Building academic capacity in Aceh, Indonesia

Adam Loch MDBA

Dr Adam Loch, Senior Lecturer and ARC DECRA Fellow at The Centre for Global Food and Resources (GFAR), shares his recent Indonesian experience.

 

Last week I travelled to the very tip of Indonesia with Dr Barry Elsey from Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Innovation Centre (ECIC) to visit two Universities in Aceh Province; Universitas Teuku Umar (UTU) in Meulaboh and Syiah Kuala University (SKU) in Banda Aceh.

Dr Barry Elsey and Dr Adam Loch at the front gate to UTU

Dr Barry Elsey and Dr Adam Loch at the front gate to UTU

Map of Aceh Province

Map of Aceh Province

The purpose of this trip was to interview 20 potential PhD students with the view to assessing their potential for acceptance into our program here at Uni Adelaide. Each of the candidates is currently employed either at UTU or SKU as a lecturer. The Aceh Government is seeking to improve their academic capacity and knowledge by funding them to undertake a PhD here in Adelaide…

If they are good enough.

To find out, we sat with them for four days and listened to what they had to offer. And it is safe to say that it was good—frankly far better than we might have hoped! While not all of the candidates were quite ready, at least 70% of them had researchable questions and reasonable enough English skills to argue their case and undertake the program. We spend quite some time with each candidate, fine-tuning where needed and identifying who among them groups might ‘make the grade’.

It was a wonderful experience and we met some fantastic young researchers with a firm passion for their region and better understanding its problems/possibilities.

Some of the UTU candidates

Some of the UTU candidates

In the main, the focus of each candidate was firmly on problems related to Aceh Province. These include addressing post-tsunami impacts on fishing and traditional property rights, poverty alleviation through emerging agricultural and innovation products, building on existing strong local Gayo coffee branding and natural resource protection of some of the World’s most vulnerable ecosystems.

A model of Banda Aceh before and after the 2004 tsunami event

A model of Banda Aceh before and after the 2004 tsunami event

It was obvious to me that GFAR could play an important role in this process, with many links to our existing projects and research interests. Personally, I identified up to three students that I would take on tomorrow, if I could. And there is a keen interest at both UTU and SKU to collaborate on research projects in future.

Agriculture faculty staff and meeting the Recor (Chancellor) and other Deans at SKU

Agriculture faculty staff and meeting the Recor (Chancellor) and other Deans at SKU

As I take note of the current Indonesian group visiting us here in Adelaide, I better appreciate the importance of these growing relationships and just how much interest on both sides there is to make them happen.

To extend that process, I would hope that all of us here at GFAR would be interested in what UTU/SKU have to offer over the next few years.

I’m certainly happy to talk about it further if you are interested, and will work hard with Barry over the next few months to try and bring the program for Aceh into reality. I will be talking with those of us who already have programs in Indonesia to learn where I can. And my focus will also be on future research projects if anyone is interested in participating on that front as well.

They are a wonderful people with huge potential—and we can help them to achieve that potential.

Meeting the locals at the Mosque in Banda Aceh

Meeting the locals at the Mosque in Banda Aceh

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