Countries worldwide are gradually recovering their economies as they are out of the “full-blown” of the Covid-19 pandemic phase. Despite being one of the regions that were hardest hit by the pandemic, there is still hope for the future of Southeast Asian countries. Furthermore, the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, has expressed optimism in the launching of Indonesia’s 2023 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Chairmanship that ASEAN will remain relevant, create a peaceful and stable region, and become a centre of economic growth.

The Covid-19 pandemic has indeed created an unprecedented disruption, including in the field of education. Disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has forced higher education institutions (HEIs) all over the world to take adjustment measures in terms of financial, physical, and psychological support. The disruption to international mobility has also resulted in declining HEIs income, especially in HEIs that normally admit a significant number of international students. Another challenge for HEIs is to prepare for hybrid learning and to ensure the quality of their graduates, especially those who experienced disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic during their studies.

Coupled with intensified regional integration within the ASEAN, HEIs in most countries in the Southeast Asian region continue to face greater competition in the middle of constraints of limited capacity. Meanwhile, at the regional level, there are sometimes overlapping efforts conducted separately to harmonize higher education in the region. These challenges are further complicated by the fact that there are still substantial gaps among HEIs in Southeast Asian countries.

Thus, it is crucial for HEIs, particularly in the Southeast Asian region, to come up with strategic measures to collectively address this situation in a more concerted, effective, and efficient manner. Such measures are also needed to ensure the relevance of HEIs in the Southeast Asian region amidst growing needs for an innovation-driven economy, industry growth, and rapid development of digital technology. Furthermore, strategic measures are essential to secure the pivotal role of HEIs in ensuring resilience and sustainability amidst escalating humanitarian and environmental crises, especially climate change.

Against this background, the Council of Rectors of Indonesian State University (CRISU) initiates the 2023 ASEAN Higher Education Conference (AHEC), with a general theme: “Higher Education: A Catalyst for Growth”. This main theme is centred upon the theme of Indonesia’s 2023 ASEAN Chairmanship, namely: “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth”. Additionally, the theme is in line with the 2015 Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Higher Education, which acknowledges higher education as one of the catalysts in “accelerating ASEAN’s economic, political, and sociocultural development agenda”.

The 2023 AHEC will be hosted by the Rector of Universitas Padjadjaran as the SecretaryGeneral of CRISU, co-hosted by Universitas Padjadjaran’s HEIs partners in Bandung, from 24 to 26 August 2023.