Good-bye 2020, Welcome 2021!
December 15, 2020

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Warm greetings from the team at the APRU International Secretariat.

2020 was a year of uncertainty and crisis which tested the resilience of our network and stimulated many innovative responses. As we look forward to better times in 2021, I want to share with you a summary of our achievements together (see below.)

2021 will mark a new phase for the APRU International Secretariat.

In January, the Secretariat will relocate to the Cyberport on the south-west side of Hong Kong Island. On behalf of the APRU community, I would like to express my gratitude to The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, especially President Wei Shyy, for hosting the Secretariat in the past five years on their scenic campus and for their support throughout.

In the coming year, we will increase our efforts as your super-connector to facilitate collaboration within and beyond the network with international organisations, governments, policy-makers, industry partners and media. The re-alignment of our strategic focus, coupled with our upgraded communications capabilities, will strengthen the international impact of our work together.

All of us in the International Secretariat look forward to working with you in the year ahead.

With best wishes for the festive season,

Christopher Tremewan
Secretary General


Our Achievements Together in 2020

Member Collaborations

While the pandemic and travel restrictions prevented in-person contact, our connection with members did not diminish but grew stronger. We welcomed six renowned research universities from Australia, China, Colombia and the US to the APRU family. The collaborative strengths of 56 leading research universities across the Pacific Rim reinforces the network’s capability to address pressing challenges of the 21st century.

We are proud that around 150 presidents and senior administrators joined the virtual Annual Presidents’ Meeting in June. Over 450 people participated in the Senior International Leaders’ WeekActing Together in the New Abnormal, in October.

Our research programs also kept up their momentum by shifting their scheduled activities into virtual or hybrid format. The Global Health Conference 2020 hosted by Fudan University, the first program conference which was conducted virtually, reached a record audience of 1,500 across 53 economies. The Multi-Hazards Program hosted by Tohoku University converted the regular Summer School to virtual format and offered it free to participants worldwide. This enthusiasm will continue until the end of the year with the Sustainable Cities and Landscapes Conference Virtual Conference and PhD Symposium to be held from December 14-18 and the Sustainable Waste Management Winter School scheduled for January 2021to kick start the year.

To address critical issues as a result of the pandemic, the online site APRU Plus was launched to address challenges of COVID-19. Since May, over 20 webinars led by subject experts from member universities and knowledge partners have been held which provide a channel for information exchange and experience sharing to enable the APRU community to stay ahead of the game in the new normal.

APRU members have collaborated in managing the global crisis and sharing the lessons learnt and knowledge to inform policy makers and academic-governmental partnerships. Convened by Peking University, the crisis management group comprising also UCLA, The University of Sydney and the National University of Singapore, has organised a series of four interdisciplinary webinars open to the public.


Network Programs

The conception of the Virtual Student Exchange (VSE) Program attests to the network’s innovative and collective response to the disruptions brought by the pandemic. Led by The Chinese University of Hong Kong, the program provides students an exclusive opportunity to connect with peers from around the world to learn new knowledge and skills, exchange ideas and cultures, and develop connections vital for success. The pilot program was started in August with remarkable success, featuring 13 participating universities in 10 economies and 409 applications from 11 universities sending students. Nine participating universities also offered 28 co-curricular programs to complete the virtual student exchange experience, attracting over 400 participants from our member universities. The pilot phase continues with the next semester with exchanges beginning in January 2021.

In July 2020, the Quarantunes Student Music Competition brought international university students together by sparking creativity and sharing positivity during the pandemic. The competition has attracted 108 impressive video entries with 200K views by 400 students from 24 APRU universities and 13 economies which reflected an incredible breadth of APRU student talent. View the highlight video and winning entries.

APRU has continued efforts to cultivate an esports community across our participating universities. We have offered opportunities to students and experts in industry, academia and government to work with us. The inaugural APRU MetaGame Conference was held virtually on December 12 which featured policy discussions, an international esports tournament with leading APRU members, and next generation learning. During the Conference, President David Garza of Tecnológico de Monterrey announced the launch of the APRU Esports Fellowship in collaboration with Cyberport Hong Kong. The Fellowship Program is an international network of student leaders engaged in next-generation learning experiences that support the growth of healthy, vibrant esports communities and are seeking to become the future leaders of the Esports industry.

After months of preparation, the Asia-Pacific Women in Leadership (APWiL) Mentoring Program Pilot was launched in August 2020. The program hosts 15 pairs of mentors and mentees from 10 participating member institutions across the region. Through the mentoring program, we are able to focus on addressing gender imbalances, and the work that is being done by APRU members to create more equitable and inclusive campus communities. The program provides international and intercultural opportunities for the empowerment, professional growth and development of our mentees. This year, especially, has shown us that supporting women leaders has never been more important as the challenges of COVID-19 are amplifying the obstacles that women face.


International Partnerships

In partnership with UN ESCAP and Google, we released the 300-page report Artificial Intelligence for Social Good (co-published with Keio University) which explores the impact of AI on societies in the Pacific Rim and offering research-based recommendations to policymakers. With the support of Rockefeller Foundation, the AI for Social Good Month was held from October to November which featured seven policy-focused discussion sessions with faculty, government and industry leaders. The results of the report are reported by global media including Times Higher EducationAsia TimesThe Hong Kong Economic Times (1st & 2nd articles in Chineseand more.

From November 2020 to April 2021, the Asia-Pacific Mayors Academy for Sustainable Urban Development will again organize six virtual modules to equip city mayors with the knowledge and capacity to respond to the impacts of COVID-19 and to work towards building green, resilient and inclusive cities. Led by the Sustainable Cities and Landscapes Program and held in collaboration with UN ESCAP, UN Habitat, UCLG-ASPAC, UNU-IAS, and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), experts from the University of Oregon, University of Washington and The University of Auckland are developing and supporting delivery of key academy modules.


Extending Global Impact

This extended impact was amplified by our dedicated effort to strengthen our media outreach and digital footprint. Since September, APRU’s initiatives have been reported in more than 340 pieces of media coverage worldwide and we have generated more than three million impressions on social media channels. We have been seen in media outlets with over 200 million unique visitors per month including the Associated PressAgence France-PresseNewsWireMarketWatchMorningstar®ObservatoryBusiness Wire (JapanChinaHong KongInternational), FoxSina FinanceBaiduAntaranews (Indonesia)JIJI (Japan)Yahoo! Finance (AustraliaCanadaHong KongIndiaNew ZealandSingaporeUKInternational), GNNHK01ET Net News AgencyHiNet, Esports InsiderTaiwan NewsThe Central News Agency and more.