How have universities injected innovation into your research in social impact areas? How do university collaborate globally with academia, governments, multinationals, and non-profit organisations in social impact research? How do university maintain a sustainable campus both in teaching and in campus operations?
These three core questions towards innovation, globalisation, and sustainability were the focus of the 16 University Presidents and Vice Chancellors who assembled at AIT to share their prescient thoughts at the Presidents’ Forum held on 24 October 2019. As the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) celebrates sixty years of existence, it realizes that tectonic shifts in the field of higher education. Global changes make it mandatory for universities to change and transform themselves.
Transforming AIT under the overarching umbrella of “Social Impact with Innovation” was the topic posited before the speakers by AIT President Dr Eden Y Woon. Continuing with traditional ways can no longer ensure sustainability, and universities have to be entrepreneurial in nature, President Woon emphasized the interconnectedness among innovation in social impact research, internationalisation and sustainable campus are the key to the success of higher education institutions in the 21st century.
“How university collaborates globally with academia, governments, multinationals, and non-profit organisations in social impact research” was the first theme with the session being chaired by Prof. Bundhit Eua-arporn, President, Chulalongkorn University. Sharing their thoughts in this session was Prof. Zhou Yu, President, Harbin Institute of Technology; Prof. Kazuya Masu; President, Tokyo Institute of Technology; Prof. Umran S. Inan; President, Koç University; and Prof. Mahmoud Nili Ahmadabadi, President, University of Tehran. Prof. Kazuya Masu encouraged technical students to learn liberal arts and Prof. Umran S. Inan highlighted “engineers can do the problem they are told to do, but they cannot innovate unless they can think broadly” through taking electives.
Dr. Denis Simon, Executive Vice Chancellor, Duke Kunshan University, chaired the second panel on “How university collaborates globally with academia, governments, multinationals, and non-profit organisations in social impact research?”. He was joined by an illustrious panel comprising of Prof. Julia Buckingham, Vice-Chancellor and President, Brunel University London; Prof. Ram Kantha Makaju Shrestha, Vice-Chancellor, Kathmandu University; Prof. Kil-Choo Moon, President, University of Science and Technology, Korea; Prof. Hideo Ohno President, Tohoku University; and Prof. Mohamed Ibrahim bin Abdul Mutalib, Vice Chancellor, Universiti Teknologi Petronas. Prof. Denis Simon highlighted the importance of “academic entrepreneurship” to foster higher education internationalisation and Prof. Julia Buckingham reminded the audiences that “trust is the most important in the partnership”.
Following innovation and collaboration, which was discussed in the first two sessions, sustainability was the theme of the third session with the topic being: “How university maintains a sustainable campus both in teaching and in campus operations?” Chaired by Prof. Jaak Aaviksoo, Rector, Tallinn University of Technology; and the august panel included Dr. Roger Chen, President, I-Shou University; Prof. Tan Eng Chye, President, National University of Singapore; Datin Dr. Anita B Z Abdul Aziz, Vice-Chancellor, Universiti Brunei Darussalam; and Prof. Kyosuke Nagata, President, University of Tsukuba. Dr. Roger Chen called for “university social responsibility” to engage university staffs and students for harnessing sustainable campus and Prof. Tan Eng Chye showcased how research to shape and improve the energy use and carbon footprint on campus.