The European Commission and the ASEAN Secretariat on December 12 hosted the “Celebrating EU-ASEAN People-to-People Cooperation on Higher Education” event in Brussels, with this year marking 45 years of dialogue relations between the two regional blocs.

Held ahead of the EU-ASEAN Commemorative Summit also in the Belgian capital on December 14, the event was conducted in partnership with the SHARE (European Union Support to Higher Education in ASEAN Region) and ERASMUS+ Programmes.

The high level stakeholders in attendance discussed the numerous gains achieved through higher education and research cooperation, concluding it a key pillar of the strategic partnership between both regions, SHARE announced on December 12.

"Greater mobility of students and professionals was identified as a driver to further knowledge, facilitate the flow of ideas and innovation between the EU and Southeast Asia regions, all which enhance employability, digital transition and the green agenda," SHARE said in a statement.

European Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen commended the success of higher education and research cooperation, committing to "going further and taking our cooperation on education, connectivity and research to new heights via the Global Gateway Strategy".

On December 14, the Sustainable Connectivity Global Gateway Flagship will be launched.

And Urpilainen said this will “build on the very successful SHARE programme, and key priorities include strengthening student and academic mobility, reinforcing cross-regional university networks and boosting ASEAN vocational education institutions and businesses, notably to support the green and digital transitions”.

ASEAN secretary-general Lim Jock Hoi, thanked the EU for its continued support of the advancement of higher education in Southeast Asia.

He said a new report on “the current state of higher education in the region highlights key thematic areas, including equity, diversity and inclusion, the internationalisation and regionalisation of higher education, and sustainability, that need to be addressed to improve ASEAN higher education”.

Cambodia's Minister of Education, Youth and Sport Hang Chuon Naron said: "The EU and ASEAN are transforming education through partnerships and must work together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and leave behind a better world for all."

He added that key thoughts for the future included university reforms necessary for developing soft and 21st century skills, with universities becoming hubs within an entrepreneurial ecosystem, allowing education to link to the real world.