A growing awareness of their common mission was developed among Christian institutions of higher learning, which had been meeting for more than twenty years in annual Presidents’ Conferences for Asian Christian Universities and Colleges, sponsored by the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia. The felt need was for an organisation that would pool the unlimited human and improving technical resources of these institutions for their mutual benefit as well as that of the whole region. Their successive meetings presented in sharp focus the challenges and opportunities that the rapidly changing conditions of a resurgent Asia bring to them, and inspired in them the vision of a closer cooperation and united efforts, dedicated to Christian witness and service in education.
The Association of Christian Universities and Colleges in Asia (ACUCA) was formally established at a founding conference held on December 6-9, 1976 in Manila. Participated in by 22 institutions, the conference launched the initial step in the words of Dr. Daniel C.W. Tse, toward “more initiative and responsibility in planning, working and sharing together on a regional basis.”
It was during the 12th Presidents’ Conference which was held in Taipei in April 1975 that the idea was first conceived for such an association that would actively and independently plan programs and strengthen ties among the Asian institutions. Relevant to the changing times and new challenges in the Asian situation, Dr. Paul Lauby, executive director of the United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia, proposed the establishment of a regional association. The participants in the Presidents’ Conference agreed unanimously and subsequently created an executive committee which took charge of studying the feasibility for such an organisation. The committee reviewed the ideas presented at the Presidents’ Conference and formulated some recommendations, and thereafter elected a planning committee composed of the following members: Dr. B. Koh of South Korea, Dr. Sutarno of Indonesia, Dr. P. S. Job of India, Dr. Agustin Pulido of the Philippines, and Dr. S. W. Tam and Dr. Deniel C. W. Tse of Hong Kong.
A series of meetings and consultations followed – particularly with the All-India Association for Christian Higher Education and Development and the United Board. By January 1976, the final draft of the ACUCA constitution was completed.
The following were elected ACUCA officers at the Manila conference: Dr. Daniel C. W. Tse of Hong Kong Baptist College, President; Dr. Quintin S. Doromal of Silliman University (Philippines), Vice-President; Fr. Joseph Pittau, S. J. of Sophia University (Japan), Treasurer; Fr. Jose Cruz, S. J. of Ateneo University (Philippines); Dr. Hsieh Ming-san of Tunghai University (Taiwan); Dr. Woo-Choo Lee of Yonsei University (Korea); and Dr. Sutarno of Satya Wacana Christian University (Indonesia), Board Members; and Dr. victor Ordonez of De La Salle University (Philippines), Secretary-General. They composed the Executive Committee.
ACUCA’s founding members were: Hong Kong – Chung Chi College and Hong Kong Baptist College; Indonesia – Universitas Kristen Indonesia, Petra Christian University, Satya Wacana Christian University, and Parahyangan University; Japan – International Christian University and Sophia University; Korea – Ewha Woman’s University, Sogang University, Soong Jun University, and Yonsei University; Pakistan – Kinnaird College for Women; Philippines – Ateneo de Manila University, Central Philippine University, De La Salle University, Philippine Christian University, Silliman University, and Trinity College of Quezon City; Thailand – Payap College; and Taiwan – Fu Jen University, Tunghai University, and Soochow University.
Guests who were made co-opted members were All-India Association for Christian Higher Education and the Christian Conference of Asia.
During the conference, Bro. Gabriel Connon, FSC, President of De La Salle University, offered his university as the host of the ACUCA Secretariat. To serve as advisory committee to the Secretariat were the presidents of Philippine member-institutions, although the major decisions were to be made by the Executive Committee.
The task of organizing the Secretariat was left with Dr. Victor Ordonez. Having formalized its legal identity, he started the publication of a newsletter and established links with other organisations. An educational management workshop and a regional student exchange conference were the Association’s initial projects. Preparations were made for the in-country workshops to assess the Christian character and mission of member-institutions. The position papers resulting from those workshops were to be presented in the General Assembly biennial conference scheduled in Hong Kong.
In May, 1978, Dr. Wilfrido V. Villacorta was appointed to succeed as Secretary-General Dr. Ordonez, who received a research fellowship from the East-West Center. Based on the guidelines prepared by his predecessor for the in-country workshop, Dr. Villacorta prepared a concept paper on the needs and objectives of Asian Christian colleges and universities, and possible projects for the Association. In his visit to member-countries, the concept paper was discussed in preparation for the workshops. He also gathered ideas from the academic communities of member-schools, which were to be the basis of the draft Five-Year Development Plan prepared by the Secretariat.
After two years of operation, the Association’s membership examined in their biennial conference their common needs and proposed future projects. In this conference, which was held on 12-14 December, 1978, in Hong Kong, they agreed with the Secretariat that the content and direction of the Association’s activities must be embodied in a Five-Year Development Plan that will truly realize ACUCA’s objectives and contain concrete measures for determining its progress. After incorporating some modifications, the Plan was approved in principle by the General Assembly.
