The 7th Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) Rectors’ Conference and Students’ Forum (ARC7) took place in Bucharest, Romania from 11 to 15 May. The Conference, entitled “Higher Education taking Action Towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Perspectives from Asia and Europe”, gathered approximately 150 participants to discuss the key responsibility of universities in tackling the SDGs.
EUA took part in the events as a partner. It also participated in the Asia-Europe Meeting of Education Ministers (ASEM ME7) on 15-16 May, as a stakeholder organisation in the ASEM Education Process.
In the ARC7, Asian and European higher education leaders and students explored how to take action towards achieving the Agenda 2030, following three defined sub-themes: SDGs as Core Pillars of University Governance; SDGs as Drivers of University Social Impact; and SDGs as a Catalyst to Reorient Internationalisation. Discussions at the conference were in favour of embracing all the goals in an encompassing way. “Everything we do at universities is gearing towards making the society meet these goals”, said Michael Murphy, EUA President-elect, in the ARC7 Opening Panel Session. “We need to give society confidence to meet the goals.”
The conference also issued a set of ARC7 policy recommendations for the ASEM ME7. The first recommendation called for the ASEM ME7 to include the SDGs in the ASEM Education Process, in order to make it play an active role towards the achievement of the Agenda 2030. It also called for stimulating each ASEM country to make this part of their national education and research strategies.
The ASEM ME7 statement, which was adopted on 16 May, underlines the importance of the link between the connectivity enabled in the ASEM Education Process, and sustainable development for achieving the Agenda 2030. It subsequently introduced sustainable development as a transversal theme in the ASEM Education Process. Likewise, the Bucharest Statement also acknowledged digitalisation as a transversal theme, considering that digitalisation can create opportunities to support connectivity and connection between Asia and Europe.