1Leaders from Higher Education Institutions (HEI) in Southeast Asia unite to collectively seek solutions to contemporary issues faced by HEI through the Leadership Development Program for HEIs in Southeast Asia. The leaders included presidents, vice presidents, deans and assistant deans, registrars, and department heads from colleges and universities in Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, and Vietnam.

Dr. Mary Jocelyn V. Battung, J.H. Cerilles State College system president was one among HEIs executives to undergo the program designed as a capacity building workshop for administrators, middle and senior managers, and academic leaders.

Co-organized by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and the Singapore based The HEAD Foundation (THF), the program was held at SEARCA on January 13-17 2020.

It is not the strongest who would prevail, it is those who will adapt to change.

SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, in his welcome remarks, stressed that this quote is true not just in biology but also for institutions. Dr. Gregorio said that everyone needs to change or we naturally become extinct.
However, HEIs must not only follow the trend but be one step ahead. Among the changes that HEIs in the region need to adapt to stem from initiatives of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) agenda and ASEAN International Mobility for Students (AIMS) initiative.

The program, therefore, aims to provide a platform for higher education leadership in the context of local and regional contemporary challenges. Through exercises involving environmental scans, design thinking, and strategic management, the participants were able to identify and prioritize cross-cutting issues that need to be addressed in light of the rapidly changing needs of industry and the workplace.

In the program overview, Course Program Director Dr. Natarajan Varaprasad discussed that these contemporary issues include having a relevant curriculum, addressing disruptive technologies, internationalization, adaptive learning and re-learning, and limited resources. He said that HEIs today must address these issues while working in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment. Dr. Varaprasad is one of the resource persons and is managing partner and principal consultant of the Singapore Education Consulting Group LLP.

The course is composed of nine modules that help participants analyze and develop strategies to address the said issues: (1) Challenges, Issues and Opportunities: Analysis of External Factors and Positioning of HEIs; (2) High-performance Leadership: Values and Ethics; (3) Strategic Management; (4) Design Thinking; (5) Faculty and Staff Development in HEI; (6) Disruptive Technologies in Teaching and Learning; (7) Quality Assurance in Teaching and Learning; (8) ASEAN Mutual Recognition Framework Arrangements; and (9) Transitioning from Management to Leadership.

At the end of the program, participants prepared a strategic agenda for submission to their own HEI management, which will include action points embodying their take-home lessons on education and managerial leadership. These re-entry action plans would address the priority needs of their institutions for levelling-up in step with AEC 2025.

“It’s not about whose institutions are the strongest but it’s about those which could adapt to change and be one step forward. I’m here to network. The best way to network from each other’s university would be through here. Believing to change while we’re winning not only to think of changing while on the verge of losing is the breakthrough I’m trying to bring back home. As SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio said, we cannot remain static. We don’t need heroes, we need partnerships because it’s a complex world”, Pres. Mary Jocelyn V. Battung said in a statement.