Asian Universities Alliance (AUA) Summit 2019 – Presidents Forum

Asian Universities Alliance (AUA) Summit 2019 – Presidents Forum

The third annual Asian Universities Alliance (AUA) Presidents Forum was successfully held in Hong Kong on 14 April 2019, hosted by The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). Comprising two sessions of panel discussions, this year’s President Forum was attended by more than 150 guests, including students and faculty from HKUST and the Tsinghua-Berkley Shenzhen Institute.

The Presidents Forum was attended by special guest of honor, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Mrs. Carrie LAM CHENG Yuet-ngor. In her keynote address, Mrs. Lam outlined the unique role of Asia in the world’s economy and highlighted the importance of universities in innovation and technological research, as well as in sustainable development. “Your forum agenda, with sustainable development and technological entrepreneurship as central themes, is as ambitious and welcome as the AUA itself. The central question at hand is this: what can our post-secondary institutions bring to these complex challenges, these compelling opportunities? The answers will go a long way towards realising a flourishing and inclusive future for our universities, our economies, and the Asian region as a whole”, said Mrs. Lam.

HKUST President Wei Shyy and AUA & Tsinghua University President QIU Yong also delivered an address during the Forum’s opening ceremony. President Shyy welcomed guests to HKUST and commended the efforts of AUA as a regional Alliance. Drawing on the outcomes of the Board Meeting, held on 13 April, President Shyy said: “I was very pleased to see the very substantial progress made on policy, sustainability, education outlook, student exchange, faculty, and even more important in my view, staff exchange. With that way we really have a viable dimension of the joined efforts.” In his speech, President Qiu thanked HKUST for hosting the event. He talked about the achievements of AUA over the past two years, and reiterated the importance of the Presidents Forum, and the themes of this year’s discussion. “This time, the forum will focus on two major issues confronting the world today. The first one is sustainable development and the second one is innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems. As globalization has made openness the trend of future higher education, we believe universities will play an increasingly important role in addressing the most pressing global challenges of human kind”, said President Qiu.

Keynote speakers Muhammad Anis, Rector, Universitas Indonesia, and QI Ye, Director, Institute for Public Policy, opened up session one of the Presidents Forum. Moderated by Christine Loh, Chief Development Strategist, Division of Environment and Sustainability, HKUST, session one was themed ‘Roles of Universities in the Sustainability Agenda’. Bundhit Eua-arporn, President, Chulalongkorn University; Ilesanmi Adesida, Provost, Nazarbayev University; Kamila Ghazali, Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Malaya; Omar Kyaw, Pro Rector, University of Yangon; Sawako Shirahase, Executive Vice President, The University of Tokyo, participated in the panel discussion. Drawing from their unique perspectives, discussants highlighted their universities’ efforts in promoting sustainability as well as their contributions towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Referring to the contradiction between profit and green growth, panelists addressed questions from the audience, focusing on how to attract new graduates to work for sustainability, rather than profit.

The second session, themed ‘Innovation & Entrepreneurship Ecosystems: Asian Perspectives on Technological Stewardship and Higher Education’, was moderated by Professor Joseph Lee, Division of Public Policy, HKUST. Session two panelists, Abdullah Al-Salman, Vice Rector, King Saud University; Senior Professor Lakshman Dissanayake, Former Vice Chancellor, University of Colombo; OH Se-Jung, President, Seoul National University; Andrew Wee, Vice President, National University of Singapore, were joined by the two afternoon keynote speakers, Devang Khakhar, Director, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and LI Zexiang, Professor, Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering, HKUST, for the panel discussion. Bringing diverse viewpoints to the session, panelists engaged in lively discussions on advances in government and university policies to be more innovative and less risk adverse. Touching on the attitude towards failure in some cultures, discussants talked about how this can hinder the growth of innovation and start up hubs. Before wrapping up the final session, all participants agreed that diverse Asian regions have a wealth of untapped potential to draw from, and that AUA can serve as a platform to foster deeper collaborations in innovation and technological research among member institutions.

In closing the AUA Presidents Forum 2019, Sabrina Lin, Vice President for Institutional Advancement, HKUST, highlighted the strong link between the two session themes of sustainability, and innovation and entrepreneurship. Building upon the fruitful discussions of the day, she reiterated the value of AUA’s diversity in providing varied perspectives and opportunities for pooling and sharing members’ strengths and resources. “Making sure that the future environment is sustainable and in existence for our future generations requires a lot of innovation and entrepreneurship. This is a great opportunity for this very compact alliance, to encourage our students to exchange, to encourage our staff and our faculty to work together to address the world’s challenges. In order for us to make both economic and social impact we need very diverse and different backgrounds to make the most resilient and successful teams”, said Vice President Lin.