The association of southeast asian nations (asean) has led the way in constructing the east asian region with china, japan, and south korea, and an inter-regional entity with the european union (eu)known as the asiaeurope meeting (asem). The initial aims were security and trade. Recently, however, higher education has been brought into these regionalising processes, largely as a response to the globalising of neoliberalism. The paper argues that regions are social, economic, and political constructions shaped by both material forces and cultural factors. It emphasises the importance of the latter and explains three mechanisms at work: harmonisation to build intra-asean higher education cooperation; socialisation to create the asean+3 region; and mutual learning to engage with the eu in shaping an asem education area. These mechanisms influence the ways in which regional actors form new conceptions of self and other, negotiate norms, and (re)construct their identities and interests, thus creating new forms of cooperation and community. Particularly, mutual learning generates the outcome of a deeper negotiation for an equal partnership between the asia and the europe in asem. Hence, higher education regionalism emerges as a way to reposition southeast asia. 2017 Informa uk limited, trading as taylor & francis group.