Wow! What a week we have just had at Bournemouth University’s global Festival of Learning ASEAN 2017! As I reflect on the week, I think back to what our core objectives were for the global Festival of Learning. For me the Festival is essentially about living and breathing ‘campus to community’ collaboration. It is not just about what we are ‘doing in or for’ these regions, but about genuine and meaningful collaboration. It is about the exchange of knowledge and learning with other HEIs, industries, governments with whom we share common goals, challenges, and opportunities.
So – how did the week go? Well, as my colleagues will know, I have very high standards, so I’m delighted to say that the week surpassed even my expectations!
We had an ambitious week planned: the first couple of days in Jakarta, Indonesia and then moving on for the final few days in Penang, Malaysia. In Jakarta, we owe a huge debt of thanks to our long-standing partner, BINUS University, for hosting the first stage of the Festival. These first couple of days involved students and staff at BU and BINUS discussing the latest thinking across the themes of social interactions, leadership and innovation, tourism, and business and marketing. BU colleagues gave a brilliant practical demonstration of their research and experience on LEAN leadership by getting their audience to join in with their plate spinning! We also had a fantastic panel discussion chaired by BU’s Dr An Nguyen, and featuring Harry Surjadi, the President of the Indonesian Branch of the World Federation of Science Journalists, and Erwin Ramedhan, former journalist at Le Monde on the relationship between science and journalism. As if this wasn’t enough, on Day 1 we then hosted a BU Alumni Dinner in the evening, where we enjoyed catching up with what our Indonesian alumni had been up to.
What also characterises our Festival of Learning though is the cultural and fringe events that take place throughout the week. Across the week we saw fantastic performances including dance, martial arts, and music. In Indonesia, this included several of our students spontaneously taking to the stage, one played the guitar and sang, and others joined in the closing dance. In Malaysia all BU staff and students joined the stage for the final dance.
After what felt like a whirlwind few days in Indonesia, all 38 or so BU members of staff and students moved on to Malaysia. This is our second Festival in Malaysia, but this time, we were hosted by our partner institution, Universiti Sains Malaysia. Malaysia is such a thriving and dynamic country and this is reflected so aptly by Universiti Sains Malaysia! With over 24,000 students, 10% of which are international, Universiti Sains Malaysia is the second oldest university in Malaysia and one of the leading universities in the country.
The next few days just flew by. We were joined by around 30 external stakeholders including local NGOs and health organisations in Penang. The tone was set for the Malaysian leg by the inspirational VC of USM Datuk Prof Dr Asma Ismail, and followed by a keynote by YBhg. Dato’ Dr. Morshidi Sirat Founding Director of the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Facility, about the role of global higher education in building bridges of understanding among people.
We had fantastic sessions on the theme of sustainability and development and community engagement. Our own Dr Carol Clark and student Warrick Schmidt got the whole auditorium up on their feet doing stretches in their session on self-management of health issues. And USM’s Prof Azlinda Azman provided a powerful testimony of community engagement preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS in Penang.
At this point we were delighted that Professor Steven Tee, the Executive Dean of our Health and Social Sciences Faculty was able to join us on a panel discussion at our industry engagement event on the health and tourism sectors in Penang, Malaysia. A lively panel discussion then took place on the need for investing in skills and talent in both the tourism and health sectors, and supporting a global ageing population. My hope is that this discussion planted the seeds for creating a global health alliance with key stakeholders in Asia, and who better to champion this for BU than Prof Steve Tee!
All in all, I’m so proud to share that around 850 delegates took part in a week of activities including academic research sessions, cultural fringe events and performances, alumni dinners, student recruitment exhibitions and information sessions, and industry roundtables discussion event – all in two countries over five days!
Consequently, let me end with a HUGE thanks to all the BU staff and students and to our fantastic partners overseas without whom the global Festival of Learning ASEAN would not have been such a success! As ever, if you want to see how the week unfolded – check out our Storifies from Indonesia and Malaysia.
I’m already thinking about how to make this even bigger and more impressive next year…In the meantime, I turn my attention to the next Festival, in India, starting on the 18th April – check out the programme here!