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Deakin University Associate Dean (International) in the Faculty of Arts and Education, Professor Ian Robottom, will join former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and other international thought leaders in Dubai at the end of March (28 to 31) for the biannual Education Without Borders World Forum in the United Arab Emirates.
The forum gathers students from around the world to exchange ideas on how to make the world a better place.
As well as mentoring Victorian University students at the forum, Professor Robottom and a representative of the University’s Senior Executive will launch Deakin University’s new Masters dual degree program being offered in the UAE at an official signing within the conference program.
The new dual Masters means Emirati nationals from the UAE gaining the qualification will be able to advance in their country’s educational sector, or if they wish, elsewhere in the world as the qualifications are recognised internally and globally.
Professor Robottom’s attendance at the forum and the launch of the Masters are practical examples of the University’s, and School of Education’s, commitment to improving intercultural understanding and international capability among its students, staff and the wider international community.
This commitment and the forum’s aspirations is in stark contrast to violent struggles elsewhere in the Middle East.
“The UAE is keen to see Emirati nationals take up positions of responsibility in different sectors of the economy,” Professor Robottom explained.
“For women especially, it has not always been easy to do that. Our original Masters of Education, which was launched six years ago, coincidentally also at EWB forum, was developed so that the content and delivery mode was relevant to them.
“The delivery of the course was structured in accordance with their cultural needs, so for instance, classes are held in surroundings which have an emphasis on safety and security.
“As well as working with locally qualified tutors, Deakin’s senior academic staff also travel to the Emirates to deliver teaching intensives in our partner university face to face.”
Professor Robottom said the students valued the program.
“Many of our graduates say it has been a liberating experience,” he said.
“The country is supporting them to advance themselves and a number of them have gone on to assume positions of authority in the country.
“Our staff also return from their visits with positive feelings about making a contribution to education in the Middle East and have also gained a new perspective on Higher Education in an Islamic Country.”
For Professor Robottom, the benefits of the joint Masters for the Emirati women and the teaching experiences of the Deakin staff are just two examples of the rewards of working with international partners on educational projects which make a difference in people’s lives.
The Faculty has also been a key player in assisting the people of Aceh, Indonesia to rebuild their education system.
500 university lecturers and 2,876 teachers were among the 128,000 people who died in the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004.
“So far we have had 35 students graduate from our post graduate program, 34 will be at a special alumni dinner on Wednesday, April 13, in Banda Aceh” he said.
The event has been organised by the highly active Deakin Aceh Alumni Group, which conducts professional development programs for teachers in the western province.
“In another project in Indonesia, in Padang in West Sumatra, we have just established a new research centre which will support a number of PhD students as well as collaborative research by academic staff from Deakin and West Sumatran universities.
“In a project in China, the Faculty is also supporting students from the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, who are currently undertaking postgraduate studies at Deakin University.
“In each of these countries we will be seeking to work with their community at a number of levels, via research, student and staff exchange, course articulation and providing international experience.
“It is incredibly rewarding work.”