What is ASEM?

The Asia-Europe Ministerial Meetings Process was established in 1996, as an informal dialogue for enhancing cooperation and exchange at inter-regional and bilateral level (27 EU member states, 10 ASEAN countries, China, South-Korea, Japan, the European Commission, the ASEAN Secretariat and recently India, Mongolia and Pakistan - in total 45 members).

The process is multidimensional, as it is generally open to all issues of mutual interest and concern. It is a high level process consisting of biennial Heads of State and Government summits, Ministerial Meetings (MM) and Senior Officials Meetings (SOM). There is a strong focus on foreign politics, trade and economics and also on cultural and social issues, “with an increasing focus on fostering people-to-people contacts in all sectors of society”.

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The Asia Europe Foundation (ASEF)

The Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) was established by ASEM in 1997, in order to ensure that cultural and educational issues are included in the Asia-Europe cooperation process. It is the only permanent physical institution of ASEM. ASEF is a not-for-profit foundation based in Singapore, and it seeks to promote better mutual understanding between the peoples of Asia and Europe through greater intellectual, cultural, and people-to-people exchanges.

Under the Peoples-to-Peoples strand, the ASEM Education Hub (AEH) was established, consisting of Asia-Europe Higher Education networks with their annual colloquia, and a database on study opportunities in Europe and Asia (DEEP); established with support of ACA and IAU. ASEF organises conferences together with the various partners in Asia and Europe. It also runs the ASEF Higher Education Hub Advisory Committee, which meets once a year in December, and facilitates dialogue and cooperation among associations from Asia and Europe.

The ASEM Education Process

ASEM Education Ministers Meeting
So far, two ASEM Education Ministers Meetings have been organized. On 4-6 May 2008, the first ASEM Education Ministers Meeting took place in Berlin, hosted by the German Government. The meeting aimed to underline the pivotal role of education and training for qualified human resources as a key factor for economic and social development in a globalised world. The ministerial recommendations cover two areas; university cooperation with business/industry, and higher education cooperation and obstacles to mobility.

The ministers agreed to:

• set up ‘a strategic Asia-Europe education partnership for the 21st century’, to strengthen the ASEM dialogue and cooperation in the field of education to include stakeholders at all levels;
• and convene a second Ministerial Meeting on Education in Vietnam in 2009.
This was followed up through senior officials meetings and workshops over the course of 2008-09.

The Ministers had a second meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam, on 14-15 May 2009, in which they

• announced pilot groups in areas such as credits and learning outcomes, qualification frameworks and quality assurance;
• proposed initiatives and events for 2009/2010, including areas such as lifelong learning, industry cooperation, joint degrees;
• agreed to establish a rotating ASEM Education secretariat, hosted for the first 4 years by Germany, and allocated at the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD);
• accepted Denmark’s offer to host the next Ministerial meeting;
• acknowledged the importance of the ASEM Rectors Conference Process (see below) as supportive of the Ministerial process and welcomed the organisation of biennial conferences.

The First ASEM Rectors Conference, 2008
In response to the ASEM Education Ministers Meeting, a consortium of the German Rectors’ Conference (HRK), the European University Association (EUA), the ASEAN University Network (AUN) and the Asia Europe Foundation (ASEF), organised in 2008 the first ASEM Rectors Conference. Besides the conference recommendations, which have been submitted to the Ministers, is has been decided to:

• establish an ASEM University platform, also referred to as ASEM Rectors Process – which is driven by AUN, EUA and ASEF, and which would organise conferences and workshops on higher education and research issues, in order to support universities in their institutional development and cooperation;
• ensure that the outcomes of the events feed in form of policy recommendations into the ASEM Education process.
The purpose of the initiative is to ensure that universities and university organisations can embark on a more scheduled and visible policy process for higher education cooperation, and that their voice would be heard by the ASEM Education Ministers. It was inspired in particular by the experience of the European universities in the Bologna Process, where the EUA, together with the representatives of the European students (ESU) and colleges (EURASHE) is a consultative member, and has had a considerable influence on the reform agenda.

A second ASEM Rectors' Conference was organized in Seoul in the last quarter of 2010. See the ASEF website for results and further details.

The EAHEP project and the ASEM Education Process

There is no official link between the EU-Asia Higher Education Platform (EAHEP), which was a project of the European Commission funded under the ‘Asia-Link’ programme, and the ASEM Rectors’ Process / University Platform, which is run by ASEF, AUN and EUA. However, the EAHEP had a lot in common with the ASEM Rectors’ Process: it aimed at enhancing the Asia-Europe cooperation in higher education and research, addressed similar content and themes, targeted the same audience, and involved to some extent the same organizations and people.

Though the EAHEP project concluded at the end of 2009, the consortium members, the European Commission and other partner organisations are exploring ways to continue future events and initiatives that would support the ASEM process and contribute to a focused interregional dialogue.

Visit the website of the ASEM Education Process Secretariat for more information.