As published on Universidad de Chile’s website.
Last June, the Rector of the University of Chile, Rosa Devés , became the first university authority in Chile to join the Steering Committee of the Association of Universities of the Pacific Basin (APRU) , the network which brings together 60 highly prestigious universities from America, Asia and Oceania. The U. of Chile, a founding member of this network in 1997, is the only higher education institution in our country to join the association . Seven months after her election to office, Rector Devés received a delegation from APRU at the Central House of our University.
It was the visit of the executive director of APRU, Thomas Schneider , and the senior director of Networks and Student Programs, Adriana Rojas , who arrived on Monday, January 29, in Santiago to meet with the Rector, other authorities and academics of our squad. The Pro-Rector, Alejandra Mizala, participated among these ; the vice-rectors Christian González-Billaut , Claudio Pastenes and Josiane Bonnefoy ; and the director of International Relations, Alicia Salomone .
Rector Devés said that “it has been very important to receive Thomas Schneider and Adriana Rojas at the University, because our commitment is to enhance our participation in the different APRU programs . These cover such essential topics at a global level, such as the digital economy, biodiversity, sustainable cities, gender equality and diversity, and global health, among others. APRU opens spaces for academics and students from different disciplines to expand their networks and project their academic work. Important opportunities are also offered to promote the development of professional teams that today contribute substantively in different areas of our University. We are very excited about the possibility of collaborating on these challenges within the framework of the network .”
For his part, Professor Schneider , executive director of APRU, noted that “it is my first visit to South America and, of course, to Chile, so I am very impressed.” “At every institution I visit, I learn a little about national importance, and the University of Chile seems to be the national university of Chile. So I think the University of Chile is going to play a great role in our activities and operations in South America, because we want to expand to Latin American members ,” he added.
The meeting was also attended by the dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Teresa Matus ; the director of the Institute of International Studies, Dorotea López ; the Academic and International Relations Director of the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning (FAU), Daniel Opazo ; the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MAC), Daniel Cruz ; the director of Academic Development of the University, Claudio Olea ; the director of Postgraduate Studies, Laura Gallardo ; the director of Welfare and Student Development, Pamela Díaz-Romero ; the professors of the faculties of Science and Government, Julieta Orlando and Verónica Figueroa Huencho , respectively; and the executive director of the Rectory, Carlos Rilling .
International work potential
APRU’s visit closed a month full of important meetings with international teams, such as Groningen , Nottingham and Heidelberg , but this one had a special nuance. “Our Rector was chosen to be part of the 18 members that constitute the Steering Committee of this association of 60 leading universities in a relevant part of the planet, such as the Asia-Pacific ring zone, so she has a very direct possibility of influencing in the orientation and policies of this association ,” said the director of International Relations of the U. of Chile, Alicia Salomone .
“It is no longer just about the link with a university, which is always very important, but about a strategic alliance with a group of universities and the management role that our Rector plays there. In this meeting, we had the opportunity to learn much more about the structure of this organization from its own executive director . We talk about the projects that are in mind and after these long meetings we have, I think, a much clearer idea about what this organization is, what its purposes are, what its main activities are, what its priority lines are. It also leaves us a space to reflect on what are those activities and projects in which the University of Chile is going to get involved in this association ,” explained Professor Salomone.
With the aim of deepening the University’s links with Asia Pacific universities and taking advantage of the opportunities offered by being part of APRU, during the work sessions different possibilities for incorporating members of the academic community and active participation in new work networks, such as the APRU Network of University Museums or the Undergraduate Leaders Program .
Regarding APRU training opportunities, the work agenda considered a session on global learning in virtual environments and the impact of APRU on international education, led by Professor Leonor Armanet , director of the Undergraduate Department of our staff, along with teams from different units and faculties of the University. In this regard, Professor Armanet noted that “ it was a very interesting and useful meeting in which APRU shared with us its vision of training and alternatives for joint initiatives .” From the University, we show the experience of national mobility of CUECH universities, and of the Student Mobility Program, particularly with APRU. From the FAU, Professor Pedro Soza presented the VIP initiative (Vertically Integrated Projects), where teaching and research are articulated for the incorporation of technology in the development of inclusive social housing from a transdisciplinary perspective. In addition, the director of EOL, Cecilia Saint-Pierre, presented the potential of online education in different spaces and training levels of the University. We also discussed the incorporation of interculturality in training as a great possibility that the APRU network offers us.”
The APRU agenda included, in addition to the meeting with the authorities of our campus, a visit to the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences . In this regard, the dean of the FCFM, Francisco Martínez , indicated that “it was a great opportunity to share collaborative ideas between this international network of universities and our institution, for example, contributing to training development projects in higher education and the development of initiatives of open innovation. The latter are non-profit, of broad interest to universities, States and society, so we hope to establish collaborations in these two lines of common interest .”
Another issue where there is deep harmony between the Casa de Bello and the APRU network is the awareness that higher education institutions have responsibility for emerging problems, such as equity and sustainability . “ This is where the knowledge of indigenous peoples is key ,” explained Professor Verónica Figueroa Huencho , who participated in the APRU Indigenous Knowledges Workshop 2023 in November of last year at the University of Melbourne and represents our institution in the Knowledge Network. Indigenous people from APRU universities, where our University “has had an active role and has expressed its commitment to how we can exercise a leadership role,” he said.
“ The University of Chile has been a pioneer in this, being the first university to have an indigenous peoples policy .” It was very important that APRU highlighted the participation we had in that space and that it was highlighted that we were able to provide a view of indigenous knowledge and the role of universities, highlighting intersectionality and how effectively indigenous peoples, women, childhoods, disabilities, and all these exclusions, have to be debated from the academic field, from the field of enhancing the role of students, from the review of educational programs, promoting exchange between universities and promoting lines of research,” added Professor Figueroa Huencho.
The University of Chile has had a significant participation in the activities of the APRU Network and in its different initiatives since its inception, and was even the host venue of the APRU Presidents’ Meeting in 2004 and 2019 . In 2014, based on the proposal of the then Pro-Rector Devés at the APRU Presidents Meeting in Vladivostok, the University hosted the APRU Experts Workshop on Equity and Access in Higher Education , which was attended by members of the academic communities of different universities in the Network to work on these issues.
Among the most notable milestones in working with the network is the creation of APRU’s Virtual Student Exchange (VSE) program in 2020 , as a response to the disruptions to international academic exchanges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. This program seeks to provide an immersive and holistic virtual student exchange experience to students from higher education institutions members of the Association, who contribute by offering academic courses and/or curricular programs. Until June 2023, more than 400 students from Casa de Bello had carried out virtual mobility through the VSE program in topics such as astroinformatics, regional political analysis, history of Chile and sustainable agriculture, and 328 students from other institutions in the Network participated in the offer of courses that the University of Chile has made available .
Other relevant links of the University in the emerging themes of APRU has been the incorporation of professors Laura Gallardo and Julieta Orlando in the work of the Sustainable Cities and Landscapes Program, through their participation in the 6th Annual Conference on Sustainable Cities and Landscapes APRU 2023 , held in the month of August in Ecuador.
In total, only four Latin American universities make up APRU: the Universidad de los Andes (Colombia), the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (Ecuador), the Tecnológico de Monterrey (Mexico) and the University of Chile.