Developing research capacity in the Maldives through international collaboration

Year: 2017

Author: Robotin, Monica, DiBiase, Rhonda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper will consider the experiences of two academics who initiated international collaboration projects with the Maldives National University. This university was established in 2011, emerging from the Maldives College of Education. For a small island developing state this was a major achievement to provide Maldivians with expanding educational opportunities, as Maldivians had typically looked abroad for higher education opportunities. A World Bank report in 2011, called attention to the needs of the nascent tertiary sector and identified a need within the sector, to generate research capacity and output and promote international linkages. Through the Australian Government's Endeavour Fellowships program, two Australian academics were funded to collaborate with local academics within the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Health Sciences. The growth in the university saw the commencement of a Master of Education program in 2013 and a Master of Public Health in 2014. The two Endeavour projects shared the common goal of enhancing local research capacity with the Faculties of Health Sciences and Education, although approached this in a different way. The project within the Faculty of Health Sciences aimed to strengthen Public Health research capacity by conducting a stakeholder consultation. This was designed to identify local Public Health research priorities to inform the subject of Master's level research, while also advancing Public Health policy and practice. Within the Faculty of Education, the project sought to raise the profile of local education research through a local education conference showcasing the research of Faculty staff and students.
Using an auto-ethnographic approach this paper will critically analyse the planning and implementation of these projects. This analysis highlights the necessity of attending to contextual sensitivities in international collaborative work and the key role that local customs and culture have in shaping the academic discourse. The findings also examine the benefits and limitations of such international collaborations and draws attention to the challenges and opportunities in establishing and maintaining cross-cultural partnerships.