“The pandemic has raised public awareness about the value of new knowledge and of universities. We now need to meet the high expectations of our communities in solving global challenges,” said Gene Block, UCLA Chancellor and APRU Chair.
This year, APRU held its 25th Annual Presidents’ Meeting 2021 in a virtual session chaired by Block. More than 350 academic leaders including the heads of 60 leading research universities from 19 economies on the Pacific Rim convened under the theme of “Universities Shaping the New Normal Together.”
Christopher Tremewan, APRU Secretary General, set out three priorities for collective action: to provide a neutral international platform for high-level policy dialogue and cooperation, to advance action on climate change, and to address social well-being by combating inequality and racism, promoting diversity and inclusion, and empowering women and minorities.
Members discussed these topics while reviewing the sudden changes such as online learning and health crisis management they had made in response to the crisis. What, they asked, would be the new normal for universities?
Rocky S. Tuan, President of the Chinese University of Hong Kong said the pandemic “tsunami” has increasingly demonstrated the importance of commitment to global partnerships, noting that a global consortium like APRU has become even more important in the context of shifting geopolitics.
Australia’s Monash University President Margaret Gardner added that an APRU initiative simulating a UN climate summit enabled “a very broad range of students to experience what it is like to be part of a climate change negotiation, so that not only are they building their understandings of how we deal with the global challenge of climate change, but also how we contribute through that engagement to greater geo-political security.”
The meeting addressed the well-being of students during the pandemic. Five students from China, Ecuador, New Zealand, Singapore and the US shared their experiences of APRU programs and their engagement in solutions to global challenges.
Vicky Murray, an indigenous student from the University of Washington in Seattle, said “What I have seen here in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S is both cautious optimism and a new generation that is very fired up and ready to take charge, as well as the ghosts of past trauma and historical inequities that are holding back current generations…”
Summing up, Chancellor Block observed the wide range of APRU’s international collaborations drawing on the exceptional research and education strengths of its members. “We have embraced the opportunities to interact remotely and lead initiatives ranging from setting international higher education policy to launching virtual student exchanges and leadership mentoring to assisting with public health crisis management. We have amplified our impact and made our voices heard among a global audience.”
Annual Report: https://apru.org/resource/apru-annual-report-2021