The recently-concluded 3rd ASEM Rectors’ Conference (ARC3) was hosted this year by the University of Groningen in the Netherlands (25-26 September 2012). It brought together more than 100 heads of universities from 76 universities across 37 countries in Asia and Europe. Topics discussed included the issue of youth unemployment and how universities can engage the business sector to provide students skills for better and sustainable employment prospects.
“It’s not a question of whether or not universities should engage the business sector, but how,” said Prof Dr Sibrandes Poppema, President of the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. The rectors agreed that more engagement with the business sector was necessary, but also agreed that universities are not merely “factories for future employees”.
Students, who participated for the first time in the ASEM Rectors’ Conference, voiced their opinions as well. “There is a gap between theory being taught in the universities and the practical requirements of the job market,” said Vicki Baars from the National Union of Students (United Kingdom). They further suggested the incorporation of “soft skills” such as intercultural and communication skills into the curriculum, as well as providing support to encourage would-be entrepreneurs amongst the student population.
The full set of recommendations from ARC3 will be available soon. It will be submitted for consideration at the 3rd ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting in May 2013 (Malaysia).
The 4th ASEM Rectors’ Conference will be co-hosted by the Chulalongkorn University and the Office of the Higher Education Commission in Thailand in 2014.