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Can an academic network go where politicians fear to tread?

Can an academic network go where politicians fear to tread? 

Christopher Tremewan tells John O'Leary of his ambitions for the Association of Pacific Rim Universities. They cover reserach in key areas for the region, but also a new role bringing governments together. 

International networks of universities have proliferated over recent years and have brought significant benefits for their members, mainly through research partnerships. The most exclusive of them, like the League of European Research Universities (LERU), carry considerable prestige, as well as providing a forum for discussion of common concerns.

The Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) has many of the same characteristics but, particularly since the arrival of Christopher Tremewan as secretary general, it has displayed broader ambitions.  The APRU believes that it can provide economic and even political benefits for countries in the region, as well as serving its members' interests. 

A New Zealander who was previously vice president/pro-vice-chancellor (international) at the University of Auckland, Dr Tremewan is in his fifth year at the APRU, which is based on the campus of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The association was established in 1997 on the initiative of four Californian universities: Caltech, Berkeley, UCLA and Southern California, but had 34 members by the time it opened for business. 

There are now 45 members from 16 countires, including Chile, Taiwan and Russia, and a queue of universities who would like to join. Over the course of its 18 years, its chairs have come from Singapore, China, Japan and Australia, as well as the United States. 

Interviewed at the British Council's Going Global conference, in London, Dr Tremewan sketched out an ambitious agenda for the association. Indeed, he disclosed that he only accpeted the post condition that he could refocus the network and expand its collaborative work, both with other universities and with governments.

"I am confident and enthusiastic about APRU because it has a unique coherence and reach which fits the current geopolitical shifts towards the Pacific Rim," he says. "There is now huge potential to use this remarkable alliance for truly transformational action which brings together education, research, and innovation with policy in fruitful partnerships engaging other international organizations, governments, business and local communities."

That is not to ignore the institutional interaction that represents the core activities of any higher education network. But Dr Tremewan is determined that APRU should be more than that. In his first year in office, he saw 38 university presidents to ensure that his vision chimed with that of the members.

Dr Tremewan says: "We are still making this a region. One of our objectives is to keep collaborating despite governments' agendas sometimes pulling countries apart from each other. A long term view of the future of the region requires that we get to know each other pretty well.

"We tend to focus on strategic research- data mining on the capabilities of each economy separately and then together on everything from climate change to energy and other topics. That means that we can demonstrate to prime ministers and ministers that we not only have considerable capability in the region, but also where that can be improved with some marginal investment."

Dr Tremewan says that governments in the region are making it clear in discussion with multinational organizations that they want to interact much more with the academic world. "We are at the beginning of that- I wouldn't want to exaggerate the scale of it at the moment," he says. "But it is an important trend." 

Dr Tremewan believes that APRU is ideally placed geographically to play a key role at a difficult but potentially pivotal time for the world. The region accounts for half of global GDP, he points out, and he wonders: "Could there be an overarching think tank?"

"We may be a useful vehicle for member institutions but also for governments to discuss issues they can't deal with face to face at an official level," he says. Problems over intellectual property are one example where inter-governmental processes have broken down in the past. 

He adds: "We are facing turbulence and technological change, and the challenge is to shape the region collectively, whether or not the ways of governing ourselves remain stable. Many countries are completely unable to cope with what is coming at them. There will be moral choices about where we put our resources and advise members."

- QS Showcase 2016 (Main Features)

16 June 2016
Published in APRU News

Can TPP Help Bridge Asia's 'Digital Divide'?

Can TPP Help Bridge Asia's 'Digital Divide'?

How to make sure TPP helps advance the Digital Economy in Asia. 

By Jim Foster

While some parts of Asia are setting the pace for the global Internet, other areas are being left far behind. For example, while Indonesia may have over 90 million people on the Internet, this number is far short of the true potential in a country with a population of over 250 million. The “digital divide” is real and it encompasses infrastructure, governance, and policy weaknesses, and the absence of local firms with regional and global reach.

These issues are challenges not just for domestic constituencies, but for global firms that wish to develop and serve these markets. The diversity within the Asia Pacific region requires service providers to engage with governments and to recognize the importance of involving all elements of the multi-stakeholder community from the start.

This is also true for the recently concluded Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, which was largely negotiated out of public view from necessity and past practice. The ratification and implementation of the agreement will need the support of a wider range of players. Companies that benefit from the Digital Economy in the region, most especially in Japan and the United States, have to be part of this effort.

The Internet is increasingly interwoven into the political and economic lives of Asians. User acceptance is not the issue; shortfalls in Internet growth come from the lack of adequate infrastructure and outdated government regulations. TPP cannot eliminate the “digital divide” in the region, but it can support growth by encouraging domestic and foreign investments, supporting greater regulatory certainty, and promoting a regional digital market where scale is possible.

These positive factors associated with TPP and the groundwork required to move Asia’s Digital Economy forward can be further reinforced by regional infrastructure banks, prominently the Asian Development Bank (ADB). While these institutions are only beginning to focus on the Digital Economy, investments in infrastructure can help bring in additional private capital and encourage groups outside the Digital Economy to capitalize and grow future innovations. This was a key theme at the 2016 G7 ICT Ministers meeting, which Japan hosted in Takamatsu on April 29.

