AU president explores collaboration opportunities in Asia
Last week, Athabasca University President Dr. Neil Fassina headed out across the Pacific to share AU’s story about Transforming Lives, Transforming Communities with an international audience.
He met with faculty and students at other like-minded institutions that focus on open, online, and digital delivery, sharing knowledge and spreading the message about how students all across the world have been able to improve their lives thanks to AU.
The Open University of Japan (OUJ) is the largest distance-education provider in that country, serving nearly 92,000 students each year.
On Feb. 25, Fassina met with OUJ President Dr. Shin Kisugi, and toured the university’s headquarters. The two presidents met for the first time in an informal setting, shared information about issues related to open universities, and about potential partnership opportunities.
The connection between our two universities goes back to 1992, when a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed to share academic information and participate in cooperative research. More recently, AU professor Dr. Mohamed Ally was a visiting scholar at OUJ in February 2017. There are also other ongoing research partnerships between AU and Japanese scholars; such as Dr. Martin Connors’ work at the Athabasca University Geophysical Observatory that wouldn’t be possible without support from research partners in Japan.
Fassina also made presentation on Feb. 26 to students, staff, and faculty, highlighting all that AU has to offer. That being said though, many Japanese students already know about what AU has to offer, as we’ve had 1,028 students from that country with at least one AU course completed!
Later in the week, on March 1, Fassina was in Singapore to meet with Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) President Dr. Hee Kiat Cheong, again exploring possibilities for collaboration between AU and SUSS.
There are many parallels between our two universities, including a shared approach to disrupting the traditional post-secondary learning model to improve access, flexibility, and lifelong learning—because this type of disruption can make higher education possible for countless learners excluded from traditional streams.
While in Singapore, Fassina also met with AU alumnus Dr. Sze Kiu Yeung, who decided to pursue a Doctor of Education in Distance Education degree after AU and SUSS signed an MOU that allowed academic exchanges at the faculty level. His research focuses on improving learning outcomes in an online environment, and his thesis supervisor was Dr. Mohamed Ally.
Dr. Fassina’s outreach in Asia will pick up again March 18-19, with meetings scheduled with officials from the Open University of Hong Kong, the Consul General of Hong Kong and Macao, the University of Hong Kong, and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong.
This will be Fassina’s first visit to Hong Kong as president of AU, and the discussions will focus on exploring opportunities for collaboration, helping to bring more value to AU and to bring benefits to the Hong-Kong-based organizations with which he meets.