APRU 13th Senior Staff Meeting

International Impact and Advocacy: APRU’s Next Phase

13th APRU Senior Staff Meeting
University of Auckland, 2-4 September 2015

(Photo: University of Auckland)

“In the higher education sector, impact is increasingly at the fore of our minds. As traditional institutional missions broaden to include engagement with local and international communities, industry and agencies in our swiftly changing economies, the issue of impact, along with its varied meanings, measures and implications, raises complex set of questions…it is clear that we can achieve greater impact by working together.” - Professor Jenny Dixon, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Strategic Engagement), University of Auckland.

Click here to view photographs from the meeting. 

Click here to view the program, participants’ list and presentations

Strong Commitment from Members Generates New Momentum

(L-R) The 13th Senior Staff Meeting was hosted by Vice-Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Strategic Engagement) Jenny Dixon, University of Auckland.
(Photo: University of Auckland)

A new spirit of commitment, critical reflection and enthusiasm was immediately evident when more than 50 delegates from 30 APRU member universities attended the 13th Senior Staff Meeting (SSM) in Auckland to review the activities and events of the past year and to plan for APRU’s next phase as the APRU Secretariat moves from its location at the National University of Singapore to Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

This arose from the consensus developed by the APRU presidents at their Osaka meeting in June when, under the theme ‘The University as an Agent for Global Transformation’, they focused on:

  1. The interplay of the research mission of universities, the preparation of students for employment, and meeting the expectations of society
  2. The ways that presidents could play a greater role in informing policy and championing global issues.

Out of this came the endorsement of the basic thrusts of the Strategic Framework and a clear direction for the next phase of APRU’s work, that is, a higher level strategy which aims to increase APRU’s international impact and its capabilities in advocacy.

 International Impact and Advocacy

Dr Christopher Tremewan during his Secretary General ‘s report.
(Photo: University of Auckland)

Drawing this inspiration from the Presidential Retreat and 19th Annual Presidents Meeting in Osaka, the theme of the Auckland Senior Staff meeting was “International Impact and Advocacy: APRU’s next phase”.

In his report to the meeting, Secretary General Christopher Tremewan set out the developments that would be required to achieve this higher strategy of impact and advocacy.

 These included:

  1. The Members’ Engagement Report which is an analysis of the engagement of each member with APRU activities in order to understand the interests of members and to guide decisions on program development.  An initial report was presented to the SSM.
  2. The APRU Impact Report, a three-year pilot project, which will demonstrate the value of research universities in their societies across a range of measures and the ways in which the APRU network can build greater collective impact for members.   Scheduled for initial publication in June 2016, the APRU Impact Report will enhance APRU’s role in regional advocacy through evidence-based research on key challenges in the Asia-Pacific.  The Impact Report will assist members to identify the strengths of research collaborations between APRU universities as well as unrealized research opportunities within the network.
  3. A significant shift in the role of the International Secretariat towards a more strategic and analytical capability with less emphasis on event management.  Where possible, members who host events will take on these functions in consultation with the Secretariat.  This shift has been under way already.

The transition to Hong Kong was seen as an opportunity to take this forward step and Dr Tremewan expressed his thanks both to NUS for their long and fruitful hosting of APRU and to HKUST for their generous offer of a new partnership as the host university.

 The Way Forward

(L-R) International Policy Advisory Committee (IPAC) Co-Chairs, Professor Dennis Galvan (Vice Provost for International Affairs, University of Oregon) and Professor Andrew Wee (Vice President (University & Global Relations), National University of Singapore) ably chairing the Senior Staff Meeting. 

“As APRU moves from running comfortable events to policy impact and advocacy, members should consider how to go about doing so and finding the right balance between these two areas”, said Professor Andrew Wee, National University of Singapore. 

Professor Dennis Galvan, University of Oregon, also urged Senior Staff to express their views on developing the role of the Secretariat.  He suggested APRU members consider playing a greater role in day-to-day coordination and logistics of APRU programs, freeing up the Secretariat to manage more strategic aspects of consortium development and international partnerships. 

At the Working Group Breakout Sessions, Senior Staff pruned and prioritised programs under the Strategic Framework.  For example, Senior Staff recommended finding synergies between programs (e.g. Sustainable Cities and Global Health; MOOCs and Teaching and Learning) and the re-clustering activities (Doctoral Students Conference to Thematic Priority 3). 

Innovative Speaking Frankly Session

Dr Erik Lithander (Pro Vice-Chancellor (International & Outreach), Australian National University) facilitating the Speaking Frankly session.
(Photo: University of Auckland)

For the first time, Senior Staff participated in a “free-flowing” session to speak about issues they face in their universities and in the international context.  They also exchanged views on how APRU could add value to their respective institutions.  The session, which proved to be a great success, was skillfully facilitated by Dr Erik Lithander, Australian National University. 

Some of the issues discussed included the challenge of developing awareness and promoting the value of APRU to university leaders and faculty within their own universities, finding and supporting faculty who were keen to champion APRU research collaborations, and utilising the network to extend the reach and impact of their research.

Members also discussed how they engage in APRU for a variety of reasons and that the purpose of joining APRU differed across institutions.  Nonetheless, it was recognised that there was a certain level of engagement and investment required in order to reap the benefits and fully optimise the membership in the network. 

Many Senior Staff also felt that hosting APRU conferences were good opportunities to raise the international profile of their respective institutions. Attending APRU meetings such as the SSM were still seen as highly valuable and viewed as a form of “speed dating in academia”. 

In addition, they suggested that future meetings could be a platform for discussions on best practices in internationalisation strategies among peers. Senior Staff pointed out that they could also learn from the sharing of lessons arising from unsuccessful initiatives. 

Keynote Speeches 

The meeting was updated on New Zealand’s perspective on international education in the Asia-Pacific Region through keynote lectures from The Hon Steven Joyce, Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, New Zealand and Associate Professor Damon Salesa, Director of Pacific Strategy and Engagement, University of Auckland.

APRU Senior Staff with Minister Steven Joyce (fourth from right). Minister Joyce spoke about the New Zealand government’s initiatives to give students regional and global exposure. 

Assoc Prof Damon Salesa (Director, Pacific Strategy and Engagement, University of Auckland) speaking about capacity building in the South Pacific. 

APRU Senior Staff also had the opportunity to hear from Academy Award winner Associate Professor Mark Sagar during dinner on 3 September. Associate Professor Sagar’s pioneering work in computer-generated faces was one of the first examples of how lifelike human features could be created on a screen by combining computer graphics with mathematics and human physiology.  His work was recognised with two consecutive Oscars at the 2010 and 2011 Sci-tech awards, a branch of the Academy Awards that recognizes movie science and technological achievements - in his case the films Avatar, King Kong, Spiderman 2 for which the digital effects including face animation were done in New Zealand at Weta Digital.

Assoc Prof Mark Sagar (Director, Laboratory for Animate Technologies, Auckland Bioengineering Institute, University of Auckland). 


Senior Staff expressed a strong feeling of progress at this meeting.  Candid exchanges of ideas and suggestions on APRU’s evolving role in research and higher education policy within the Asia-Pacific were forthcoming from many participants.  The meeting concluded with sense that a new, exciting stage of development had been reached based on greater ambition for the network amongst its members.

APRU Senior Staff convene annually at the Senior Staff Meeting (SSM) to review the development and implementation of initiatives and activities where their recommendations are presented at the Annual Presidents Meeting.  The University of the Philippines will host the next meeting from 7-9 September 2016.