We often speak about the importance of non-verbal communication when engaging with others. It was never more evident at the in-person QS Asia Pacific HE Summit in Jakarta, after two years’ remote attendance during Covid. The excited and very stimulated audience of more than 1,000 attendees from multiple regions including Central Asia, India sub-continent, MENA, East Asia and Southeast Asia engaged with each other discussing topical subjects and appreciating that collaborative solutions can be found for our shared and mutual challenges.
What has Covid-19 done for us?
The summit offered the HE sector an opportunity to reflect on the bittersweet impact of Covid-19 and look to the future and understand what the “next big thing” is going to be.
For many years the global HE sector has mooted the idea of remote learning and has dragged its feet in developing suitable models of delivery. Covid changed the thinking and mobilised higher education institutions (HEIs) worldwide into adapting to what became the new norm of online learning. Although Covid exacerbated existing inequalities and further marginalised specific groups within the sector, where access to the internet and connectivity was poor or, in some cases non-existent and where tech solutions and devices were unaffordable, it also ignited the tech industry to become even more innovative and creative to rapidly find solutions. Like the incredible speed with which the world created vaccinations for the pandemic, so the burgeoning tech industries, particularly those in the new economies in the Asian region reacted to the situation, developing new online teaching practices to enable remote learning. Now, as we look at a post-Covid era, digitalisation of teaching and learning is part of the future with a real appetite for hybrid delivery.
The significance of good leadership
The speakers at the summit emphasised the significance of trustworthy and motivational leadership as the key drivers of change. What has become clear are the required skills and attributes of resilience, creative thinking, flexibility and open-mindedness to not only react but to adapt proactively to this new norm.
Leaders are at the forefront of their institutions’ progression and those who can pick up key signals of a changing landscape and have mastered analytical and critical thinking will be ahead of the crowd in developing systems and practices and building reputation. Their commitment to engaging with “change”, through the establishment of creative spaces to allow innovation along with a robust “reward and recognition” process, will enable and encourage new ideas and motivate their teams to go beyond their comfort zones and explore exciting solutions to challenges.
Whose world is it anyway?
Sustainability and climate change was another key theme throughout the summit, with an emphasis on embedding the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into HEIs.
The Asia Pacific HE sector is tuned into making the SDGs a priority, which has become prominent in research output, designing curricula and a general ‘global’ mindset within HEIs. There was an appeal for HEIs to engage the wider stakeholder networks and bring in governments and employers to this journey.
Professor May Tan-Mullins from James Cook University, Singapore, spoke about climate solutions being a responsibility of everyone and co-creating solutions and collaborating with local stakeholders, who have a keen understanding of the local context. There was also a call-out for the establishment of a reward and recognition framework, to add incentive and focus on delivering actions to make a difference. If we all have a responsibility and a part to play in embedding SGDs into HEIs and finding solutions to the climate challenges we face, a collaborative partnership approach will be required.
Discovering a wealth of HE expertise in Malaysia
The final leg of my Southeast Asia visit was to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, meeting with a number of our member institutions and a positive and productive meeting with the British Council Malaysia.
I had the pleasure of meeting Prabha Sundram, Head of Education, British Council, Malaysia and heard about their work with the MOHE and their support in developing the HE sector. The British Council has already mobilised a consortium of UK and Malaysian HEIs to build a community of practice and is keen to involve Advance HE in supporting the work that is already being undertaken.
This dovetails into the discussions had with our member institutions, Sunway University, University of Nottingham, Malaysia and Heriot-Watts Malaysia. They are committed to enhancing their centres of teaching and learning through the PSF framework and rewarding their academics with Fellowship. Sunway is currently in the process of gaining accreditation, giving them a robust platform to ensure the quality of their teaching provision. All the institutions were interested in sharing best practice and being part of a wider community of Fellows from multiple HEIs, thus raising the global reputation of Malaysia.
There is so much happening within Malaysia’s HE sector to drive quality and ensure engaged learners. It will be a privilege to become more involved and support Malaysia’s aspirations to be a recognised global leader in higher education.
As International Partnerships Manager at Advance HE, Daniel supports higher education providers across the world to engage with our services, with particular experience in learning and teaching enhancement, Fellowship and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.