Representatives of 41 universities exchanged their views on shaping a common future during the three-day in-person conference hosted by UC Riverside
The Senior International Leaders’ Meeting (SILM) 2022, of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), successfully concluded on 19 October after three fruitful days of discussions among leaders of 41 universities across the Asia Pacific region. This year’s annual conference was the first time since 2019 that leaders were able to share their opinions in person on the new global landscape of higher education.
Hosted by the University of California, Riverside (UCR), under the theme “Reconnecting to Shape Our Common Future,” the event brought together institutes from 15 countries and regions across Asia, Oceania, North America, and South America at the in-person meeting and through a hybrid session. After two years of virtual meetings due to the pandemic, this year’s on-site gathering offered a valuable platform for senior university leaders to identify their common challenges and opportunities and develop collective strategies for a very different world from when they last met.
Commenting on the significance of this year’s meeting, UC Riverside Chancellor Kim Wilcox, underscored the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on higher education and the importance for universities to carve a shared path through APRU.
Chancellor Wilcox said: “After more than two years of disruptions due to COVID-19, UC Riverside is pleased to bring together leaders from APRU member universities, reconnect with them, and facilitate much-needed discussions on mutual interests at this year’s Senior International Leaders’ Meeting.”
He continued: “The pandemic has reinforced the importance of universities deepening their connection with each other, and of pursuing a collective approach to addressing global challenges facing higher education.”
Dr. Christopher Tremewan, Secretary-General of APRU, commended the outcomes of this year’s meeting and stressed the importance of the APRU network responding to members’ aspirations while also contributing collectively to solving global challenges.
Dr. Tremewan said: “I am delighted that APRU’s Senior International Leaders’ Meeting has been able to resume in-person this year at the University of California, Riverside. We have a new sense of urgency because we know that the shocks to the system we have experienced are only the beginning of crises which will shake the viability of higher education systems. We will not be able to ignore the effects of climate change, inequality and increasing techno-nationalism. They are already upon us.
“More than ever, we need to come together on APRU’s neutral ground to build on the relationships of trust and cooperation that have grown over many years. It has been encouraging to see that our members’ renewed commitment to each other and to the common good.”
Highlights from the three-day meeting include the keynote speech on Tuesday titled “Policy is Stronger with Science” by Professor Susan Hackwood, Professor Emerita at the UCR, Former Executive Director of the California Council on Science and Technology, and current Director of the Science to Policy Program. Prof. Hackwood shared how educating Ph.D. students on the policymaking process and training them to communicate their research to a general audience can positively impact the health and well-being of communities around the world.
Prof. Hackwood said: “It was wonderful to have the opportunity to share the UCR Science to Policy and the US-Japan SciCom Fellowship programs with a group of international educators from APRU. We not only shared the great work our students and colleagues are doing, but also brainstormed ways we can enhance the program and expand collaborations to work with students and policymakers outside of the U.S. who are addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges.”
Also on Tuesday, two panel discussions titled “Shaping the Landscape of International Higher Education”, chaired by Prof. Jeffrey Riedinger, Vice Provost for Global Affairs of University of Washington and “Global Learning and Student International Activities in the New Normal”, chaired by Mr. Will Johnson, Assistant Vice Provost and Director of Global Education Oregon (GEO) of University of Oregon, sparked illuminating exchanges among delegates on lessons learnt during the pandemic, new understanding of the future in higher education, and ways to develop trust for the benefit of students and societies.
Prof. Riedinger said: “At a time of multiple geo-political tensions, we are mindful that cross-institutional, cross-continental collaborations are essential to effectively addressing the world’s most pressing challenges and most promising opportunities.”
Mr. Johnson added: “After two long-years of disruption to travel-based programming, it is exciting to be back in-person with my colleagues from APRU partner universities. I am honored to be able to spend time engaging with fellow thought leaders who share the goal of collectively addressing the challenges and opportunities facing higher education and global engagement in the coming years.”
Another high point was a panel discussion on Wednesday, chaired by Dr. José M Páez, Vice-Rector for International Affairs at Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico. The session, titled “Scaling Up Initiatives on Global Challenges”, evaluated the methods APRU member universities adopted to address global challenges. Panellists, who came from four universities and APRU, explored the effectiveness of these approaches and analysed the necessity of adopting new strategies to enhance the alliance’s presence.
Following the three-day in-person event, a level of renewed respect and trust was established among the top university leaders and their institutions. There was also an eagerness to engage at a deeper level for the future landscape of higher education, especially in ways that leverage the strengths of APRU’s network.