JAKARTA, 12 April 2017 – A Special Senior Officials Meeting on Education (SOM-ED) focusing on Higher Education in ASEAN was organised on 10 April in Jakarta. Attended by delegations from all ten ASEAN Member States and five related international organisations, the meeting was held in response to an increasing sense of dynamism and growing role of higher education in human resource development and productivity in the region. It was followed by a technical meeting on higher education to thresh out details of the decision of the Special SOM-ED on higher education development.

The two meetings highlighted the discernible economic growth in the region and the need for a review of human development policies and perspectives. Specifically, the meetings acknowledged that existing human development goals need to take into greater account enhanced mobility of ASEAN citizens. To that end, much effort has gone into further improving the quality of education within the region such that higher education standards and programmes are comparable to global standards, and ASEAN graduates enter the global market poised as informed and resourceful entities.

In his opening address, Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for Socio-cultural Community Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee, highlighted the necessity to strengthen the ASEAN higher education system by improving its quality and making it comparable with others so ASEAN could engage in the process of importing and exporting higher education goods and services especially within ASEAN.

Thus far, individual ASEAN Member States and related specialised organisations have been working on various higher education projects and initiatives. Updates on this were presented at the Special SOM-ED including establishing systems on quality assurance, qualifications frameworks, credit transfer and student mobility. High on the agenda was  the intention of the Member States to sustain gains from existing ASEAN initiatives to establish an ASEAN scholarship and student mobility scheme that is based on an ASEAN context and inspired by the Erasmus experience of the European Union.

The second ASEAN Work Plan on Education 2016-2020 and its programmatic Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Higher Education of 2015 frame the SOM-ED’s work towards an ASEAN Higher Education Area – one which raises the quality of tertiary education across the region, allows for comparability of university degrees, and enables internationally mobile students to have the credits they earned abroad recognised at their home university. All of which should ideally be supported through an ASEAN Scholarship which would boost student mobility and connectivity in the region.

The meetings were a joint effort by the ASEAN Secretariat and the EU Support to Higher Education in the ASEAN Region.

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