| Izah Azahari |
THE Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) in Conversation seminar opened at The Empire Hotel & Country Club yesterday, with Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) as this year’s host for the event.
Themed ‘Higher Education in Asia: Models, Transformations and Challenges,’ the seminar invites vice-chancellors, higher education administrators and top academics from 32 countries to address the challenges, opportunities and to identify trends facing higher education.
In his speech following the launch of the event, Minister of Education Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awg Abu Bakar bin Hj Apong highlighted that the success of societies and economies is becoming increasingly dependent on the creation and innovative application of knowledge. In order for knowledge-based societies and economies to flourish, the presence of world-class universities is a critical element.
“I believe that Asian universities are at the most exciting phase of their development now, and that the future of Asian universities is bright. Nevertheless, Asian universities face several challenges and caveats in their development into world-class institutions,” he said.
The first challenge, he explained, is providing quality education at affordable cost for large numbers of students.
The second challenge is that Asian universities need to make a big shift from highly specialised education models to a more broad-based, multi-disciplinary curriculum.
The third challenge is the urgent need to develop strong global education programmes so graduates can adapt to different cultures and settings when needed in their field of work.
The fourth challenge is the need for Asian universities to develop world-class Research and Innovation (R&I), not only in the field of science and technology, but also in social sciences, management, arts and culture.
The fifth challenge is to address concerns of increasing participation rate in higher education to 40 per cent in the coming decade by providing diversified and differentiated pathways for post-secondary education to suit students of different interests and capabilities.
“Despite the significant challenges, there are also many opportunities for Asian universities to leapfrog ahead to join the distinguished league of the world’s leading universities through establishment of strategic partnerships,” the minister said.
While there is no doubt education must be adapted to the local context, it must also have an eye firmly on the global driving forces and the future that is expected.
“And because the future will be more volatile, with changes more rapid than ever, education must prepare our graduates to access a new economic future, and build in them fundamental values and skills that will last them a lifetime,” he said.
QS Asia Chief Executive Officer Mandy Mok in her welcome remarks noted that like many Asean countries, Brunei’s economy is almost completely dependent on natural resources, that being oil and gas, which has made the country wealthy. However, the challenge now is to transform Brunei from a resource-driven economy into a knowledge-driven economy.
“Universities provide shelter to young minds and are the nurseries of new knowledge and ideas, and the incubators of an entrepreneurial spirit that sustains a knowledge ecosystem that encompasses an entire country, that ultimately encompasses the entire world,” the CEO added.
Meanwhile, in a separate speech, UBD Vice Chancellor cum Permanent Secretary (Higher Education) at the Ministry of Education Dato Paduka Dr Hj Zulkarnain bin Hj Hanafi noted that the QS in Conversation is an excellent platform to share experiences, compare models, learn from mistakes, review strategies and develop new approaches, adding that education plays a pivotal role in shaping the younger generation and that higher education institutions must transform to remain relevant.
QS is the world’s leading network for top careers and education that aims to highlight current issues and opportunities in higher education to contribute to the development of higher education at the national, regional and international level.
The seminar will address issues such as challenges and opportunities in higher education in Asia; progress and new initiatives in the changing landscape of higher education; trends and transitions towards a knowledge-based society and the global connection between universities worldwide enabling student mobility.
QS in Conversation also serves to create opportunities to form strategic partnerships among universities around the world with regard to research as well as student and staff mobility.
As the host university, UBD conducted a campus tour for the visiting universities’ officials to explore the academic institution and research institution, allowing them the chance to understand the different methods of teaching as well as the establishment of the GenNEXT programme and ‘Discovery Year.’
The participants will also visit the Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre (KBFSC) in Temburong District to view a showcase of the research in biodiversity and environment by Masters and PhD students of UBD.
The QS in Conversation places attention on diverse perspectives from universities worldwide on the best practices and strategic recommendations to internationalise and achieve global recognition for higher education institutions.
The QS in Conversation is now in its third year, with the first seminar held in Dubai in 2012, and the second held in Jordan in 2013.