Universities prepare to cooperate on sustainability, public health and the future of education

Opening the Association of Pacific Rim’s annual presidents’ meeting in 2022, Subra Suresh of Nanyang Technological University, the conference’s home of learning, said universities are uniquely positioned to do in the face of emerging crises. He explained that historically, universities have had a longer-term view than businesses or governments, which makes them able to serve society with a perspective that other organizations may lack.

The APRU meeting serves as a key platform for universities to initiate or strengthen collaborations to continue the important work of improving society. At the 2022 meeting, more than 100 university presidents, senior administrators and private sector representatives gathered to discuss the future of action-oriented collaboration between universities

Throughout a series of panel discussions, presidents, administrators and private sector leaders explored the changing education landscape in response to Covid-19, emerging climate risks and new technologies, all charting the way forward to determine how higher education could continue to play an active role. role in these areas.

Foster sustainability

One of the main concerns of participants was sustainability and the role of universities in driving sustainability innovation.

On July 8, university presidents from Japan, South Korea and the United States gathered at the Sustainability and climate change panel to share ways their universities were accelerating their climate change agenda.

President Carol Folt of the University of Southern California explained how the university had advanced its deadline to become carbon neutral from 2040 to 2025, and the investments it was making to meet the new goal. She also noted that students had increasingly said it was a top concern for them, manifesting itself in things like increased demand for sustainability courses and protests for the climate.

Other leaders explained the research initiatives they were carrying out to support movements towards decarbonization.

Toshiyuki Kono, executive vice president for international affairs at Japan’s Kyushu University, said the university has invested in carbon capture technologies at its new Negative Emissions Technology Research Center, as well as in hydrogen energy research. The university also recently concluded a series of five webinars highlighting research initiatives launched by APRU universities, aimed at leading the way to a decarbonized society.

To Reconnect: the new urgency of collaborationpanelists discussed how higher education centers are cooperating on sustainability action plans to coordinate change globally.

Deborah Terry, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Queensland in Australia, highlighted the university’s recent launch of the Global Development Impact Plan, which aims to help developing countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Similarly, Professor Kathy Belov, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Global Engagement at the University of Sydney, presented the APRU Biodiversity programme, which aims to coordinate efforts to conserve Asia-Pacific biodiversity.

Pandemic impact

Beyond climate change, panelists from all sessions also spoke about how Covid-19 has transformed education and the role of universities in managing future pandemics.

During a panel titled Responses to the crisis in a diverse region, Kwang-Jae Kim, provost and executive vice president of POSTECH in Pohang, South Korea, said the pandemic prompted POSTECH to introduce elements of virtual reality and augmented reality into undergraduate courses. First-year students in physics lab classes, for example, were given VR devices to simulate experiments. POSTECH also sent experimental kits to students’ homes so they could conduct experiments under VR directions.

To Prevent the next pandemic, Santa J. Ono, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of British Columbia, explained how the APRU Presidential Task Force is helping universities prevent the next pandemic. The task force compiles a handbook on pandemic crisis management and brings together scientific research assets related to biomedical technology as a major global resource.

Other speakers on the panel also spoke about the role of universities in leading public health strategies. Vice-Chancellor Dawn Freshwater of the University of Auckland spoke about APRU’s work on understanding the impact of the “infodemic”, or the misinformation that surrounded vaccines, during Covid-19.

Similarly, Professor Rocky S. Tuan, Vice President of APRU and Vice Chancellor and President of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, explained how nine APRU member universities study how social and cultural factors have affected the success of public health strategies. From the analysis, he suggested that it was essential for societies to develop trust in public institutions.

Sharing knowledge across borders allows us to step back and assess global crises from different perspectives, and learn from each other’s successes and failures. The resumption of the in-person Annual Meeting of APRU Presidents is a clear signal that universities are rising to meet the challenges of the contemporary moment, whether that means taking stock of past challenges or taking the lead in face new obstacles.

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