The ASEF Regional Conference on Higher Education (ARC) – formerly called 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, policy makers and ministers to discuss higher education issues and shape the education landscape in Asia and Europe.

Past editions of ARC have brought together over 746 university, student and thought leaders representing 423 organisations from 51 Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) countries to discuss emerging higher education issues concerning both regions and to inform ASEM policy makers.

Its results, including policy recommendations, feed into the preparation of ASEM Ministerial Meetings, which ARC experts are invited to attend. ARC contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and builds on synergies with major regional policy discussions.


  • Facilitate exchange of good practices and networking among universities and student organisations in Asia and Europe
  • Inspire stakeholders to take action on issues of joint concern in Asia and Europe
  • Inform and influence policymakers of the 51 ASEM Partner Countries


Throughout October 2020 – December 2021

Online and onsite in various Asian countries

Outlook 2030: Inclusive and Diverse Higher Education in Asia and Europe

Expert group: ~20 selected experts, university and student organisation leaders
Attendees: ~850 attendees and beneficiaries at the hybrid and virtual events

▪ Online expert working group discussions and consultations formulating outputs
▪ Virtual and face-to face policy discussions with decision makers
▪ Virtual and face-to-face capacity building trainings


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 2020, COVID-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 on leaving no one behind.

UNESCO invited higher education institutions in July 2020 to put the values of inclusion and equity on their recovery roadmap, develop new partnerships, inclusive online learning solutions, and improve policies together with national officials and international organisation in the next decade. The ASEM Education Ministers have also highlighted at their last meeting that the ASEM Education Process should aim at ensuring 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 experts 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 in a post-COVID world 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 with the confirmed topic of the ASEMME8 on “ASEM Education Vision and Strategy 2030” as well.


In total ARC8 aims to engage 20 experts and student organization leaders to participate in the ARC8 Expert Group and 850 attendees to benefit from the project outputs from the sectors below, at different meetings in virtual, hybrid and face-to-face formats, depending on the public health situation.

Civil Society

  • experts, university managers, students, and youth leaders (18-30 years old),
  • representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), International Organisations (IOs) from ASEM Partner countries

Public Sector

  • ASEM Education Senior Officials (SOMs) or their representatives
  • ASEM Education Ministers or their representatives
  • representatives of national education agencies and other stakeholders of the official ASEM Education Process

Private Sector

  • Private sector & business representatives

A geographical and gender balance as well as a good representation of experts, higher education leaders and students from diverse academic fields will be ensured through the Open Call for Application and a comprehensive selection process by ASEF and its partner organisations.


ARC8 Expert Group Meetings | Online | October 2020 – June 2021

A selected group of experts, university and student organisation leaders collaborate online to prepare an ARC8 Outlook Report 2030: Inclusive and Diverse Higher Education in Asia and Europe along the subtopics of ARC8. The Outlook Report outlines emerging issues that could grow into major challenges and/or opportunities in the coming 10 years in the given field/topic. Inputs for the report will come from an online consultation process with stakeholders in the 51 ASEM partner countries and from previous research done by Asian and European stakeholders. The Report will include recommendations for ASEM policy makers and for ASEM universities.

The ARC8 Outlook Report 2030 has two main purposes

  • Serve as a basis for policy dialogues with ASEM education policy makers;
  • Outline directions for capacity building training for ASEM universities.

ARC8 Virtual Conference | Online | June 2021

The virtual conference will launch the Outlook Report 2030 developed by the ARC8 Expert Group and present the main findings and recommendations for policy makers and ASEM universities. The conference programme will consist of panel discussions and debate sessions featuring members of the ARC8 Expert Group and prominent thought leaders from Asia and Europe. Attendees will have the chance to further discuss and contribute to the findings.

ARC8 Capacity Building Trainings | Hybrid | June – November 2021

The capacity building trainings will build on the recommendations developed by the ARC8 Expert Group (see above) and engage higher education stakeholders to jointly work towards a more inclusive and diverse higher education sector in their countries. There are two trainings envisioned in a partially virtual format combining in-person and virtual participation:

  • Southeast Asia, October 2021
  • South Asia, November 2021

The target group consists of youth/student leaders and university managers within the specific regions. The trainings are designed to

  • Increase the participants’ understanding of the ARC8 topic/subtopics and get familiar with global institutional practice in these fields;
  • Assist the participants to develop action plans which they can implement in their home institution to improve inclusion and diversity in different areas;
  • Build an Asia-Europe community of student leaders, university managers and education practitioners who can make a difference in higher education by 2030.

