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Top Higher Education Conferences to Attend in 2021 [Updated]

Industry Advice Education

The higher education industry is experiencing significant changes to curricula, teaching methods, technology, student affairs, recruitment, and retention. Accelerating these changes even further was the emergence of the coronavirus (COVID-19), which impacted nearly every facet of the world of higher education.

Additionally, academic institutions—and their leaders—are faced with increased scrutiny from the academic community, accreditors, students, and parents. Now, more than ever, effective and flexible leadership is critical to an educational institution’s success. 

One way for leaders in higher ed to stay ahead of the curve is by attending the nation’s top higher education conferences. These conferences are an excellent opportunity for education professionals to develop valuable connections, exchange innovative ideas, share best practices, and learn new skills. 


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Of course, it can be difficult to properly budget for these events and to keep track of each event’s status. For instance: Which conferences have been adjusted? Will there be any changes to the conference format moving forward, such as shifting to a full virtual experience?

Knowing the status of these higher education conferences for the remainder of 2021 is critical to mapping out your schedule to gain the most value for you and your institution.

That’s why we’ve put together an updated list of the top higher ed conferences for your team to consider in 2021. Use this list to narrow your choices for any upcoming must-attend conferences, so that your school can stay abreast of emerging trends in the ever-evolving landscape of higher education.

Top Higher Education Conferences of 2021

1. NACAC National Conference

Date: September 23-25, 2021 

Format: In-Person & Virtual

Location: Seattle, WA & Online

This year, attendees can experience the NACAC National Conference in person in Seattle, WA,  or participate in the concurrent virtual experience. Virtual attendees can now enjoy a new online conference platform that uses the latest AI-powered networking to duplicate many of the connections of an in-person event.

Thousands of counseling and admission professionals are drawn to the annual event to collaborate and learn about the latest trends, innovations, technologies, and best practices for leaders in higher ed. The three-day event features more than 100 educational sessions along with dozens of presentations, workshops, seminars, and more.

2. NACADA’s Annual Conference

Date: October 6-9, 2021

Format: In-Person & Virtual

Location: Cincinnati, OH & Online

The National Academic Advising Association’s 2021 Annual Conference plans to provide access to more than double the amount of content than 2020’s fully virtual event. This year’s event will include over 300 live sessions to be accessed either in-person or virtually, many of which will also be accessible asynchronously on-demand. 

Held at the Duke Energy Convention Center located in the heart of Cincinnati, this year’s conference underscores NACADA’s belief that “together, all things are possible.” The speakers, sessions, and workshops will provide a forum for discussion, debate, and the exchange of ideas pertaining to quality academic advising. Attendees will be able to share their experiences, research in the field, and make new connections with like-minded thought leaders.

3. Leadership in Higher Education Conference

Date: October 7-9, 2021

Format: In-person & Virtual

Location: Baltimore, MD & Online

The Leadership in Higher Education Conference helps new and experienced higher education leaders learn innovative strategies, trends, and best practices for effectively managing staff and resources. This conference covers both academic leadership and administrative leadership in a supportive, collaborative environment that helps build on existing leadership skills while providing actionable strategies to help participants improve efficiency and effectiveness in their positions.

All conference registrations include access to the on-demand virtual conference, which will be accessible through December 31, 2021. So if you don’t make it to every session, you’ll have access to on-demand recordings of these sessions to watch at your leisure. 

4. Diversity Abroad Annual Conference

Date: October 25-29, 2021

Format: In-Person & Virtual

Location: Atlanta, GA & Online

The 9th annual Diversity Abroad Conference is moving to a hybrid event in 2021. Hosted by the Georgia State University, the fall event features a theme of Global Inclusion. 

The conference provides a comprehensive national forum on issues of access, diversity, equity, and inclusivity in global education. Hundreds of education professionals, student leaders, employers, and leading graduate programs will meet online to work toward addressing and accelerating systemic and equitable change in all aspects of global education and cultural exchange.

5. ACE2021—The American Council on Education’s 103rd Annual Meeting

Date: Ongoing

Format: On-demand

Location: Online

The 103rd meeting for the American Council on Education took place in March of 2021, but educational leaders can still access the conference’s on-demand content by purchasing access to this year’s session recordings to view at your convenience. 

Regarded as the most distinguished higher education event nationwide, more than 2,000 executive leaders in higher education regularly attend the annual conference focused on data-driven insights and thought-provoking content. 

Looking for More?

These higher education conferences for 2021 are a great place for educational leaders to start improving their organizational leadership capabilities.

For education professionals looking for more comprehensive leadership training, however, a Doctor of Education (EDD) might be the next step. Northeastern’s Doctor of Education program, for example, rigorously prepares leaders to investigate, explore, and transform organizational and institutional landscapes, empowering its graduates to pursue the issues they’re passionate about.

To learn more, and to see if an EDD is right for you, explore our program page, or download our e-book below.

Download Our Free Guide to Earning Your EdD