APRU on UNESCO: UNESCO Participated at APRU Provosts’ Forum 2022 Hosted by Tsinghua University and Discussed the Futures of Higher Education: “Reimagining the Future of Universities”
May 5, 2022

Original post on UNESCO

On 20 April 2022, the 5th APRU Provosts’ Forum was hosted online by Tsinghua University in collaboration with the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) with the membership of 61 universities and UNESCO under the theme of “Futures of Higher Education”. The theme of this year’s forum has been inspired by emerging uncertainties in the higher education landscape. The UNESCO Global Report titled Reimagining Our Futures Together: A New Social Contract for Education had inspired the higher education stakeholders to reimagine the future of higher education. More than 70 presidents, vice-presidents and provosts from 35 universities and institutes participated in the Forum. The participants at the APRU had commended the UNESCO International Commission on the Futures of Education in the release of this landmark report. Provosts and academic leaders from the APRU group from across the Asia-Pacific Rim region, including participants from APRU Secretariat, Tsinghua University, UNESCO Headquarters, and UNESCO Beijing Office attended the event.

Professor WANG Xiqin, President of Tsinghua University, delivered welcome remarks. He reiterated that the forum was being held in the spirit of collaboration and experience-sharing as the drivers of higher education and academic policies, and stressing that we “have enduring hope to inspire through our shared commitment to education, research, and community service”.

Dr Christopher Tremewan, Secretary General of APRU, urged universities to work together to transform higher education, emphasizing the common good and reaffirmed his commitment to work closely with all the Universities affiliated to APRU to reimagine the future of higher education.

Ms Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, highlighted in her opening remarks, that higher education systems are at the cross-roads now and the Futures of Education Report of UNESCO had given some impetus to reimagine the future of higher education in Asia and Pacific Rim Countries.

“Knowledge and learning are actually the bases for the renewal and transformation we need. Higher education can and must help forge a new social contract for education – one that can shape a more just and sustainable times for all”, she said in her opening remarks.

She added that universities would need to be more inclusive, open, innovative, and resilient to creatively reimagine the future, and develop greater opportunities for not only addressing the challenges of the current times but also thinking beyond the horizon of the future. She also emphasised that universities should strengthen partnerships and networks as well as integrated research across disciplines and cultures. She invited all the universities to participate in the forthcoming UNESCO Third World Conference on Higher Education to be held on 18-20 May 2022 that will further discuss the future of higher education.

Mr Sobhi Tawil, Director of the Future of Learning and Innovation Division at UNESCO Headquarters, gave a keynote presentation on the Futures of Education Report Reimagining Our Futures Together: A New Social Contract for Education. He presented the key recommendations of the report. He introduced in detail the current global trends and urgent need for shifting towards a shared sustainable future, the plural form of “future” as collective future design and making, and the two foundational principles of the report and proposals of curriculum and teaching for transforming education to shape and transform future. He also emphasised dialogue as key for transforming universities to realize the new social contract and reimagining higher education.

Professor Michael Bruno, Provost of University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, started Round Table Discussion One and delivered a keynote presentation on “The future of instruction, in-person vs online, and why this matters” in which he suggested higher education providing delivery options and experiences that are responsive to today’s learners.

Professor Ling San, Provost of Nanyang Technological University (NTU), spoke on “Nurturing Future-Ready Lifelong Learners” and introduced NTU’s 2025 Education Plan featuring interdisciplinary, experiential, and collaborative learning.

This was followed by breakout room discussions and insightful group reports in which provosts and academic leaders shared their observations about UNESCO’s Reimagining Our Futures Together Report, in-person vs online instruction, and nurturing future-ready lifelong learners. Mr Robert Parua, Education Programme Specialist at UNESCO Beijing Office also participated at the breakout sessions.

In Round Table Discussion Two, Professor Toshiya Ueki, Executive Vice President of Tohoku University, proposed his ideas on how universities can enhance preparedness and resilience and introduced innovative program at Tohoku University as a model.
Professor Alan Chan, Provost of Chinese University of Hong Kong, spoke on “Renewing Education: Transformational Change or Back to Basics?” and suggested universities balancing transformational education and education for the basics and the future perspective.

This was again followed by fruitful breakout room discussions and group reports in which the participants explored ways for universities to renew education, reimagine universities in the post-COVID-19 era, enhance preparedness and resilience, and work together to realise a new social contract and contribute towards the transformation for the future.

Professor Annamarie Jagose, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of University of Sydney, summarised the outputs of the Forum, and Professor YANG Bin, Vice-President and Provost of Tsinghua University, delivered his closing remarks and acknowledged the participants’ participation and contribution.

The 2022 Provosts’ Forum offered an exceptional opportunity for provosts and senior academic officers to reach a better understanding of the UNESCO global report from the perspective of higher education, and contribute to a high-level dialogue in the context of their role as provosts and senior academic officers, and facilitated interaction between education practitioners and UNESCO specialists. UNESCO’s contribution at this event helped the forum to reach its stated vision, objectives and identify greater synergies between UNESCO and university provosts and leaders, as we rethink the role of education at this key moment of transformation.

UNESCO acknowledges the on-going cooperation with Tsinghua University on the dialogue and reimagination of the future of higher education. The Provosts’ Forum contributed to identifying greater synergies with the APRU group of universities and the global community. UNESCO would like to reaffirm its strong commitment to working closely with Tsinghua University to transform education for a shared future and looks forward to continuing collaboration and dialogue with Tsinghua University and APRU Secretariat in transforming higher education institutions to address global challenges to achieve the SDG targets by 2030.