ARC8 Policy Dialogue Meetings | Hybrid | throughout the project

As ARC8 is the Official Dialogue Partner of the ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEMME), members of the ARC8 Expert Group will be invited to engage in policy dialogue with ASEM policy makers based on their findings and recommendations of the Outlook Report 2030 and the outputs of the capacity building workshops. As part of the policy dialogue process, members of the ARC8 Expert Group could be invited to contribute to the following meetings: ASEM Education Senior Officials First Meeting (SOM1), 2021, Germany; 8th ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEMME8), 2021, Thailand; Events related to regional policy forums, like the Bologna Policy Forum of the European Higher Education Ministers’ Meeting, the Southeast Asian Higher Education Senior Officials Meeting, the World Access to Higher Education Day, etc.


Tangible outcomes

  • An “ARC8 Outlook Report 2030 on Inclusive and Diverse Higher Education in Asia and Europe” (jointly developed by ARC8 experts, university and student leaders)
  • Virtual Conference with launch of the ARC8 Outlook Report 2030 for stakeholders in the 51 ASEM countries
  • A series of policy dialogues with stakeholders of the ASEM Education Process e.g. senior officials and education ministers of 51 ASEM Partner countries in the framework of the ASEM Senior Official Meetings and the 8th ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting
  • A series of capacity building workshops to accelerate good inclusion practices in ASEM higher education institutions and student communities, including concrete action plans created by participants
  • Expected outreach to at least 1 million online users via social media platforms by ASEF (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)

Intangible outcomes

  • Increased understanding and knowledge on the ARC8 topic through continuous content development, dialogue, and exchange on the topic
  • New networking opportunities and possible partnerships among participants and their respective institutions
  • Increased capacity to take action on ARC8 topics and collaborate with each other to contribute to the achievement of the Agenda 2030
  • Enhanced knowledge among the participants of the ASEM Process and ASEF


In the long-term, the impact of ARC8 is two-fold

Enhanced civil society engagement in the ASEM Education Process

  • Through evidence-based policy dialogues between ASEM Ministers and officials, academics, education leaders and practitioners, representatives from the business and industry, policy makers and national governments, IOs and NGOs
  • Through content input to the policy dialogue process, towards sustainable education policies to be considered at a national, regional and – representing the Asia-Europe position – global level.

Enhanced connectivity among ASEM higher education stakeholders

  • Through the exchange of good practices and networking among higher education stakeholders in Asia and Europe;
  • Through strengthened Asia-Europe networks among universities and student associations as well as various stakeholders in education;
  • Through capacity building in ARC8 topic areas and incentivising on issues of joint concern, thereby contributing to the achievement of the SDGs.


ARC8 builds on the intellectual foundation of the following organisations and the outcomes of the project is expected in turn to feed back into their upcoming work:

Ministerial Meetings

  • ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (and other ASEM Ministerial Meetings)
  • European Higher Education Area Ministerial Meeting (EHEA) and the Bologna Policy Forum Meeting
  • Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization’s (SEAMEO)

Senior Officials’ Meetings

  • ASEM Meeting of Senior Officials in Education (ASEM SOM)
  • Southeast Asian Higher Education Senior Officials Meeting (SEA-HiEd SOM)
  • Asia-Pacific Meeting on Education 2030 (APMED) by UNESCO

Regional & International Organisations and Initiatives

  • Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) as the ARC Secretariat
  • ASEM Lifelong Learning Hub (ASEM LLL Hub)
  • ASEAN University Network (AUN)
  • European University Association  (EUA)
  • International Association of Universities (IAU)
  • Erasmus Student Network (ESN)
  • European Students’ Union (ESU)
  • Erasmus Mundus Students Association (EMA)
  • Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation, Regional Institute of Higher Education (SEAMEO RIHED)
  • UN related initiatives
    • UNESCO Higher Education for Sustainability (HESI) Initiative
    • Tokyo Convention Committee
    • Asia-Pacific Plenary on National Information Centres (APNNIC)
    • SDG Acceleration Action
  • World Access to Higher Education Day (WAHED)


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