Highlighting the importance of enhancing international engagement during COVID-19, UWA Vice-Chancellor Professor Amit Chakma opened the UWA-led annual regional education collaboration International Relations in the Indian Ocean Region online on Monday 1 February.
The unique annual course brings together 35 selected students from seven partner universities across the Indian Ocean Rim to interrogate the strategic policy dynamics and diplomatic challenges that shape a region increasingly “at the heart of global activities”, according to the keynote address delivered to the group by Ambassador Dr Anil Sooklal from South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
Serving as a capstone unit in the Master of International Relations, the initiative gives UWA students the opportunity to ‘practise international relations while studying International Relations’ by learning alongside peers from Paramadina University (Indonesia), University of Pretoria (South Africa), Jawaharlal Nehru University (India), University of Dhaka (Bangladesh), University of Mauritius and the Emirates Diplomatic Academy (United Arab Emirates).
Starting in 2017 and with rotating host universities, the course has previously been delivered face-to-face in Jakarta and Pretoria with historical and cultural immersion through accompanying visits to the 1955 Asian-African Conference Museum in Bandung and the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.
The course coordination team led by Dr David Mickler from UWA’s School of Social Sciences had secured funding from the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to deliver the course in Perth in 2020, but COVID-19 forced its postponement.
Dr Mickler said the team was delighted to be able to continue their valuable collaboration online in early 2021.
"The course, which advances the UWA 2030 vision, equips our students with expert knowledge, professional skills and international networking to prepare them as the next generation of leaders for the Indian Ocean region,” he said.
In his opening remarks, Jawaharlal Nehru University Vice-Chancellor Professor M. Jagadesh Kumar similarly emphasised the importance of education collaborations such as this one to the future development of the region.
In addition to academic contributions from the partner universities, the course features direct engagement with senior diplomats from IORA and participating countries. Students are placed into mixed teams and each group must research, prepare and deliver a presentation addressing a significant regional policy challenge in the final session on 11 February.