The ASEF Regional Conference on Higher Education (ARC) – formerly referred to as the ASEF Rectors’ Conference and Students’ Forum – is the Official Dialogue Partner of the ASEM Education Ministers Meeting (ASEMME) and the only bi-regional multi-stakeholder dialogue platform for university and student leaders, policymakers and ministers to discuss higher education issues and shape the education landscape in Asia and Europe.
Its results, including policy recommendations, feed into the ASEM Education Process and contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
TOPIC OF THE ARC8 CONFERENCE: OUTLOOK 2030: INCLUSIVE AND DIVERSE HIGHER EDUCATION
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are a universal call for action to shape a better future for all. Universities and their students have a key responsibility to tackle complex societal challenges of our times, manifested in these Goals. While recognising the outstanding results of universities contributing to the SDGs, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how fragile the achievements on the goals are. According to the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2020, COVID-19 is reversing decades of progress on poverty, healthcare and education. Green and equitable economic recovery is not possible without innovative tertiary education and a renewed commitment to inclusion in tertiary education if we are to deliver on our promise of leaving no one behind.
In July 2020, UNESCO invited higher education institutions to put the values of inclusion and equity in the recovery roadmap for education post-COVID-19. UNESCO invited national officials and international organisations to develop new partnerships, and improve policies and inclusive online learning solutions during the decade of action. In addition to this, the ASEM Education Ministers highlighted the aim of the ASEM Education Process to ensure inclusion and equality in education by building comprehensive education systems that are accessible to all.
In accordance with these calls, ARC8 invites Asian and European higher education and student leaders to leverage the current COVID-19 disruption and make inclusion and diversity the central values of their paradigm shift. Titled “Outlook 2030: Inclusive and Diverse Higher Education in Asia and Europe”, ARC8 will explore how universities and students can foster inclusion and diversity in the final decade for the Agenda 2030, and raise awareness on potential risks and opportunities along 4 subthemes:
1 | Inclusive Learning and Teaching in a Digital World
2 | Inclusive and Flexible Lifelong Learning Pathways
3 | Inclusive International Mobility of People and Knowledge
4 | Equitable Access and Success in Higher Education
The theme aligns with the priority areas of the ASEM Education Process and the upcoming 8th ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEMME8). In addition to ARC8, ASEF will organise several spin-off activities focusing on disseminating findings of the ARC8 Outlook Report 2030 and build capacity for local and regional stakeholders.
ARC8 Conference | Friday, 10 September 2021
The 8th ASEF Regional Conference on Higher Education titled Outlook 2030: Inclusive and Diverse Higher Education in Asia and Europe took place on Friday, 10 September 2021. Over 1,500 university managers, academics, students, policymakers and representatives of higher education networks registered for the event. Two reports were launched (1) ARC8 Outlook Report 2030: Inclusive and Diverse Higher Education in Asia and Europe (2) ASEM National Equity Policies in Higher Education Report. The video recordings of the sessions are available at ASEF’ YouTube channel.
ARC8 Capacity Building Workshops | throughout October-December 2021
The capacity building workshops will build on the recommendations of the ARC8 Outlook Report and engage higher education stakeholders to jointly work towards a more inclusive and diverse higher education sector in their countries. There are two trainings envisioned with virtual participation.
The target group consists of university managers and student leaders within the specific regions. The trainings are designed to
- Increase the participants’ understanding of the ARC8 topic/subtopics and get familiar with global institutional practice in these fields;
- Assist the participants to develop action plans which they can implement in their home institution to improve inclusion and diversity in different areas;
- Build an Asia-Europe community of student leaders, university managers and education practitioners who can make a difference in higher education by 2030.
ARC8 Policy Dialogues | throughout the project
As ARC8 is the Official Dialogue Partner of the ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEMME), members of the ARC8 Expert Group will be invited to engage in policy dialogue with ASEM policy makers based on their findings and recommendations of the Outlook Report 2030 and the outputs of the capacity building workshops. As part of the policy dialogue process, members of the ARC8 Expert Group presented their findings and recommendations at the ASEM Education Senior Officials First Meeting (SOM1) on 15 September 2021. Further policy dialogues could include synergies with: the 8th ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEMME8), 2021, Thailand; Events related to regional policy forums, like the Bologna Policy Forum of the European Higher Education Ministers’ Meeting, the Southeast Asian Higher Education Senior Officials Meeting, the World Access to Higher Education Day, etc.
OUTLOOK REPORT 2030: INCLUSION AND DIVERSITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION IN ASIA AND EUROPE
The “ARC8 Outlook Report 2030: Inclusive and Diverse Higher Education in Asia and Europe” has been launched during the conference, on Friday, 10 September 2021.
The Outlook Report outlines emerging issues that could grow into major challenges and/or opportunities in the coming 10 years related to inclusion in higher education. Inputs for the report came from an in-depth consultation process and from previous research done by Asian and European stakeholders. The Report consists of 4 chapters:
Chapter 1. Equitable Access and Success in Higher Education
Chapter 2. Inclusive Learning and Teaching in a Digital World
Chapter 3. Inclusive International Mobility of People and Knowledge
Chapter 4. Inclusive and Flexible Lifelong Learning Pathways
The Report analyses the future of inclusion from different perspectives and makes two sets of recommendations for: (1) for ASEM policymakers, to serve as a basis for policy dialogues and as an input to their discussions on the ASEM Education Strategy and Action Plan 2030 (2) for ASEM university leaders, to outline capacity building directions for institutions and inspire joint action to make universities more inclusive in the next decade.
ASEM NATIONAL EQUITY POLICIES IN HIGHER EDUCATION REPORT
As part of the ARC8 project, a study examined the various approaches by governments across Asia and Europe to support students from all social backgrounds and circumstances to enter higher education. The geographical focus was on countries within the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) constituency. The study draws upon a survey of national policies in 47 ASEM countries focused on equitable access and success across the two continents assessing what strategies are in place, where targets exist and how they are being measured and whether COVID-19 has impacted on this work.
Some of the key findings include:
- In all countries higher education equity features in government produced higher education policy documents.
- Less than a third of countries – 30%, have a specific higher education equity strategy with 6 from Europe and 7
- There are 28 countries where at least 6 different equity target groups are identified. The most common equity target groups are lower income/socioeconomic background students and students with disabilities.