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University alliance in Asia aims to boost regional ties and global influence

Fifteen universities across Asia have formed a consortium in order to capitalise on the region’s economic power to facilitate intra-Asian mobility and enhance academic and research collaboration.

Tsinghua University in China (pictured) hosted the inaugural Asian Universities Alliance summit. Photo: flickr/Jon Parry.

"Higher education should not have only one voice"

The Asian Universities Alliance, launched at the end of April at Tsinghua University in Beijing, also intends to boost Asia’s influence on the global higher education stage.

Founding members span 14 countries and include Tsinghua University, Peking University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, South Korea’s National University of Seoul, Japan’s Tokyo University and India’s Institute of Technology Mumbai.

“The alliance is a timely one where Asia is on the rise and we need to build upon the momentum”

Speaking at the group’s first summit, Tsinghua University president Qiu Yong said Asian universities should play a bigger role in training and scientific research.

“Higher education should not have only one voice. Western education is also successful but I do believe that there are Eastern educational philosophy and heritage that deserves to be cherished also,” said Qiu.

Addressing regional and global challenges in the areas of higher education and economics and scientific and technological development is central to the group’s mission.

“We believe that higher education will play an increasingly important role in future Asian societies and that economic globalisation has made openness the trend of higher education,” reads a signed joint declaration.

In addition to institutions in China, Korea, Japan and India, the group also includes Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University, Myanmar’s Yangon University, Malaysia’s University of Malaya, National University of Singapore, University of Indonesia, Sri Lanka’s University of Colombo, UAE University, Saudi Arabia’s King Saudi University and Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev University.

Speaking with The PIE News, higher education leaders in the group said they are eager to take advantage of Asia’s economic strength to deepen ties with their colleagues and grow their influence internationally.

Tan Eng Chye, deputy president (academic affairs) and provost at the National University of Singapore, said, “The alliance is a timely one where Asia is on the rise and we need to build upon the momentum.”

He went on to say, “Higher education will play an increasingly important role in future Asian economies and there are rising expectations for universities to contribute more to enhancing national growth and competitiveness, promote entrepreneurship and innovation, and address major societal challenges.”

Shigeo Katsu, president of Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan, said the alliance will help the university reach its goals for faculty and student exchanges, joint summer programs and cross border research.

“It is important for leading Asian universities to have our share of voice and presences in the international arena”

The university recognises that “successful research today has to be a collaborative endeavour to be pursued with international partners”, commented Katsu.

“NU considers internationalisation of the student body a high priority task,” he said. “In this regard student exchanges and joint summer programs with AUA partners will help to facilitate internationalisation efforts of NU.”

Meanwhile, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology president Tony Chan said universities in Asia “are going to play an increasingly important role in future Asian society in spite of the globalisation trend”.

“It is important for leading Asian universities to have our share of voice and presences in the international arena,” he said.

China’s vice premier Liu Yandong also spoke at the summit and lauded the alliance’s mission. “It will make a big difference to the prosperity and the cultural exchange within the region,” she said.

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