Many elements of civil society in the region have been harshly critical of TPP. Their argument is that TPP cannot ignore the emerging Digital Society if it is to make a meaningful contribution to the growth of the Digital Economy. Privacy, freedom of expression, labor mobility, access to networks, and the availability of content are all important values for the future Digital Society, and these concerns do not always fit neatly into the negotiating priorities of the trade bureaucracies. The proponents of TPP will need to develop a broader narrative for the agreement now that it has entered the ratification process.

APEC can also be an important regional platform for these discussions and has already established a steering group on the Digital Economy. A key focus is how to train the three to five million people that the Asia-Pacific will need to fill new jobs associated with the Internet of Things and Big Data. At the same time, APEC is examining how to manage the “mismatch” between the new Digital Economy and the skill sets of seniors, women, and youth in the less developed parts of the region. Promoting input from civil society and the academic community in developing these policies should be an APEC priority.

Dr. Jim Foster is the Executive Director of The Asia Pacific Institute for the Digital Economy, a regional think tank based in Tokyo and associated with Keio University. The article is based on discussions at an April 11-12, 2016 conference of academic experts and business leaders convened in Tokyo by the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) as part of a multi-year program of research and exchange on “Governing the Digital Economy in the Asia Pacific Region.”

- The Diplomat

02 June 2016
Published in APRU News

The gay Cuban-American breaking barriers in Washington

Photo: University of Washington
Ana Mari Cauce told her students about her own struggles against prejudice and intolerance                 

University leaders might talk about the virtues of diversity but they don't often embody it.

When vice chancellors and presidents are gathered together, they often match the stereotypes of being grey, male and pale.

But not Ana Mari Cauce, president of the University of Washington in Seattle in the United States.

As well as being a first lady in Washington - as in the first female president of this major US university - she is also Cuban-American and gay.

It gives her a different perspective on the wave of protests about race and identity that have hit US university campuses.

Read the full article at:

- BBC 

01 June 2016
Published in APRU News

APRU presented members' collective capabilities at the Second APEC Senior Official’s Meeting

(L-R) Christina Schönleber, APRU Program Director (Asia-Pacific Issues), Daria Rybakova, Acting HRDWG Lead Shepherd (Russia), Anastasia Sviridova, Member of the HRDWG (Russia)

19 May 2016

APRU presented and connected APRU’s members’ collective capabilities in education, research and innovation with high level policy development in the Asia-Pacific region, through active participation at the Second APEC Senior Official’s Meeting (SOM2) in Peru from 6-12 May 2016.

APRU was one of the few external organisations invited to contribute to the meetings taking place in Arequipa, Peru. Christina Schönleber, APRU Program Director (Asia- Pacific Issues) represented APRU at the Human Resources Development Working Group (HRDWG), the Education Network (EDNET) and Policy Partnership on Science Technology and Innovation (PPSTI) meetings. She presented on APRU and highlighted the relevance of its education, and research programs and activities to APEC’s strategic objectives for education and science & technology development in the Asia Pacific. Publication of the first APRU Impact Report taking place in July this year was also announced to delegates from the 21 economies.

The HRDWG and EDNET play a key role in the High Level Policy Dialogue on Capacity Building. Deputy Lead Shepherd, Darya Rybakova welcomed APRU’s active participation in the meetings and encouraged delegates to take advantage of APRU’s three-year guest status to the groups which provides a direct pathway for APRU to contribute its expertise on higher education and STI research and policy development. In particular, the EDNET and PPSTI endorses, develops projects and influences policy development highly relevant to APRU member universities.

Over the course of the meetings, potential project collaborations between APRU and delegates from the APEC Secretariat and attending economies were discussed. For example, the APRU Impact Report sits well alongside the Baseline Report on Current Education Status in the Asia Pacific Region. A number of discussions in relation to research mapping and framework development collaborations have started in addition to exploring the possibility of linking up with a number of APEC research initiatives to leverage and build on collaborative research expertise.

20 May 2016
Published in APRU News

Maximizing Impact – Collaboration across Disciplines, Sectors and Borders

Elsevier is proud to present the third annual Asia Pacific Research Intelligence Conference, which will take place in Tokyo on Wednesday and Thursday, June 8 and 9, 2016. The conference will be co-hosted with Keio University and will bring together over 200 of the region’s leading Vice Presidents of Research, Research Managers and Research Administrators to share and build upon valuable information in support of long-term research management efforts.

The conference is an invitation only gathering of globally renowned speakers from across Asia Pacific region and Europe. For an impression of last year’s highly successful conference, jointly hosted with Fudan University in Shanghai, you can view an Elsevier Connect article that recaps the key highlights and includes a video clip of the 2015 conference.

Visit the conference website to register:

NOTE: Registration for the conference closes on Friday, May 27.

18 May 2016
Published in APRU News

APRU members convene to discuss bridging the gender gap in universities

Senior university leaders, faculty, researchers and administrators from 19 APRU universities and invited institutions convened at the APRU Asia-Pacific Women in Leadership (APWiL) Policy Round Table on Gender Equity. The Round Table meeting was hosted by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and was co-organised by the University of Auckland and APRU from 26 to 28 April.

Read full article here.

05 May 2016
Published in APRU News