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Possibilities abound for UNESCO-IHE collaboration

24 Oct 2006

Possibilities abound for UNESCO-IHE collaboration

The possibilities of UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education and AIT collaboration were found boundless, after a visit of the three delegates from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Prof. Richard Megnack, director of UNESCO-IHE, Prof. Hubert Gijzen, director of UNESCO Jakarta office, Prof. Khin Ni Ni Thein, chief, Sustainable Water Management Section, UNESCO-IHP, and AIT vice president for development and resources, visited AIT on 21 September 2006. The visit of the three delegates was arranged for information sharing, brainstorming and consultation meetings between UNESCO-IHE, UNESCO Jakarta office and AIT to identify areas of collaboration.

At the morning meeting with the AIT administration, the three delegates met
with Prof. Peter Haddawy, vice president for academic affairs and Prof. Sudip Rakshit, vice president for research, and found that the first area of collaboration will be the water education and capacity building. UNESCO-IHE, AIT and International Center for Water-Hazard and Risk Management will collaborate on offering an international master’s course for water-related disaster preparedness and risk management. UNESCO-IHE will look for the possibility to get the matching number of scholarships from the same donor to offer a dual-degree program or sandwich program with AIT in the fields of study that are common to both institutions. UNESCO-IHE and AIT will become strategic partners for the sustainable development in the Asia and the Pacific region and will begin with a large scale regional initiative.

After the morning meeting, Prof. Megnack gave a presentation on ‘UNESCO-IHE and the potential for collaboration with AIT.’ Prof. Gijzen gave a presentation on ‘Windows of opportunities for UNESCO-AIT collaboration in the Asian region’. These presentations served as a background information and stimulant for the afternoon brainstorming meeting with deans, two proposed UNESCO chairs, professors and head of sections. Both presentations will be published on the AIT web site soon.

In the afternoon, the three delegates from UNESCO had a meeting with AIT deans and faculty, which was chaired by Prof. Worsak Kanok-Nukulchai, dean of the School of Engineering and Technology. The meeting was attended by administration officials and the following faculty members: Prof. Ashim Das Gupta of Water Engineering and Management, who proposed the UNESCO Chair for Sustainable Water Engineering and Management; Dr. Joydeep Dutta, associate dean of SET, who proposed UNESCO Chair for Nanotechnology; Dr. Kyoko Kusakabe, associate dean, School of Environment, Resources and Development; Dr. Mukand S. Babel, associate professor, WEM; and Dr. Sahdev Singh, program director, AIT Extension.

During the meeting, AIT proposed five areas for strategic alliance:

  • Capacity Building for Sustainable Development and Natural Disaster Mitigation
  • Science and the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
  • Bridging gaps between academic institutes and between sector agencies
  • Executive Development Program
  • Asia-Africa Initiative on Higher Education Development

With the framework of the strategic alliance, two UNESCO Category II Centers were proposed to be established at AIT, one on integrated water resources management and one on nanotechnology for development. Other possible collaborative projects with UNESCO and UNESCO-IHE were considered, including Natural Disaster Management and accreditation body for engineering schools in the region.

Areas for collaboration discussed also included gender and development, gender and water, microbiology, food technology, water engineering and management, hydropower and renewable energy, reservoir sedimentation, dam safety, anti-corruption, Nanotechnology, public sector management, business management, demand-driven tailor-made courses and other short courses, professional Ph.D. program, dual M.Sc. degree program, disaster preparedness and risk management, large scale capacity building in natural disaster management and resources management.

It was found out that UNESCO-IHE POWER project and AIT Extension have similar functions. There are many common subjects taught in UNESCO-IHE and AIT, which can be used as a common ground for sandwich and/or dual-degree programs. Hydroinformatics is one of the possibilities among others. It was agreed on the philosophy that much effort should be put into strategic planning and choice of themes so as to reduce the competition with other institutions outside the strategic partnership. The focus should be placed on standardization, harmonization and quality control. Two levels of cooperation were foreseen: at the project level which could cover sustainable development education, natural resources management, bioengineering and capacity building in the areas of water and sustainable development; and at the strategic partnership level which can cover standard setting role, curricula harmonization, accreditation, bridging the gap between universities, different sectors and agencies, UNESCO Chair program, UNESCO Category II centers, region-wide large-scale capacity-building program, science.

UNESCO-IHE and AIT as well as UNESCO-AIT collaboration is already in place and the follow up process will lead to the drafting of agreements and consultation process. Once the agreements are signed the formulating of the action plan and time frame for the implementation of five major themes can begin.