The ASEM Education Process

Short History and Milestones

The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) was established in Bangkok (Thailand) during 1996 as an informal intergovernmental forum for dialogue and cooperation between Asia and Europe in the political, economic, and social, cultural and educational area. ASEM has 53 partners in 2018: 51 partner countries (21 from Asia and 30 from Europe) and two institutional partners (the European Union and the ASEAN Secretariat). The Leaders (Heads of State or Government) of ASEM partners meet biennially for ASEM Summits, held alternately in Asia and Europe, to discuss issues of common interest. The last Summit (ASEM12) took place in Brussels, Belgium on 18 and 19 October 2018 under the theme “Global Partners for Global Challenges”. The next Summit (ASEM13) is scheduled for 2020 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

In addition to the Summits, Ministerial and Senior Officials’ Meetings in different political areas take place. In Berlin (Germany) in 2008, ASEM Ministers of Education met for the first time and since then have been meeting regularly (every second year) to develop the ASEM Education Process (AEP) and to create an ASEM Education Area. The ASEM Education Process is organized at two levels: the political level includes ministerial commitment with representation at ministerial meetings. At the stakeholders’ level, dialogue continues between stakeholders, policy makers and experts within different cooperation platforms, events and projects.

The ASEM Education Ministers’ Meetings (ASEM ME) held to date took place in Berlin, Germany (ASEM ME1, 2008), Hanoi, Viet Nam (ASEM ME2, 2009), Copenhagen, Denmark (ASEM ME3, 2011), Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (ASEM ME4, 2013), Riga, Latvia (ASEM ME5, 2015) and Seoul; Republic of Korea (ASEM ME6, 2017). In Bucharest, Romania, ASEM Ministers of Education will meet for the seventh time (ASEM ME7, 2019). 

 Please click on the graph to enlarge

AEP History Version AUG19

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Four thematic priorities and two transversal themes of the ASEM Education Process

Since the First ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEM ME1) in Berlin (2008), topics related to higher education have been the centre of interest and discussions in the ASEM Education Process. During ASEM ME3 in Copenhagen (2011), Ministers agreed on four thematic priorities for the ASEM Education Process, with a focus on Higher Education. These priroties are the following:

  1. Quality Assurance and Recognition
  2. Engaging Business and Industry in Education
  3. Balanced Mobility
  4. Lifelong Learning including TVET

More information on these priority themes can be found on this page

The four thematic focus areas have been maintained until today. The Chair’s Conclusions of each Ministerial Meeting include initiatives and projects related to the four priorities and proposed by ASEM partners and stakeholders. According to ASEM ME5 (Riga, 2015), initiatives can be either dialogue-oriented (first pillar of AEP cooperation) or result-oriented (second pillar of AEP cooperation).

The ASEM ME7 Chair’s Conclusions (2019) contain 31 actionable initiatives and projects and most of them result-oriented. The the progress and the outcomes of these initiatives and projects are analysed in a bi-annual Stocktaking Report, compiled by the ASEM Education Secretariat. The last Stocktaking Report 'From Seoul to Bucharest' can be found here

During the ASEMME7 in 2019, the relevance of the 4 priority themes was again confirmed. However, the Ministers underlined the importance of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals with a focus on SDG4 and agreed that the ASEM Education Process can contribute to realising the SDGs. Therefore, the Ministers confirmed their commitment to contribute to the implementation of the SDG4 in order to achieve inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. The Ministers welcomed the suggestion to link the ASEM Education Process more explicitly to the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 by introducing Sustainable Development as a transversal theme within the 4 priority areas of the ASEM Education Process. Furthermore, the Ministers underlined that 'Digitalisation' an create opportunities to support connectivity and collaboration between Asia and Europe, but also that the ASEM Education Process should adapt itself to the opportunities and challenges of digitalisation and the 4th Industrial Revolution. Therefore, the Ministers endorsed the recommendation to include Digitalisation as a second transversal theme (besides Sustainable Development) within the 4 priority areas of the ASEM Education Process.

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 How does the ASEM Education Process work?

The AEP operates at two levels: the political and the stakeholder level. At the political level, the ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting (ASEM ME) is held once every two years. It is chaired by a host country and prepared by the Intermediate Senior Officials’ Meeting (ISOM) and two Senior Officials’ Meetings (SOMs) with the help of the ASEM Education Secretariat (AES). During the Ministerial Meetings, Ministers set the political and practical AEP agenda by agreeing on the policy orientation of the AEP and initiating the implementation of initiatives, programmes and projects.

Most of these initiatives, programmes and projects are coordinated and implemented at stakeholder level. Between the political and the stakeholder level, there is a lively interaction. Policy makers take part in initiatives, conferences, working and expert groups organised by stakeholders while stakeholders contribute their views and expertise to the policy debates and are invited to attend policy meetings (e.g. I/SOMs, ASEM ME). More detailed information on how the ASEM Education Process works, can be read in the first chapter of the Stocktaking Report 'from Seoul to Bucharest'.

The term “stakeholders” refers to all institutions, organisations, interest groups, etc. who are involved in the ASEM Education Process or have an interest in its success but are not official members (or partners) of ASEM. The most active stakeholder in the AEP is the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), the only permanent institution of ASEM. Other stakeholders currently involved in the ASEM Education Process are: ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN University Network (AUN, ASEM LLL Hub Secretariat (University College Cork), ASEM-DUO Secretariat, Erasmus Student Network (ESN), European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP), European External Action Service (EEAS), European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR), European Student Union (ESU), European Training Foundation (ETF), European University Association (EUA), German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), International Association of Universities (IAU), SEAMEO RIHED,) and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL).

 Political level Sakeholders level

ASEM and the AEP are informal political forums in which policy makers and stakeholders work together based on mutual trust and respect. Policy conclusions and recommendations can be made only by ASEM partners represented by their Ministers of (Higher) Education or Heads of Delegation during the Ministerial Meetings (ASEM ME). The non-binding results of these Meetings are laid down, as a rule, in the respective Chair’s Conclusions. The Ministerial Meetings are prepared by the host of the meeting and the Senior Officials (high-level representatives) of the ASEM Education Ministries supported by the ASEM Education Secretariat during two preparatory Senior Officials’ Meetings (SOM1 and SOM2) and one Intermediate Senior Officials’ Meeting (ISOM) preceding the two SOMs.

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Short term ambitions of the ASEM Education Process

The analysis of the ASEM Education Process in the publication 'Looking Back and Looking Ahead: The ASEM Education Process - History and Vision 2008-2018' by Prof. Alexandra Angress and Dr. Siegbert Wuttig and the Stocktaking Report 'From Seoul to Bucharest' provided recommendations for the future direction of the ASEM Education Process. The conclusions of the Stocktaking Report were presented and discussed during the ASEMME7 and its preperatory Senior Officials Meetings. The Ministers agreed during ASEMME7 the following  steps:

  • Inclusion of 2 transversal themes within the 4 priority areas of the ASEM Education Process: Sustainable Development and Digitalisation
  • Systematic exchange of information and close interaction between the ASEM Education Process and the overall ASEM Process, between the ASEM Education Process and EU’s Asia-Europe Strategy and EU programmes and between ASEM Education and other multilateral cooperation programmes;
  • Better visibility of the ASEM Education Process: both within the overall ASEM process as within the field multilateral cooperation
  • Developing a strategy paper on the ASEM Education Process:  'Strategy and Vision 2030' and to establish a Standing Working Group to support AES in this development process and monitoring of the 'Strategy and Vision 2030'.

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