4 August 2022

Dr. Choltis Dhirathiti’s remarks at SHARE Policy Dialogue 15 on ASEAN Higher Education Space 2025: The timing is right

AUN Writer Team

By Suman Mazumdar, AUN Intern

The ASEAN University Network Executive Director attended the 15th SHARE (Support to Higher Education in the ASEAN Region) held from 27-29 July, 2022 in Hanoi, Vietnam to launch the roadmap on the ASEAN Higher Education Space 2025 and its implementation plan. The Programme has been designed to explore the essential components supporting “Envisioning the Future of a Higher Education Common Space in Southeast Asia,” for improved inter-ASEAN communication, and information and knowledge sharing, within the context of the ASEAN Education Work Plan 2021–2025.

The Roadmap delivered the missions and obligations of ASEAN related to enhancing intra-ASEAN student mobility by 2025. This complies with the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) which seeks to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”  Its key areas were to promote awareness and support for the development of the ASEAN Higher Education Space; implementation of Quality Assurance; enhance implementation of ASEAN Qualifications Reference Framework. This will strengthen regional cooperation benefiting Higher Education Mobility for students, faculty members, researchers and internships. It also aims to achieve mutual recognition on qualifications and professions, such as diploma supplements, Digital Credit Transfer System, ratification of the Tokyo convention and eventually the Global recognition convention; design and set foundation that ensures sustainability (Technical/Human and Financial resources) of ASEAN Higher Education Space.

Dr. Choltis remarked that from the perspective of Higher Education Institutions (HEI) in ASEAN, the timing is right to launch this initiative, which seeks to harmonize higher education sectors in this region. The universities went through a lot during the COVID pandemic, and now we are entering the post-pandemic era where most of our universities could implement blended learning with the use of technology, and some have already implemented data analytics system in management of student students’ information to measure their success. Secondly, looking at the World University Ranking, we understand the value of international collaboration and how to catalyse the standardisation, improvement and quality enhancement of the universities.  Besides the affiliated commercial ranking, the ASEAN area offers university rankings and ratings to raise the bar, such as Green Metrics, UPM, Healthy University Rating System (HURS), WURI ranking, etc. With the release of this plan, the universities are prepared to partake in the chair vision that is to be evaluated by 2025.

The primary focus of the AUN will be on capacity building of the human resources in universities, such as the Centre for Education Accreditation in Vietnam, Ministry of Education in Brunei. Universities are ready to join in this vision presented by the launch of this roadmap and it is to be measured by 2025. He opined that the most noteworthy asset of this dialogue is that it has brought together a range of stakeholders in higher education, which is crucial for what is referred to as ‘Policy Design'. Around the year 2018, we were very concerned about the changing world of work and the impact of technology, and so we established a thematic network on technology enhanced personalized learning. Singapore Management University, Universiti Malaya and Mahidol University are right now the core group that tackle the adaptation to technology to make it a more personalized learning service for students. In AUN member universities, Thematic Network Libraries are also available. However, the changing behaviour of students is a concern for our librarians in light of student-centred learning, forcing libraries to use technology as a strategic instrument to adapt to this changing behaviour as well as to provide digital services to the academic staff, such as teaching them how to conduct online research and publish online. The AUN are also most concerned with the capacity of students for lifelong learning and their logical, creative, and critical thinking abilities. In terms of the core scenario, we are heading towards uneven and unequal growth in this era of globalisation. Partnership is the way forward, but a reduced hope of geographical partnership or clustering of a smaller regional collaboration is another source of conflict. We may anticipate a stronger collaboration between institutions in Southeast Asia and East Asian nations including China, Japan, Korea, as well as India. Moreover, the government does not distribute funds equally when it invests in high impact areas, which is the first lesson in strategic planning. The factor presented in the core scenario of the British Council was the war for talented graduates and academic researchers moving down, with scholarships being provided, and it is now up to them where they want to pursue their studies.