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UWC International Congress 2024: Education as a Force

UWC International Congress 2024: Education as a Force. 29 February - 2 March 2024 in Phuket, Thailand

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Happening once every six years*, the UWC International Congress took place on 29 February - 2 March 2024 in Phuket, Thailand. This event culminated the UWC movement’s 60th anniversary celebrations, and was our first ever hybrid congress, enabling even greater participation across the UWC community.  

Inspired by the words ‘Education as a Force’, the UWC International Congress 2024 brought together UWC's educational and governance leaders alongside partners, supporters and representatives of all UWC stakeholder groups, to discuss the future of education and re-align our educational model to the greatest needs of our time. Through a combination of keynote sessions, panel discussions, workshops and impact talks, we re-energised our mission to make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.  

The programme included sessions across five thematic tracks:

1. Curriculum, teaching & learning 

UWC schools and colleges attract young people who seek to make a difference in the world. Expressed through curriculum, teaching and learning, education at UWC aims to develop conscious global citizens who are empowered and inspired to take action individually and collectively to help to address the world's greatest challenges, particularly related to peace and sustainability. Through academics, outdoor and experiential learning, residential life and student-led projects, students experience a rigorous programme that equips them with a sense of agency and possibility. 

Learning from various examples of pedagogy and practice across the UWC movement, we will identify opportunities for contributing towards shaping a future-fit UWC educational model to meet the evolving needs of the world. 

2. Admissions 

UWC seeks deliberately diverse students from all over the world for its programmes, with particular emphasis on the role of national committees in selecting 16-18 year old students for the IBDP/IBCP. This relies on a corps of largely volunteer-run national committees implementing a set of selection criteria with selection activities tailored to each country. The smooth functioning of the annual process requires high-quality efforts in promotion, selection, nomination, financial needs assessment and onboarding of students. 

With a commitment to deliberate diversity, we will explore opportunities for continuous collaboration in achieving optimal admissions success by enhancing promotion and outreach, strengthening selections and onboarding, attaining financial sustainability and improving volunteer experiences.

3. Wellbeing 

In recent years, several researchers, including Project Zero at Harvard Graduate School of Education (authors of the Harvard-UWC Impact Study), have concluded that rigorous educational experiences like schooling at UWC can place considerable pressure on students, which may lead to mental health challenges for some. The COVID-19 pandemic in particular accentuated the reality of the youth mental-health crisis, and the rigours of the IBDP have equally been identified as a significant source of stress for students and adults. Many students who arrive at UWC schools need extra support to help settle into their new environments, and having to study in the English language presents another challenge for some. In addition to this, safeguarding of young people is a subject of heightened focus in schools. 

In a quest to maintain healthy and resilient communities, we will examine the practices that promote holistic wellbeing and contribute towards a shared commitment to continuous collaboration in promoting wellbeing for whole school communities.

4. Financial sustainability 

Deliberate diversity is at the heart of UWC's educational model. This is often best achieved through the provision of needs-based scholarships for students from all parts of the world, particularly those who come from under-resourced and under-represented backgrounds. Programmes like the UWC Refugee Initiative specifically support refugees and internally displaced people to study at UWC. However, spiralling inflation and the growing cost of delivering education globally pose a significant challenge for UWC in sustaining its scholarship model, and ensuring the financial sustainability of its schools and colleges. 

Building on over six decades of success, we will explore existing strategies and emerging opportunities for enabling long-term financial sustainability for UWC schools and colleges, encompassing successful fundraising, endowment investing and financial management.

5. Educational leadership & partnerships 

UWC played a pioneering role in responding to the needs of the world through innovative educational design in the 1960s and beyond. Our visionary founders designed service-learning experiences and imagined new curricula that culminated in the establishment of the International Baccalaureate. For decades, UWC schools and colleges have partnered with governments, multilateral organisations and other educational organisations to transform the delivery of education in local contexts and to contribute towards peace-building in post-conflict areas. With the support of the UWC movement, UWCx projects like Amala have blossomed into fully fledged organisations providing educational services to under-reached communities. UWC is uniquely positioned to continue to lead through innovation, partnerships and community engagement.  

Leveraging the experience of successful partnerships with public, private and multilateral entities, we will develop a shared commitment to show collective educational leadership, and amplify evidence of UWC's impact by supporting community-led initiatives and working closer with partners.

Between October 2023 and February 2024, delegates also engaged in a series of online pre-Congress discussions on each of these tracks.

Who participated?

The UWC International Congress 2024 was primarily a working opportunity open to educational stakeholders. Participation was mainly by invitation and extended to: 

  • UWC school representatives (teachers/staff and students)
  • UWC national committee representatives
  • UWC governing bodies (UWC International Board, Council and Office)
  • UWC community at-large
  • Friends of UWC, donors and partners


* The previous UWC International Congress was held in Trieste, Italy, in October 2016. Disruptions caused by COVID-19 forced us to reschedule the next Congress for 2024.

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