Marking a decade of collaborations in university leadership
To mark the 10th anniversary of the Temasek Foundation (TF) – NUS Programme for Leadership in University Management (PLUM), 50 delegates from 24 universities across Southeast Asia congregated in Singapore from 8 to 10 November 2022, to discuss key issues related to transformation in higher education, innovation and entrepreneurship, and sustainability efforts in ASEAN. For many, it was also a long-awaited opportunity to finally reconnect in person, as this was the first physical PLUM summit to be held since 2019.
Since its inception in 2012, PLUM has been a signature event for university leaders in Southeast Asia. Over the past decade, PLUM has served as a vital platform for ASEAN university leaders to bolster ties, exchange insights and best practices, and advance ideas on the governance and management of Southeast Asia’s leading universities, as well as the development of the region as a whole. Cumulatively, PLUM has brought together close to 300 participants from over 30 universities across 10 ASEAN countries to date.
Collaborating to advance transformation in higher education
Delivering the opening address at the Summit on 8 November, Singapore’s Minister for Education, Mr Chan Chun Sing, underscored the critical role of universities as “brain trusts” of society – neutral platforms that can bring people of different backgrounds and perspectives together to discuss challenges and formulate new ideas, thereby helping to build strategic trust among countries. He added that through avenues such as PLUM, university leaders should establish bilateral and multilateral ties to step up interactions amongst their undergraduates, postgraduates, and faculties.
“I would like to emphasise that it should not be a competition among ASEAN members, but we should gather as one ASEAN to provide a neutral and trusted platform for the rest of the world to engage us,” Mr Chan said.
Regional cooperation between ASEAN’s universities was also a topic of discussion at the preceding plenary session, as the panellists, comprising university leaders from Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, shared their views on how the higher education landscape in ASEAN has transformed over the years. They also reflected on both the unique and common challenges they have faced in university administration and governance, agreeing that sustained regional collaboration is key to tackling the dynamic challenges confronting our societies today and in the future.
NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye, who moderated the session, said, “To meet the pressing challenges of our times, universities will need to develop new competencies and capabilities, and be bold enough to drive transformational change.”
“But these challenges need not be undertaken individually, and in isolation. Here at PLUM, we have the powerful advantage of leveraging on our shared experiences and insights,” he added.
Fostering innovation and prioritising sustainability
The next two days of the Summit saw delegates delving into discussions on several pertinent and contemporary topics, such as the role of universities in catalysing innovation and entrepreneurship, and embedding sustainability into campus operations.
Notable programme highlights included a plenary session featuring the founders of companies with a social impact mission, namely JR Group, Playmoolah, Bagosphere, and Sustainable Living Lab. The founders – all of whom are NUS alumni – shared how their university experiences shaped their entrepreneurship journeys, and discussed why it is important for universities to cultivate and nurture businesses that have a social impact mission at their core.
To learn more about how sustainability is being incorporated into NUS’ campus operations and Singapore’s urban planning more broadly, delegates also toured NUS SDE4, a positive energy building on NUS’ Kent Ridge campus, and Punggol Northshore, the first housing district where Singapore’s Housing Development Board is test-bedding smart and sustainable technologies.
Maintaining a tight-knit ASEAN community
At a gala dinner at the Asian Civilisations Museum on 10 November to mark the culmination of the Summit, the Guest-of-Honour, Madam Halimah Yacob, President of the Republic of Singapore and NUS Chancellor, remarked that in an increasingly competitive global landscape, it is more important than ever for the ASEAN community to maintain close-knit and collaborative ties. She lauded PLUM as an excellent avenue for Singapore to reaffirm its commitment to Southeast Asia.
“Our relationship with our neighbours is and has always been a major priority, and we continually strive to find ways and opportunities to build and strengthen these bonds for the betterment of our region as a whole,” Madam Halimah said.
She added, “The development of our ASEAN community through cooperation in higher education, is one such way, and the gathering of our esteemed ASEAN university leaders through PLUM, is one such opportunity.”
By the NUS Global Relations Office