In the said conference, the body also decided to invite as new members Meiji Gakuin University and Kwansei Gakuin University of Japan, Keimyung University of Korea, and Chung Yuan Christian College of Science and Technology of China. They arrived at the following consensus, which reiterated their Christian commitment:
The mission of Christian higher education is, in general, to heal the divisions which separate man from man and to unite all men in the community of service and fellowship;
This Christian mission impels us to train our students to assume the responsibility of developing the potentials of the underprivileged, the deprived, and the marginal poor;
By pursuing the best of human knowledge possible for the purpose of making it available and accessible for healing the wounds of mankind in the Asian context, we have been blessed with some successes, due more to the force of God’s saving power rather than to our own human efforts;
Despite these successes, we are still confronted with problems that relate chiefly to finances and the need to maintain our Christian character, faced with the pressures of survival in a competitive and materialistic society.
In the business meeting that followed, Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta was re-appointed as Secretary-General, and the following members of the Executive Committee were elected for the term 1979-1980: Dr. Quintin Doromal (Philippines), President: Dr. Woo Choo Lee (Korea), Vice-President: Fr. Joseph Pittau, S. J. (Japan), Treasurer; Dr. Ko-Wang Mei (China), Dr. Sutarno (Indonesia), Dr S. W. Tam (Hong Kong), and Dr. Amnuay Tapingkae (Thailand) as Board Members.
ACUCA is unique in that it has comprehensive mandate to bring about a veritable community of Christian institutions of higher learning in Asia, working closely together to benefit each other as well as the societies in which they exist. The ACUCA Secretariat is designed to be the instrumentality for creating the environmental prerequisites for active interaction and participation among the member-institutions to take place. In realizing this goal, there must be a continuing response to the changing conditions of Asian societies, a constant awareness of educational developments in the region, and a resolute will to actualize the Christian witness even in academic pursuits. Only through effective programs can the Association live up to the high expectations of its membership and ensure its viability.
The majority of the membership operate without the benefit of public subsidy. The mounting costs of education necessitate efficiency and effectiveness in managing and allocating the limited resources of the non-profit member-institutions. A need arises for exchange of management technology in order to optimize their capacity in higher education.
The educational and social contribution of the membership depends as well on the quality of their teaching staff. The test of the faculty in these institutions is not only in their mastery of the latest pedagogical and research techniques but also in their convincing commitment to the Christian dimension of education. Without this commitment, the Christian college or university is no longer any different from other institutions of higher learning.
The outputs of Christian higher education are a major concern of the member-institutions. How can we more or less assure that our graduates bring with them the duties as well as the joy of the Christian witness, to be shared by them with their colleagues in the professional world? How can we keep the Christian spirit alive in campus, with the maximum and willing participation of the studentry?
Not of lesser importance is the members’ responsibility to the surrounding community. It is the worry of the membership that involved as they are with academic excellence and administrative efficiency, they could forget the rationale behind the establishment of a Christian institution. The spectre of alienation from the rest of society as glaring enclaves of elitism is what haunts the member-institutions in developing countries. As it is the task of Christianity to be socially relevant, the membership finds the need to actualize their Christian character through outreach programs. There is much that the Association can do to promote exchange of skills and resources for community services.
C. Purposes and Objectives
Through cooperation, mutual support, and encouragement, the Association endeavors to help the Christian universities and colleges in Asia:
develop and maintain their Christian character;
enrich the quality of their educational programs and those of the other institutions of learning; and
re-examine the relevance of their objectives and programs in relation to the needs of a changing society.
The objectives for which the Association is established are, in pursuit of the purposes defined above:
to serve as a clearing house for sharing and exchanging useful and worth-while information, publications, and materials regarding Christian higher education;
to arrange conferences, seminars, workshops, consultations, lectures, and programmes of similar nature;
to promote and facilitate exchange of faculty, staff and students among member-institutions, and with other institutions of learning;
to foster cooperative research projects;
to encourage and support faculty and staff development;
to stimulate and promote Christian outreach towards other institutions of learning;
to serve as liaison body to seek cooperation with and to enlist the support of foundations, mission boards, business communities, governments and other organisations and agencies concerned with higher education in Asia;
to undertake any other objective of a similar nature as may be demanded by the needs of the times.
D. Operational Philosophy
The activities of the Association will be need-oriented. Its work will be in direct relation to identified problems and the effectiveness of the programs in solving these problems. Programs will, therefore, not be introduced after which there would be a search for needs for which they would fit.
The operational philosophy is one of flexibility. ACUCA will constantly orient its programs to changing circumstances, thus maintaining responsiveness to needs in member-countries.
Proceeding from the above premise, the Association can achieve its goals only if the member-institutions continue to share a substantial part of their attention and efforts to cooperating with, strengthening, and giving their feedback to the programs. Permanent national committees with representation from all member-institutions will go a long way in making ACUCA a strong force in Asian higher education.