News & Events

[Event Summary] Regional Universities Cooperation Webinar


Higher education resilience and regional university cooperation between Korea and Australia in the post COVID-19 era.


Together with the Korea-Australia Foundation (KAF) and the Centre for Australian Studies (CAS) at Yonsei University, the Australian Embassy in Seoul hosted a hybrid webinar to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Korea. 


Representatives from regional universities from Australia and Korea gathered virtually on 18 November 2021 to share regional universities experiences and perspectives in both countries and to explore opportunities for cooperation, particularly in the internationalization and  cultivation of human resources talents.


Guests of Honor included H.E. Mr Ki-hoon Chin, Vice Major for International Affairs, Daegu Metropolitan City, Dr Chang-Bun Yoon, Chairman of Korea-Australia Foundation, Prof Jienki Synn, Secretary-General, Korea-Australia Friendship Association and H.E. Ms. Catherine Raper, the Australian Ambassador to the Republic of Korea.  The Australian Ambassador emphasized the potential for broader and deeper education and research partnerships between Australia and Korea.  She noted that strategic collaboration in research and education among academia, businesses and local government between Korea and Australia will create the potential to further develop existing partnerships. Also, she encouraged higher education institutions in both countries to share experiences and ideas to upgrade the relationship between Korea and Australia to the next level.


Session I: Regional Higher Education Strategies in Australia and the Republic of Korea


In the first half of Session I, Australian and Korean experts presented examples of cooperation between regional universities and local governments in both countries.


Professor Jounghae Seo, Director of Daegu HuStar Foundation, said that local human resources are key for regional development. He stated that when talents trained in the region create future projects, regional development can be achieved. “Currently, Daegu is in various crises. Among them, the most notable ones are the dwindling regional economy, lack of human resources, and weakening dynamics of regional universities” said Professor Seo. To overcome these crises, he emphasized that regional universities should lead development in the regions by fostering local talents, and local governments should play a leading role in improving higher education. To make this virtuous cycle work, the HuStar Project was initiated by the Daegu local government. This project integrates Human Resource Development policies with regional industrial policy and regional R&D, to foster regional development - including attracting future leading industries. Professor Seo finished his presentation with the slogan of HuStar, “A talent raised by Daegu, raise Daegu.”


Professor Beomjoon Kim, Dean, Office of Research and Industry-Academic Cooperation Foundation from Keimyung University, explained the cooperative relationship between regional universities and local governments, taking the case of Keimyung University. The goal of the LINC Project, which began in 2012, was to promote the relationship between universities and industries. Even though students were educated in an industry field in universities, companies found they had to re-educate/re-train them because there was a gap between what universities had taught and what was required in the field. Being aware of the gap, Keimyung University has changed its university courses. Examples include providing students with internship opportunities in order to help them experience the field and to participate in contests held by companies. He also said that the LINC+ project goes beyond simple relationships between companies and universities, and it promotes cooperation with local communities. Lastly, he emphasized the “mutually beneficial relationship” between universities and industry.


Mr. Alec Webb, Executive Director of the Regional Universities Network in Australia, discussed questions on how to attract students to the regions and how to retain local students. According to him, further consideration of the needs of regional Australia is required and opportunities need to be expanded to fulfill the needs of regional communities. Also, he said it was very important for regional universities to provide regional residents with a route so that they can succeed.


The last presenter of Session I was Professor Susan Kinnear, Dean of School of Graduate Research from Central Queensland University. She focused on the role of research in local universities. She explained how research at regional universities could affect people and how collaboration with business and industry led to the commercialization of research. It was noted that these measures would give a strength to local universities. She emphasized that industrial collaboration in research facilitates strong partnerships and promotes regional growth and development.


Session II: Resilience of Universities and Internationalization Strategy in the Post-COVID Era


In Session II, Ms. Lorne Hwang, Senior Adviser of International Office from Kyungpook National University, and Ms. Alex Elibank Murray, Head of International, University of the Sunshine Coast, talked about resilience in the context of internationalization in the post COVID-19 era.


Ms. Lorne Hwang dealt with two topics. The first was a way to turn the weaknesses of regional universities into strengths, and the second was to focus on more personalized marketing. She discussed how to segment the market and to then satisfy the aspirations of students not only in Australia but also in Korea.  She advised that a more strategic approach from regional universities is needed, particularly in the post-COVID era.


The last presenter, Ms. Alex Elibank Murray, said that to pursue meaningful values and influences in the region, it is necessary to participate in national education programs and to form corporate partnerships that benefit the local community. She also stressed the need to share success with a global partner network to make this possible.


After the end of session II, the webinar went on to a Panel Discussion where all the participants shared their thoughts on how to proceed from this Webinar.


Panel Discussion session:


All presenters agreed that this webinar provided a wonderful opportunity to realise what issues regional universities both in Korea and in Australia have, and how these issues can be addressed. It was acknowledged by all that regional universities are best suited to provide solutions for the problems that regional communities and businesses face by working together closely with them.


Ms. Alex Murray noted that in respective countries, regional universities have been integrating with regional communities, industries and businesses by providing the required skills and abilities. Professor Susan Kinnear suggested it is now time to extend this collaboration to an international level, like between Korea and Australia, through some type of common platform. And it is hoped that, for example, Ms. Alex Murray said, multinational companies in Korea that have Australia experiences, working closely with Korean regional universities, can leverage that experience to support regional cooperation internationally between Korean and Australian regional universities.


The fixed concept of a university being associated with bricks and mortar has been challenged by the advancement of digital technology, particularly during the COVID pandemic. Nevertheless, the value of having face-to-face learning opportunities cannot be undervalued as regional universities in both countries experience issues in attracting students and retaining them.


Professor Lee Heejin, Director for the Centre for Australia studies, Yonsei University suggested some types of cooperation that could work effectively through some common platform, and hinted, as an example, a Federal level policy in Australia of attracting skilled labour to the regions which could potentially be combined with a students’ link with a regional university in Australia for study and research. Professor Lee continued that these students and researchers would familiarize themselves with local situations and therefore could actively contribute to the regional communities – noting that, as Mr Alec Webb presented, more than 70 per cent of graduates from regional universities end up staying in the regions.


There are some issues that still need to be addressed in terms of the in-and-outbound student mobility imbalance between Korea and Australia, as Ms. Lorne Hwang pointed out. While distance factors prevail students themselves need to make an assessment on the value of learning and having experiences overseas. In this regard, Ms. Alex Murray said, gaming and IT programs in Korea could be good attractors for Australian students.


There is, however, also a cultural aspect to students’ cross-border mobility Alec Webb argued. Regional universities in both countries, especially Korea, therefore, need to make their universities more attractive. Selecting the right students to participate in exchange programs – particularly those who will promote and share their positive experiences to others, is also important and will help to overcome some of these factors.


And it is hoped that the opportunity for international mobility is expanded and will be available for the purpose of student’s and staff’s mobility and research cooperation. From this perspective, the webinar has contributed to enhancing the awareness of each other’s side, Professor Kim said, despite some differences existing between Australia and Korea.


There has been strong interest from regional universities based in Daegu/Gyungsangbuk-do to work with regional universities in Australia. All presenters agreed that collaborative approaches are to be taken to facilitate people-to-people exchanges for international cooperation at regional universities in Korea and Australia.