The ASEM Rectors’ Conference and Students’ Forum (ARC) is a bi-annual conference series that has been recognised as an Official Dialogue Partner of the ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEM ME). The past editions of ARC have brought together hundreds of Asian and European student, university and business leaders for solution-oriented discussions on emerging higher education issues concerning both regions. ARC is also one of the initial commitments to the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), which is the successor to the United Nations Decade of ESD (2005-2014).
With increased demands from the labour market, young people need to be equipped with a more flexible, innovative and specialist skillset. Cooperation between universities and businesses can provide students with the necessary skills and competences, and help them better prepare for the labour market.
The significance of the topic of youth employment and employability skills is emphasised by the importance put on it by the policy makers in Asia and Europe. At the 5th ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEM ME5) the need for “HEIs and entrepreneurs […] to collaborate closely at different levels and formats in order to improve employability of graduates, to cultivate entrepreneurship, and to innovate learning environment through information and communication technologies” was stressed. The Ministers also stated that employability of students needs to be improved “through work placements and work-based learning and to embed those instruments in the curriculum.” Furthermore, the topic of employability corresponds with the United Nations’ (UN’s) Sustainable Development Goals to substantially increase the number of youth and adults with access to quality tertiary education and relevant technical and vocational skills for employment.
ARC5 consisted of plenary and working group sessions, all under the theme of employability. In addition, there were special sessions for networking between rectors, students and businesses through unconventional concepts such as a human library.
To ensure close linkages between the Rectors’ Conference and the Students’ Forum, 4 Rectors attended the Students’ Forum as Mentors to the design sessions, and 4 student participants participated in the Rectors’ Conference to report on the outcome of the Students’ Forum.
Specifically, ARC5 achieved its aims to:
 The themes of ARC were: “Between Tradition and Reform: Universities in Asia and Europe” (ARC1); “Asia-Europe University Cooperation: Contributing to the Global Knowledge Society” (ARC2); “Universities, Businesses and You: For a Sustainable Future” (ARC3); and “University-Business Partnerships: Asia and Europe Seeking 21st Century Solutions” (ARC4).
 “Conclusions by the Chair,” 5th ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEM ME5) (27-28 April 2015, Riga, Latvia): 5, http://www.aseminfoboard.org/sites/default/files/documents/2015%20-%20ASEMME5%20-%20Chair%20Conclusions.pdf.