12 July 2023

Navigate the Changing Tide of Global Higher Education in the 14th AUN Rectors’ Meeting

Ninnart Ratanasukhon
AUN Programme Officer;

The 14th AUN Rectors’ Meeting concluded successfully on 5 July 2023 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with gracious hosting from Universiti Malaya. This year’s meeting saw the participation of 24 Presidents, Rectors, Vice-Chancellors, and Chancellor of AUN Member Universities and 50 more participants. 

The AUN Rectors’ Meeting is an annual presidential platform where leaders of Members Universities come to share, discuss, and update on the AUN’s activities, the matters that have arisen in the ASEAN higher education landscape, and the global trend of higher education. This year, under the theme of ‘Changes in Global Higher Education and How Top Universities in ASEAN Respond,’ leaders of AUN universities took on the disruption that has put many on the edge of their seats. From the entry of generative AI to intensifying climate change; higher education as we know it is being challenged like never before. How do top ASEAN universities respond and rise to the expectation of people? Our distinguished speakers blessed us with their sage insights. 

The Meeting was kickstarted by a welcome remark from Prof. Dr. Yatimah Alias, Exercising the Function of Vice-Chancellor, Universiti Malaya; and an introductory remark from Dr. Choltis Dhirathiti, the Executive Director of ASEAN University Network.

In her welcome remarks, Prof. Dr. Yatimah Alias expressed her pride in hosting the AUN Rectors’ Meeting after the last meeting hosted by UM almost a decade ago. She also stressed that now is the critical moment in higher education to adapt and establish leadership to excel in the 21st century. Profound changes are already happening, and higher education institutions of ASEAN must embrace resilience, innovation, and adaptability that elevate the meaning and significance of mobility.

Meanwhile, Dr. Choltis Dhirathiti stressed that the ASEAN University Network has fully matured throughout the years, and the culminated wisdom and communication mechanisms have now opened up new avenues for the network. People now listen when AUN speaks, and many are looking forward to catching up with higher education leaders in this meeting.

Following an introductory remark by Dr. Choltis; participants were in for a jam-packed panel discussion session, where leaders from top ASEAN universities discussed how higher education institutions in ASEAN are navigating the changing tide of global higher education. This year’s session welcomed not only representatives from the AUN Member Universities but invited guests from local universities as well.

To provide a comprehensive picture of where ASEAN higher education is in the evolving landscape of global higher education and what the top players are doing in leading the way, the session was divided into three panels, featuring:

Session 1: Mapping the big picture “What is the big picture of Higher Education, and how can ASEAN and AUN be a better part of it?”

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The world is now well-settled in the era of multipolarity, and that means more power and autonomy for collaboration amongst the developing world. The AUN’s strength is in its excellent and well-established global partnerships, but what more can we do to achieve inclusive and win-win cooperation for all?

This session welcomed:

  • Dr. Roger Chao, Assistant Director/Head Education, Youth and Sport, Division, ASEAN Secretariat;
  • Prof. Dr. Yatimah Alias, Exercising the Function of Vice-Chancellor, Universiti Malaya;
  • Prof. Tan Eng Chye, President, National University of Singapore;
  • Assoc. Prof. Dr. Vu Hai Quan, Chancellor, Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City;

With Dr. Nopraenue Sajjarax Dhirathiti, Vice President for International Relations and Corporate Communication, Mahidol University, as the moderator.

Session 2: Meeting the expectations of the people “How can AUN universities pilot meeting the expectations of the people through the tools and power of higher education?”

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The world is changing at a faster pace, with new disruptions emerging one after the other. Higher education institutions will need to move faster to keep up with the change and the rising demand of people. Who are these "people" and how can education nurture the skills and virtue that will stay relevant in the fast-paced world?

This session welcomed:

  • Prof. Dr. Bundhit Eua-arporn, President, Chulalongkorn University;
  • Dr. Hazri Haji Kifle, Vice-chancellor, Universiti Brunei Darussalam;
  • Prof. Dr. Ova Emilia, M.Med.Ed., Sp.OG(K)., Ph.D., Rector, Universitas Gadjah Mada;
  • Prof. Dato’ Dr. Mohd. Ekhwan Toriman, Vice Chancellor, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia;

With Dr. Joyce Teo Siew Yean, Assistant Vice Chancellor (Global Affairs), Universiti Brunei Darussalam, as the moderator.

Session 3: Change is the key “How can we change the world by using the influence of higher education, particularly from the range that AUN has gotten?”

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With change happening on various fronts, the universities may seem like a static character. They are not. Universities are the change-maker themselves. In the final discussions, we see what top players in ASEAN are answering to change.

This session welcomed:

  • Prof. Yi-Chen Lan, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Global Development and Provost Vietnam Campus, Western Sydney University; 
  • Prof. Pongrak Sribunditmongkol, M.D., Ph.D., President, Chiang Mai University;
  • Prof. Reini Wirahadikusumah, Ph.D, Rector, Institut Teknologi Bandung;
  • Fr. Roberto Yap SJ, President, Ateneo de Manila University;

With Dr. Laurene Chua-Garcia, Vice-president of external relations and internationalisation, De La Salle University, as the moderator.

After the lively panel discussions in the morning, the afternoon sessions provided AUN’s dignitaries with the latest updates on recent and upcoming activities from the AUN, its thematic networks, and members. Some highlights of this session included but not limited to:

  • A Pathway to the International Masters in Human Development Program from Dr. Welyne Jeffrey Jehome, Anthropologist and Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, Universiti Malaya
  • Libraries of the ASEAN University Network (AUNILO)’s Strategic Directions for term 2023 – 2026 by Shameem Nilofar Maideen, University Librarian, Singapore Management University Libraries
  • Quality Standardization in University's ICT System and Management Model by Asst. Prof. Dr. Thakerng Wongsirichot, Vice President for Academic and International Affairs, Prince of Songkla University
  • Latest updates from the AUN-HPN from Assoc. Prof. Dr. Thunwadee Suksaroj, Deputy Executive Director of AUN-HPN and Acting Deputy Director for Research and Academic Affairs, ASEAN Institute for Health Development, Mahidol University

The full coverage of the panel discussion sessions and the highlighted updates from our thematic networks and members will be available for your perusal soon. Stay tuned to our website or sign up for our e-newsletter, and we will deliver them right to your mailbox!