Delegates from the ARPU summit on top of a cliff with the sea behind them. They are on the Coogee-Bondi coastal walk

Pacific Rim university leaders join forces on regional challenges

26 September 2023
Tackling natural disasters, food insecurity, poverty
Senior leaders from Pacific Rim Universities this week discussed higher education's role in addressing major challenges facing the region.

The Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) comprises 60 leading universities from 19 countries. These institutions are known globally for their academic and research excellence. The theme of APRU’s 2023 leaders’ meeting was One Pacific: Breaking down education and research silos to address Asia-Pacific challenges. The program focused on how higher education and university collaboration can resolve issues facing the Asia-Pacific.

Professor Kathy Belov, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Global & Research Engagement) at the University of Sydney said APRU leaders were determined to make progress on tackling the most urgent challenges facing the region. Professor Belov moderated a panel discussion on actions APRU members can take in the coming year to address issues raised during the conference.

“We’re particularly excited about the new One Pacific theme which brings together 60 research-intensive universities around the Pacific Rim to tackle wicked challenges like sustainability, waste, biodiversity loss and health,” she said.

One Pacific gives expression to the fact that the multiple challenges facing the Asia-Pacific are all interrelated, as are the fates of its civilisations, and the opportunities that the Pacific holds for the future.

“We recognise that together we’re much stronger than we are alone,” Professor Belov said.

Keynote speaker Professor Annamarie Jagose, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sydney, discussed how technological advancements and workforce changes might shape our future universities. 

“The critical thing to keep at the forefront of our minds when we think about the future of higher education is less what will be new and different about the universities of the future than what is distinctive and unique to universities,” she said.

“Chief among those distinctive characteristics in my view must be the free and unfettered development of new knowledge in an environment also committed to student learning.”

Keynote speaker Jonna Mazet, Vice Provost of Grand Challenges at the University of California, addressed the role of universities in fighting the climate crisis and emerging health threats, and advancing diversity, inclusion, and equity.

Professor Emma Johnston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) and Professor of Marine Ecology and Exotoxicology at the University of Sydney, opened the program by leading the delegates on the Coogee-Bondi coastal walk.

“A walk like this is a great way to connect with each other, and with the ecosystems we depend upon,” she said.

“We were able to share important understandings of our local biology, including sharks, whales, and seaweeds, and our local geomorphology, including beaches, sandstone, and rip currents.” 

The APRU Senior International Leaders' Meeting is the first of a series of major events being hosted by the University of Sydney this week including the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit and the World 100 Annual Conference.

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