Text by Lauren Stevens 18.01.2018
Last August, I was selected as a participant from the United Kingdom for the 6th Asia–Europe Foundation (ASEF) Rectors’ Conference and Students’ Forum (ARC6) in Singapore. The ARC6 consisted of 2 programme elements: a Students’ Forum, followed by a Rectors’ Conference. It invited over 280 representatives from academia, governments, business and industry, students and youth associations as well as NGOs and IGOs. They received 3,817 applications from 51 Asia–Europe Meeting (ASEM) partner countries and carefully selected the participants based on our academic backgrounds, and engagement in student policy matters. I wasa little uncertain about representing the United Kingdom as I haven’t been involved in student life there for two years, and I feel that I know more about Finland. However, I noticed that many of the other participants also don’t live or study in their country of origin. The conference loosely related to my Master’s degree in Peace, Mediation, and Conflict Research, because it involve representatives from all over the world getting together to try and solve a problem.
The central theme addressed ‘Future-ready Universities and Graduates: Quality Education Beyond the Horizon’. To benefit the most out of the ARC6, they asked every participant to come well prepared. The 6-week online preparatory phase required us to participate actively in the online discussions and assignments. This activity was designed to introduce us to the ASEM education ecosystem and different aspects of quality education. Besides giving us access to reading material and resources, the prep-phase also consisted of webinars by high-level speakers. In addition, we worked on individual as well as team assignments related to the upcoming conference themes. Networking was also an important part of the prep-phase. The online preparatory phase helped us to be ready for the ARC6 on-site highlights, and to shape the outcome.
We were organised into three Working Groups (WGs) according to our preference indicated on the registration form, which each had 15-20 members. However, it was not always be possible to allocate each participant to their first choice due to the requirement of maintaining a diverse group dimension. Each WG had two moderators who facilitated our on-site group discussion during the conference. The three WG channels were:
- WG1: Interdisciplinarity in Education and Research
Explored questions on how education and research can build upon the diversity and inherent interdependencies of academic disciplines.
- WG2: Lifelong Learning: Holistic and Global Education
Considered what suitable approaches are in combining values, knowledge and skills training to make universities a hotspot for building more socially and environmentally responsible universities and graduates, and whether learning on–the-go is the future of education.
- WG3: Access to Quality Education
Contemplated which strategies universities could adopt to integrate disability, technology, and financial issues in ensuring an inclusive education curriculum, and what the role of students could be in this process.
I was a member of WG3: Access to Quality Education.
The policy recommendations that we co-created mattered because they gave us the opportunity to voice your experiences, ideas, suggestions and solutions to improve quality of education. They were directly conveyed by our representatives to the university and business leaders present at the subsequent Rectors’ Conference on 12th-13th October 2017. Our message was also conveyed and presented at the 6th ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEM ME6) 21st-22nd November 2017 in Seoul, Korea by the ARC Student Representatives from Bulgaria, Brunei, and Russia.
I returned to Finland 8 days after the conference so that I could freely travel around in Malaysia and Indonesia, which I wrote about on my own blog. I thought I may as well make the most of the opportunity since I had travelled so far, and there was a break from classes at the university anyway.
ASEF Education (ASEFEdu) offers the opportunity to travel to different conferences and events across the world, and covers almost all the costs. Therefore, I really recommend applying and/or signing up to their newsletter to get information about the application deadlines.