On 20 – 27 October 2020, DAAD and the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Indonesia (MOEC Indonesia) conducted a series of online seminars on higher education and digitalisation titled “Towards Digitally Responsive Higher Education: Challenges, Good Practices and Learning Models from Southeast Asia and Europe”. The increasing salience of digitalisation and its accelerated implementation in the higher education sector during the Covid-19 pandemic pushes actors in External Quality Assurance (EQA) to explore new terrains to ensure that the quality of learning does not suffer from the changing traditional mode of delivery. Furthermore, it presents higher education institutions with opportunities to innovate in teaching and learning, and opens up new avenues for sustainable international cooperation in situations that make traditional forms of mobility implausible. The seminar series addresses these opportunities and challenges through an exchange of practices between higher education practitioners from Europe (Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands), Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore), and Japan.

Held on 20 October 2020, the Kick-off Seminar “Future Higher Education Initiatives in Indonesia Throughout Covid-19 Era and Beyond” was opened by Prof. Ir. Nizam, Directorate General of Higher Education (DIKTI) from MOEC Indonesia and Thomas Zettler, Director of DAAD Regional Office Jakarta. Prof. drh. Aris Junaidi, Director of Learning and Student Affairs at DIKTI, MOEC Indonesia, further elaborated on the current education policies in Indonesia including challenges, recommendations, and future directions pertaining the implementation of MOEC’s Kampus Merdeka (“Independent Campus”) policy. The seminar also featured presentations from Dr. Oliver Vettori from Vienna University of Economics and Business on the evolution of digitalisation as an add-on to becoming a necessity and how campuses can provide a seamless learning experience that truly blends on-campus and online learning; Mr. Johnson Ong Chee Bin, an AUN-QA Expert, who emphasised the need of quality assurance in digital learning, its framework and indicators, while also highlighting several important factors for success in digital learning and recommending strategies to redesign digital learning; Prof. Yuto Kitamura from University of Tokyo, who shared recent progress in Higher Education in Asia and the pandemic‘s effect on student mobility; and Prof. Peter Mayer from University of Applied Sciences Osnabrück who discussed opportunities to amplify collaboration and internationalisation and transform university management to cope with the rapid development of digital platforms.

The Kick-Off Seminar was followed by Session 1: “Ensuring Quality in Crisis - Policy, Practice and the Future of EQA” on 22 October 2020, which specifically addressed how regulatory bodies might adapt policies to ensure quality, enhance flexibility, and cross-border online education. The session opened with a short speech from Prof. drh. Aris Junaidi and followed with presentations from Maria Kelo, Director at ENQA (European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education) who shared how QA Agencies were responding to the current challenging situation, future plans, and various practical approaches to implement online QA assessment, and from Ronny Heintze, Senior Consultant at AQAS (Agency for Quality Assurance through Accreditation of Study Programmes), who continued with opportunities and challenges in conducting virtual site-visits and possible future scenarios.  It also featured an overview of the Indonesian and Malaysian higher education situation and approaches to QA (such as transitioning to virtual assessments and site-visits) during the pandemic from both countries, delivered by Prof. Drs. T. Basaruddin, Director of BAN-PT (National Accreditation Agency for Higher Education, Indonesia) and Dr. Hazman Shah Abdullah, Technical Advisor at AQAN (ASEAN Quality Assurance Network), respectively. Lastly, Dr. Yulia Hendri Yeni from Andalas University Indonesia shared her university’s experience of the AUN-QA online assessment conducted for its two study programmes.

On 26 October 2020, Session 2: “Higher Education Institutions and the Covid-19 ‘Digitalisation Boost’–Disruption or Opportunity?” addressed how higher education managers, teaching, and support staff respond to the Covid-19 push towards digitalisation through examples from Europe and Indonesia. Moderated by Michael Hörig, Head of Division Strategic Planning at DAAD Bonn, the panel discussion and presentations offered experiences from Europe as elaborated by Tia Loukkola, the Director of Institutional Development at European University Association (EUA), where a general overview on the state of play in teaching and learning, and trends such as widening access of education and lifelong learning, micro credentials to make higher education more flexible were discussed; and attention to the social dimension and quality during the pandemic were highlighted against the background of the Bologna Process and its tools and policies (European Standards and Guidelines of QA and others). It also featured experiences from German and Indonesian universities, delivered by Prof. Dr. Aloys Krieg, Vice President for Education at RWTH Aachen University, and Dr. Sri Suning Kusumawardani, Deputy Director of the Centre of Academic Innovation and Studies at Gadjah Mada University, respectively. Both shared their respective university’s experiences in preparing for digitalisation both for teaching staff and students, and explored how digital learning materials and examinations were administered, including alternative assessment strategies and a discussion on the human dimension of e-learning.

Lastly, Session 3: “Initiatives and Programmes fostering Cooperation in the field of Digitalisation”, was held on 27 October 2020. Moderated by Christian Rabl, Special Lektor at the DAAD Regional Office Jakarta, the session addressed new avenues and potential scope for international academic cooperation, and an internationally compatible digital ecosystem to facilitate student mobility and recognition. Starting with an introduction on trends in digitalisation in higher education and digital credential infrastructures, Alexander Knoth, Head of Section – Digitalisation at DAAD Bonn, also offered examples of DAAD cooperation programmes in the field of digitalisation such as International Mobility & Digital Cooperation (IMKD); International Virtual Academic Collaboration (IVAC); and Digital International Programmes (IP Digital). The possibility of internationalisation without papers was then presented by Frederik de Decker, Head of the International Relations Office at Ghent University, as a means to promote sustainability in providing students with intercultural competence despite “traditional” mobility. Delving deeper into digitisation of credentialing systems, Herman de Leeuw, Executive Director of the Groningen Declaration Network presented the rationale behind digitising learner data with examples from China, India, Australia, Singapore, and Japan. Zheng Wei Quah, CEO and Co-founder of Accredify, and Barry Leonardi, Business Partnership Manager for Education (Asia-Pacific) at Flywire, co-presented on digital credentials and how fintech start-ups can support international mobility and credit transfer with innovative blockchain-based technology, harnessing the opportunities of digitalisation through issuance of digital credentials, facilitate international mobility and credit transfer, and improve international students’ experience in times of crisis through three case studies from Brickfields Asia College, Malaysia, and a collaboration between the Governments of Singapore and the Netherlands, among others. Lastly, Dr. Diah Wihardini, Director of BINUS Global at Bina Nusantara University, showed how international cooperation can continue amidst the pandemic through virtual activities and shared lessons learned for institutional transformation and potential solutions.

In case you missed the seminar series, you can watch the recordings of the session and download speakers’ presentations below: