CU News

25th APRU Annual Presidents’ Meeting: Universities Shaping the New Normal Together

Chulalongkorn University actively engages with local and global communities in working to achieve a sustainable society.  While the university is strengthening its international collaboration on all fronts, one of the notable platforms for international partnership is the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), whose credo is “The Voice of Knowledge & Innovation.”  Prof. Dr. Bundhit Eua-arporn, President of Chulalongkorn University, and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Natcha Thawesaengskulthai, Vice President for Strategic Planning, Innovation and Global Engagement, and other Chula reps recently participated in APRU’s 25th Annual Presidents’ Meeting and the satellite program held from August 25 to 27, 2021. 

APRU’s 25th Annual Presidents’ Meeting

Assoc. Prof. Dr.  Natcha, Vice President, was invited to speak on “The role of network in advancing UN SDGs and engaging students and faculty in related initiatives” during the Senior Leaders’ Meeting.  She presented Chula’s strategic vision of “Innovations for Society”, which strengthens university-level efforts to integrate multi-stakeholder collaborations to serve society, while supporting and promoting innovation enterprise, research, and education to precipitate positive and concrete socio-economic changes that contribute to building a sustainable society.  She introduced how indispensable international partnerships and collaborations have become and proposed the co-development of a “Virtual SDG Academy” via network-wide collaborations. The Academy wouldencourage students to learn about SDGs through global issues, challenges, and practices.   Each member institution will be invited to develop online program(s) for students to discuss local and global challenges related to SDGs in their respective cultural and social contexts.  Critically, these programs should introduce and share locally embedded unique case studies and best practices among the network members to help students develop understanding and rich perspectives of SDGs.

APRU’s 25th Annual Presidents’ Meeting

Universities, as key institutions of higher learning, have a clear responsibility to nurture inclusive culture with respect for diversity.  These values particularly need to be emphasized and instilled among students at a time when the world is witnessing increasing conflicts, violence, and injustice,” commented Assoc. Prof. Dr.  Natcha. 

Moreover, Assoc. Prof. Dr.  Natcha presented on the Social Innovation Student Competition, organized at Chula, which helps promote the importance of SDG awareness and students’ roles in making our futures better.  The Virtual SDG Academy proposal received strong support from several member institutions, and concrete follow up discussions are now being carried. 

Finally, Prof. Gene Block, APRU Chair and Chancellor of UCLA, concluded the meeting by reminding participants of the importance of fostering three competencies of our time: Science Competency, Data Literacy, and Global Competency.

The APRU meeting, attended by some 350 delegates from 60 APRU members across the Asia Pacific, allowed participants to reflect on the role of higher education in a pandemic and post-pandemic era, and to propose ideas for joint actions in shaping the future together. 

The Presidents’ Meeting confirmed several key priorities for APRU, including: 

1) to serve as a neutral platform for high-level policy dialogue and cooperation, building trust and cooperation in the context of geopolitical tensions. 

2) to address climate change through the mobilization of faculty and students, and partnerships with international organizations, NGOs, and the public and private sectors, 

3) to advance equality, inclusivity, and diversity, by focusing on the mission and expanding higher education access through the virtual world. 

4) to promote experiential learning.

5) to share data and practices.

Above: President Bundhit (center in the 2nd row)
and Vice President Natcha (center in the bottom row) at the meetings.

The active discussion among APRU University Presidents touched upon 1) how to better prepare young people to contribute to society, 2) identifying areas where collaboration could be enhanced (e.g. campus sharing), and 3) how to address the transition to online-dominant campuses (and how to serve communities).  The most active exchanges were on the expanded role of universities.  Many shared an impression that, while university contributions have become much appreciated at the policy level during the pandemic, the public expectations for universities to continue acting on behalf of the public will persist.  Thus, universities are expected to act fast.  Some pointed out that although science has delivered results (e.g. COVID vaccines), there is a lingering suspicion towards science among citizens, and it is the university’s responsibility to  lighten this skepticism whenever possible.  The presidents echoed that universities need to take on the mission of lifting the human spirit, especially during times of trial.

To watch the APRU 2021 August meetings on YouTube, go to:

  • Senior International Leaders’ Meeting 2021

  • APRU CASE Presidents’ Panel on University Advancement (August 26)

  •  APRU Annual Presidents’ Meeting 2021 (August 27)

Chula is the place to discover one’s true individuality and the years I spent here were most enjoyable.

Rossukhon Kongket Alumni, Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University