In mid-April, I had the opportunity to return to Monash South Africa’s (MSA) campus in Johannesburg as Laureate hosted a special guest. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was set to speak to government, industry, and community leaders, as well as our students, faculty, and staff about leadership and internationalization. The former prime minister was warmly welcomed at MSA which prides itself on providing internationally relevant degrees and is known for its diversity, with students hailing from more than 60 nations.
Mr. Blair has been a long-time supporter of Laureate, and this was his eighth visit to one of our campuses. Since he completed his time as prime minister in 2007, he has served in many prominent international advising roles. Perhaps most notably for this visit, he is the founder of the Africa Governance Initiative (now the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change). Hosting international leaders like Mr. Blair is a major benefit of our network for our students; no matter which campus they study on, they will have opportunities to expand their learning in practical and globally relevant ways, including through access to key global leaders.
In the opening part of his remarks in front of a packed lecture hall, Mr. Blair spoke directly to the Africans in the room, stating what has been a major tenet of his efforts for nearly ten years: that the success of Africa is imperative to the success of the rest of the world. For the former Prime Minister, the role of higher education institutions and youth-serving organization is to prepare young people to be global citizens who can lead in ever-changing environments and to be prepared for globalization beyond resisting it.
Mr. Blair also spoke about what he has seen as the necessary elements in setting up a country for success. Those elements include good leadership, solid infrastructure, rule of law, a supportive business environment, security for ordinary citizens, and strong healthcare and educational systems. As I considered this insightful and concise list, I was struck by how many of these elements are championed by our local institutions and our network.
“The Laureate International Universities network is focused on educating the next generation of leaders,” former Prime Minister Blair said. “There is no substitute for high quality higher education.” In his work around the world, Mr. Blair explained that he has seen the importance of there being a healthy mix of public and private institutions that prioritize innovation, growth, and development. He views Laureate as making critical contributions in this regard to global higher education.
I walked away from Mr. Blair’s visit even more energized by our purpose at Laureate to help prepare the next generation of leaders to face our world’s challenges. We have the opportunity to help our young people understand what society needs, and then go about applying the skills they learn with us to addressing those challenges in committed, passionate, and professional ways.