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UNTA 2020 Webinar on Boosting University World Ranking through UNTA Cooperation

In an active effort to promote international exchange and cooperation, on December 13th, 2012, National Pingtung University of Science and Technology (NPUST) brought together presidents of universities throughout Southeast Asia for a meeting that resulted in the joint launching of the University Network of Tropical Agriculture (UNTA). This year, faced with Covid travel restrictions, NPUST, the network’s permanent secretary, hosted an online conference to enabled important exchange and fruitful dialogue between UNTA members.

Seventeen university representatives from twelve universities in six countries came online for the webinar, which was centered the topic of “boosting university world ranking through UNTA cooperation”. The universities at the table included Brawijaya University and IPB University of Indonesia; Kasetsart University, Maejo University, Rajamangala University of Technology Isan, and Chiang Mai University of Thailand; University of Science and Technology of Hanoi, Thai Nguyen University, and Thai Nguyen University, of Vietnam; Periyar University, of India, University of Queensland, of Australia; and NPUST, of Taiwan.

World university rankings have become increasingly important tools for boosting universities’ international reputations and recruiting international students in recent years, which is why NPUST wanted to invite UNTA members to share about their experiences with the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and the QS World University Ranking and discuss how UNTA, as an international organization, can serve to improve cooperation in such areas as research, academic publication, SDGs, social responsibility and exchange – all of which can translate to improved ranking performances.

The video conference began with a warm welcome to the participants from NPUST President Chang-Hsien Tai. From there, the time was delegated to representatives of five universities, who shared on their related research and experiences in university ranking performances. These included the president of IPB, Dr. Arif Satria; vice president of Brawijaya University (UB), Dr. Ir. Moch. Sasmito Djati; assistant to the president of Kasetsart University (KU), Dr. Aphichart Rodchanarowan; assistant to the president of Chiang Mai University (CMU), Dr. Piyapong Niamsup; dean of the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences at University of Queensland (QU), Dr. Neal Menzies; and vice-president of Rajamangala University of Technology Isan (RMUTI), Dr. Chalermpon Yuangklang.

Following the presentations, the floor was open to discussion on the topic of how to conduct substantive cooperation in such ways that would help contribute to the member universities overall standings. A suggestion was made at this time to explore the idea of holding online sustainability courses for members, with professors from various member universities taking turns to offer 30-minute online lectures on related topics. Additionally, the secretariat shared its intentions to organize an UNTA Sustainability Camp in 2021, which will be offered to students of member universities, and to begin publishing a bi-annual UNTA E-newsletter, with a trial edition set to be published at the end of September (2020).

The online conference received positive feedback from participants. Hopes are that this type of exchange activity can take place often, so that members can benefit from the wisdom and experience of partner schools—and that together, UNTA will be able to make considerable contributions to sustainable university development.
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