The ASEF Regional Conference on Higher Education (ARC) – formerly known as the ASEF Rectors’ Conference and Students’ Forum – is the Official Dialogue Partner of the ASEM Education Ministers Meeting (ASEMME) and the only bi-regional multi-stakeholder dialogue platform for university and student leaders, policymakers and ministers to discuss higher education issues and shape the education landscape in Asia and Europe.

Its results, including policy recommendations, feed into the ASEM Education Process and contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 


The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are a universal call for action to shape a better future for all. Universities and their students have a key responsibility to tackle complex societal challenges of our times, manifested in these Goals. While recognising the outstanding results of universities contributing to the SDGs, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how fragile the achievements on the goals are. According to the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2020COVID-19 is reversing decades of progress on poverty, healthcare and education. Green and equitable economic recovery is not possible without innovative tertiary education and a renewed commitment to inclusion in tertiary education if we are to deliver on our promise of leaving no one behind.

In July 2020, UNESCO invited higher education institutions to put the values of inclusion and equity in the recovery roadmap for education post-COVID-19. UNESCO invited national officials and international organisations to develop new partnerships, and improve policies and inclusive online learning solutions during the decade of action. In addition to this, the ASEM Education Ministers highlighted the aim of the ASEM Education Process to ensure inclusion and equality in education by building comprehensive education systems that are accessible to all.

In accordance with these calls, ARC8 invites Asian and European higher education and student leaders to leverage on the current COVID-19 disruption and make inclusion and diversity central values of their paradigm shift. Titled “Outlook 2030: Inclusive and Diverse Higher Education in Asia and Europe”, ARC8 will explore how universities and students can foster inclusion and diversity in the final decade for the Agenda2030, and raise awareness on potential risks and opportunities along 4 subthemes:

1 | Inclusive Learning and Teaching in a Digital World
2 | Inclusive and Flexible Lifelong Learning Pathways
3 | Inclusive International Mobility of People and Knowledge
4 | Equitable Access and Success in Higher Education

The theme aligns with the priority areas of the ASEM Education Process and the upcoming 8th ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEMME8). In addition to ARC8, ASEF will organise several spin-off activities focusing on disseminating findings of the ARC8 Outlook Report 2030 and build capacity for local and regional stakeholders.


The objectives of this event are as follows:

  • Officially launching the ARC8 Outlook Report 2030: Inclusive and Diverse Higher Education in Asia and Europe
  • Engaging regional partners and stakeholders to review risks and opportunities for inclusion in higher education in the next decade
  • Discussing the recommendations of the report for policymakers and communities of higher education practitioners to foster greater inclusion in their work
  • Networking among participants to find new partners in creating a more equitable, inclusive, and quality higher education by 2030


The “ARC8 Outlook Report 2030: Inclusive and Diverse Higher Education in Asia and Europe” will be launched during the conference, on Friday, 10 September 2021.

The Outlook Report outlines emerging issues that could grow into major challenges and/or opportunities in the coming 10 years related to inclusion in higher education. Inputs for the report came from an in-depth consultation process and from previous research done by Asian and European stakeholders.

The Report consists of 4 chapters analysing the future of inclusion from different perspectives and makes two sets of recommendations for:

  • for ASEM policymakers, to serve as a basis for policy dialogues and as an input to their discussions on the ASEM Education Strategy and Action Plan 2030.
  • for ASEM university leaders, to outline capacity building directions for institutions and inspire joint action to make universities more inclusive in the next decade.


The conference invites all stakeholders in higher education development in Asia and Europe to register, especially:

    • University Leaders, managers or academics
    • Professionals or experts in tertiary education
    • Student or youth organisation leaders, representatives
    • Policymakers, Government or Senior Officials

working in one of the 51 ASEM Partner countries, or in the institutions of ASEAN and the EU.

The event is free of charge. Registration confirmation is on a first come first served basis up to 500 slots. The event will be live-streamed as well.

The conference will have a closed-door policy discussion component, which is designed for an interactive discussion between ARC8 experts and government officials of the 53 ASEM Partners. This component is for policymakers by invitation only.


Friday, 10 September 2021, between 7.00-13.00 GMT

  1. Welcome and Opening Equity Dialogue
  2. Launch of the ARC8 Outlook Report 2030: Inclusion and Diversity in Higher Education in Asia and Europe
    • Setting the Scene: Overview of ASEM National Equity Policies
    • Session 1. Equitable Access and Success in Higher Education
    • Session 2. Inclusive Learning and Teaching in a Digital World
    • Session 3. Inclusive International Mobility of People and Knowledge
    • Session 4. Inclusive and Flexible Lifelong Learning Pathways

3. Handover to hosts of the 1st Senior Officials Meeting (SOM1) and the 8th ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEMME8)

See the detailed agenda with speaker profiles here


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