve common goals as well as the need to constantly demonstrate the raison d’etre of the particular sector or organisation you are representing.
What are your main goals as Secretary-General?
I would like to make EURASHE a valuable partner for a wide range of policymakers and stakeholders. While our core business is applied education, research, and innovation, increasingly policy making is about cross cutting challenges and themes. For example we are going to be part of DG REGIO’s advisory committee on the Just Transition Facility where education and skills can have a very useful contribution. My other main goal is to make EURASHE a dynamic networking organisation that allows our members to be more connected to each other and our partners.
What will be the first task you will jump on?
The Strategic Review which will be an opportunity to sharpen our goals and improve as an organisation. It will also allow me to know our members better. I will be making a lot of calls to individual members as I need to listen and learn from them all.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing EURASHE?
I would say one of our strengths is also a big challenge, namely the diversity of the membership. Each country organizes its higher education systems differently so it is often difficult for members to know who to work with from an institutional perspective. I think the solution is to define EURASHE based on its objectives rather than its place in any one particular national system. However, I also do believe our diversity is a strength because it allows for so much learning and improvement.
Understanding the needs and challenges of EURASHE members is a big challenge. What is your most important message for them?
It may sound obvious, but communication is our business so unless we know what people think then it is difficult to meet expectations. I want to hear from all our members to understand why they joined EURASHE and what we can do better to help them. My message is that “We are your home in Brussels and the door is always open”.
How do you see EURASHE in 3 years?
A thriving organization inspired by common strengths and interests, bringing members closer together and having an impact on policy.
Tell us, what is your biggest inspiration?
The EU’s motto: United in Diversity.
How does a perfect day for John Edwards look like?
A beautiful walk followed by a good meal with family and friends.
That the United Kingdom would rejoin the EU sometime.
– Interviewed by Maite de Jesus, EURASHE Communication Officer.