AUA Presidents Forum 2023 held at Nazarbayev University

Date: 2023-05-18


The Asian Universities Alliance (AUA) Presidents Forum 2023 was held on May 12 at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan, as part of the AUA Summit 2023. Panel sessions at the forum focused on the theme “Shaping Higher Education in an Evolving Asia: Creation, Integration, and Innovation.” The event marked the first in-person reunion of AUA university leaders since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Shigeo Katsu, President of Nazarbayev University, introduced the opening speaker of the forum, Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov of the Republic of Kazakhstan, also chairman of the Board of Trustees of Nazarbayev University. First, Smailov welcomed attendees to the forum. “I believe that this forum will serve as a platform to discuss current issues in higher education. These discussions will allow us to find common ground and develop a shared vision. This will strengthen our rapidly developing collaboration and create new opportunities for further fruitful cooperation,” said  Smailov. He continued, “We are pleased to witness and contribute to the successful realization of AUA’s mission. AUA’s activities continue to expand and evolve with increasing levels of creativity, innovation, and success."  In his remarks, Smailov also introduced Nazarbayev University and the overall developments in higher education in Kazakhstan.


The forum comprised three sessions that tackled important opportunities and challenges related to Asian higher education. The first session, “The Modern University—Continuity and Change” was moderated by Yvonne Lim, Associate Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Malaya. Panelists of the session were Sayasat Nurbek, Minister of Science and Higher Education of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Ghaleb Alhadrami Albreiki, AUA President and Acting Vice Chancellor of United Arab Emirates University, Abdullah S. Al-Salman, Vice President of King Saud University, Kaori Hayashi, Executive Vice President of The University of Tokyo, Agustin Kusumayati, University Secretary of Universitas Indonesia, and Wang Xiqin, President of Tsinghua University. Panelists discussed topics including how universities can balance tradition and modernity, goals for the future, how social changes like demographics will affect the future of higher education, how COVID-19 prepared universities for future changes, and the impact of ChatGPT on higher education.


During the second session, moderated by AUA Secretary Zhang Chuanjie, panelists discussed academic mobility and talent attraction in Asia. Panelists Ning Qi, Vice President of Peking University, Mohd. Hamdi Abd. Shukor, Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Malaya, Vassilios Tourassis, Vice Provost of Nazarbayev University, and Wang Hongwei, Vice President of Tsinghua University, exchanged views on the incentives, obstacles, and best practices of attracting talents to Asian universities and the paths to mutual recognition of academic qualifications for students.


The third session on sustainable universities and student sustainability competence was moderated by Loretta O’Donnell, Vice Provost of Nazarbayev University. Guo Yike, Provost of The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, H.D. Karunaratne, Vice Chancellor of University of Colombo, Jae Young Kim, Executive Vice President of Seoul National University, Pomthong Malakul Na Ayudhaya, Vice President of Chulalongkorn University, and K. V. Krishna Rao, Deputy Director of Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, discussed how universities are working towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


After the three sessions, President Katsu from Nazarbayev University, Provost Ilesanmi Adesida of Nazarbayev University, and AUA President Ghaleb Alhadrami Albreiki offered their reflections. Sharing his takeaways from the forum, Albreiki said, “We are living in an era where a good university should not work alone. This alliance is the best thing we can do for universities in Asia and it makes us unique. It will make it easy for universities that face challenges, so we can jump in and support them.” Adesida commented, “It is by coming together and working together assiduously to progress, that we move forward and make great leaps.”

Katsu offered concluding remarks: “I’m sure we are going to build a strong partnership, a further strong alliance. And in the future, we will be more inclusive and open.” He continued, “The role of higher education institutions will be even more important than before. In some ways, our universities provide a safe place for young minds to explore, to develop, and to experiment. And only in that way, even by failing, will they become the future leaders.”

Written by Alena Shish