14 September 2023

Virtual Mobility, Sustainability, and Digitalisation of Higher Education: Global University Association Leaders Discussed Higher Education in the Post-Pandemic World and More in the 2nd GUAF Meeting

Ninnart Ratanasukhon
AUN Programme Officer;

The 2nd Global University Associations Forum was held from 4-5 September 2023 in Bangkok, Thailand under the chairmanship of the ASEAN University Network. The Forum provides a platform for leaders from university associations across the globe to engage in information exchange and collaborations on rising issues in the world of higher education and deliver collective action.

Attended the meeting this year were leaders from university associations including: 

  • American Council on Education (ACE)
  • Association of Arab Universities (AArU)
  • Association of Indian Universities (AIU)
  • ASEAN University Network (AUN)
  • China Association of Higher Education (CAHE)
  • Latin American & The Caribbean Space for Higher Education (ENLACES)
  • European University Association (EUA)
  • Universities Canada (UC)

UC, together with GUAF’s subgroup consisting of CAHE, ENLACES, EUA, presented to the meeting a study on the effectiveness of Virtual Student Mobility (VSM) and best practices, recommendations, and challenges in the execution of such kinds of programmes.

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Mr. Philip Landon, interim President and CEO of UC

Significant portion of the meeting was also dedicated to the discussion on the Digitalisation and the Future of Education, led by AIU, AArU, and CAHE.

Following the lock down during the covid-19 pandemic, many universities have come to embrace blended learning mode, virtual classrooms, open education resources, micro-credentials, and flexible learning as pointed out by AArU and AIU. The move to digitalise is now going strong as technology paves the way for new academic possibilities and exploration. CAHE also illustrated how technology is helping in advancing academic research and learning experience for academics and students in China.

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Ms. Pankaj Mittal, Secretary General of Association of Indian Universities (AIU)

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Prof. Amr Ezzat Salama, Secretary General of Association of Arab Universities (AArU)

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Prof. Dunrong Bie, China Association of Higher Education (CAHE)

The presentation on the Emergence of AI technology, led by UC, also garnered much discussion at the forum. UC highlighted the benefits of employing artificial intelligence in advancing research and development, creating lab simulation, personalising learning experience, and analysing learning patterns to identify students in need of assistance.

ENLACES, together with AAU, AArU, and EUA, have been working on a Joint statement of GUAF on UNESCO Global Recognition Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education. Along with the draft statement, ENLACES also presented three forward plans for the joint statement, including:

  1. Intercontinental Webinar: challenges and opportunity for recognition in each region
  2. Translation of the statement and related documents into Spanish, Arabic, and other languages
  3. Dissemination strategy: targeting strategic actors to whom the declaration will be directed for maximum impact

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Mr. Josep M Garrel (left), Ms. Amanda Crowfoot (centre), and Mr. Michael Gaebel (right), delegation of the Michael Gaebel

GUAF is also exploring Sustainability as a Theme of /Mode for International Partnerships. EUA, with the collaboration of CAHE and UC, proposed  EAUC - The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education and International Sustainable Campus Network (ISCN) as some of the potential partners GUAF could collaborate with on climate change. 

Following the publication of its suggestion for a UN resolution on academic freedom and institutional autonomy in the policy input to the European Commission’s Communication in March 2021, EUA, along with AAU abd AArU, has been working on a Joint statement on values and steps towards a UN resolution on the protection and promotion of university values, which will safeguard universities’ academic freedom and institutional autonomy. 

Lastly, EUA also called to attention the limitations of researchers’ career evaluation metrics currently employed by universities across the globe. The current metrics, which rely heavily on the researchers’ publication success and the external fundings they can secure, do not reflect the wide range of contribution done by researchers and the core academic values, which could include: research ethics, collaboration, and diversity. Therefore, EUA, together with Science Europe and the European Commission, has launched an agreement under the Coalition for Advancing Research Assessment. 

The Meeting concluded with the formal hand-over of chair position from the AUN to CAHE, who will also host the next GUAF Meeting in 2024. Prof. Du Yubo, President of CAHE, sent his message of warm welcome and vision to the Meeting. 

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The handover of chairmanship from AUN to CAHE, with Dr. Choltis Dhirathiti, Executive Director of AUN, and Prof. Enlai Jiang, CAHE

The conclusion of this year’s meeting saw a promising trajectory for GUAF as a platform of dialogue, information sharing, and global collaboration for the advancement of the higher education sector. The members were strong in their commitment to continue working to shape the future of higher education, through collective actions and consensus, for the benefit of students, researchers, and society at large.