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July 7th 2020

Global conference to transform intercultural learning goes virtual

Heather Lishman image by Heather Lishman

A global conference exploring how intercultural and international learning can be made more accessible will take place online later this year.

The International Virtual Exchange Conference (IVEC), which has attracted delegates from Europe, USA and beyond, was meant to take place at Newcastle University in September but due to Covid-19 it will now be completely virtual.

The conference will take place on the same dates, 14 – 16 September 2020, with organisers still keen for attendees to soak up the culture of NewcastleGateshead with virtual guided walking tours of the area, local music and even a pub quiz planned.

Virtual Exchange (VE) is a research-informed practice that delivers structured participatory education programmes to individuals from different cultures and communities around the world. All VE programmes are delivered in a structured way with the support of educators or facilitators.

This is the second conference of its kind following the inaugural IVEC event which was held in Tacoma, Washington, USA in 2019. NewcastleGateshead was originally chosen to host the conference thanks to Newcastle University’s wealth of academic expertise in the field of VE learning.

Chair of the local organising committee and Newcastle University Lecturer of Applied Linguistics and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at the School of Education, Communication, and Language Sciences, Dr Müge Satar, said: “Virtual exchange offers intercultural contact and international educational experiences to people who are unable to travel. But that’s not our only objective here.

“Virtual learning is a more sustainable and environmentally friendly vehicle for knowledge and idea exchange, and we hope that this conference will inspire the academic community to develop VE and its potential reach and impact further still.”

Newcastle University has pledged a commitment to UN Sustainable Development Goals and, while VE isn’t promoted to completely replace physical mobility, it does significantly increase the sustainable learning opportunities on offer.

Paul Szomoru, Director of Business Events at NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau, said: “While we are disappointed that delegates will not get to experience NewcastleGateshead first-hand, it’s brilliant that IVEC will still be showing off the region virtually. Hosting the conference virtually is testament to the city’s position as England’s fastest-growing tech sector outside of London, as well as the impactful research coming out of Newcastle University.

“We are looking forward to welcoming back events to the region when it is safe to do so but in the meantime we are working really hard to facilitate virtual, and moving forward hybrid, events that are still rooted in the destination.”

IVEC attracts delegates from world-leading universities representing lecturers, researchers, deans, directors, and internationalisation officers who have the capability to transform learnings from VE development into practice, benefiting students across the globe.

The conference builds on several years of VE events taking place in Europe and New York, organised and delivered by two distinct organising groups, the SUNY COIL Center in New York and UNICollaboration in Europe. IVEC brings the two groups together, along with many more institutions, creating a truly global approach to Virtual Exchange – the very ethos that lies at the heart of its practice.

To find out more about the conference and its programme, visit

To learn more about NewcastleGateshead’s conferencing and event facilities, and the services of its Convention Bureau, visit


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