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 the 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 are 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 invited Asian and European higher education and student leaders to leverage 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 explored how universities and students could foster inclusion and diversity in the final decade of the Agenda2030, and raise awareness of 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 themes align with the priority areas of the ASEM Education Process and the 8th ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEMME8). In addition to ARC8, ASEF organised several spin-off activities focusing on disseminating the findings of the ARC8 Outlook Report 2030 and building capacity for local and regional stakeholders.

The ARC8 Objectives were as follows:

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

The “Outlook Report 2030: Inclusion and Diversity in Higher Education” outlines emerging issues that have the potential to become major challenges and opportunities in the coming 10 years. The substance of the report is drawn from an in-depth consultation process conducted and supported by previous research projects conducted by Asian and European stakeholders.

The Report consists of 4 chapters reflecting the aforementioned subthemes, analysing the future of inclusion from different perspectives to contribute two sets of recommendations for two specific stakeholders:

  • ASEM policymakers – ARC8 Outlook Report 2030 serves as a basis for policy dialogues and as input for their discussions on the ASEM Education Strategy and Action Plan 2030.
  • ASEM university leaders – ARC8 Outlook Report 2030 outlines capacity building directions for institutions and inspires joint action to make universities more inclusive in the next decade.

The conference invited all stakeholders in higher education development in Asia and Europe to register, particularly:

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

These stakeholders are from the 51 ASEM Partner countries or affiliated with the ASEAN and the EU.


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