New trust strengthens NZ presence in the Mekong region

Member Activities :: New trust strengthens NZ presence in the Mekong region

by admin | 2002-06-13 00:00:00

Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Canterbury in partnership with other leading tertiary institutions in Australia, Thailand, China and Vietnam, have moved to establish the Greater Mekong Subregion Tertiary Education Consortium (GMSTEC) Trust to promote the development of quality international teaching and research programmes with a focus on the Mekong region.

Consisting of the countries of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan Province of China, and connected by the Mekong River, the Greater Mekong Subregion has a combined population of over 240 million people. It is a region with rich natural resources, growing commercial activity and cross-border trade, and while it faces development challenges, it has the potential to be one of the world's fastest growing areas.

"Victoria University sees the GMS region as being of increasing importance to New Zealand and GMSTEC is a strategic initiative which will contribute to the long-term growth and quality of New Zealand's 1.1 billion dollar export education industry," said Professor Neil Quigley Pro Vice-Chancellor with responsibility for international relations at Victoria University. "GMSTEC combines the expertise and resources of leading universities in the Mekong region, New Zealand and Australia to focus on the educational and development challenges associated with internationalisation and globalisation", said Professor Quigley. "GMSTEC will facilitate cooperation in research, development projects and academic programmes that encourage the movement of students between member universities under agreed protocols," he said.

The founding members of the GMSTEC Trust are Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Canterbury, New Zealand; Adelaide University, Australia; Khon Kaen University and the Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand; the National Economics University, Hanoi and the University of Economics, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and Yunnan University, China. A Board of Trustees will govern GMSTEC with representation from each member university. The Mekong Institute, a training institute established with funding from the New Zealand Official Development Assistance programme and the Thai Government will be an Associate Member of the Trust.

"GMSTEC will be a forum where the members can help each other to work towards greater internationalisation and identify and take action on economic, scientific and social development issues facing the GMS region. Members would like GMSTEC to develop a reputation for academic rigor as well as the diversity of skills and knowledge embodied within the consortium," said Professor Quigley.

Initial areas of cooperation will be through a cooperative PhD programme that gives students the opportunity to choose from a broad array of supervisors within the consortium. Twinning programmes that enable students at one university to study part of another university's degree programme at their home university will also be explored, with an initial focus on commerce degrees, and degrees in Chinese and English language. An important part of these programmes will be the development of language skills, cultural understanding and long-term institutional relationships.

"Within its membership GMSTEC has a unique combination of knowledge, experience and research tradition. GMSTEC will coordinate and apply that capability to the practical issues facing the Mekong region," said Professor Quigley.

Jeff Howe, Projects Manager, Greater Mekong Subregion at Victoria University of Wellington said, "GMSTEC is based on a concept of mutual learning and benefit." In our increasingly global world, knowledge of other cultures, cross-cultural communication skills and international linkages are essential. GMSTEC will create opportunities for staff and students in New Zealand universities to better understand and participate in the growth of this emerging region. We hope this will help to strengthen New Zealand's links with Asia in the longer term," he added.

GMSTEC will be seeking to involve new members from other Mekong countries and to develop partnerships with government agencies, international organisations and private sector organisations with interests in the Mekong region to help achieve its aims.

Victoria University has also initiated a staff exchange programme with the National Economics University, Hanoi, sponsored by the Asia 2000 Foundation, and is organising a mission to the Mekong region on New Zealand commerce degrees, in cooperation with the University of Canterbury, with sponsorship from the Ministry of Education's International Education Visits Fund. "These initiatives provide opportunities to raise the profile of New Zealand education in the countries of the Mekong region and build closer academic relationships," said Mr Howe.