The Role of University of Yangon in the NIHED for Transforming Higher Education in Myanmar

  • By Professor Chaw Chaw Sein

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The year 2020 will be the centennial milestone of the University of Yangon (UY) and it is poised to re-establish itself as Myanmar’s Flagship University by restructuring into faculty system. The reforms will include enhancing university management, developing effective QA Framework, upgrading the Universities Research Center and channeling the Center with partner Universities both local and international in order to achieve qualified research papers for publication. Since political transition took place in Myanmar in 2011, the UY is in the process of revitalization efforts and has been participating in higher education development programmes. Among these programmes, UY involvement in the National Institute for Higher Education Development (NIHED), which is one of the drivers of higher education reform, is a remarkable one.
Firstly, let me explain about the NIHED. To strengthen and support the management of universities in Myanmar, the NIHED pilot programme was introduced in November 2017 in line with National Education Policy Commission (NEPC). The NIHED aims to provide in-service professional development training and to undertake research on the issues of management and governance in the higher education sector. As a first activity of the pilot programme, the British Council and Irrawaddy Policy Exchange (IPE) organized series of workshop on “Transforming Higher Education in Myanmar” in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. The aim of this programme is to implement a group institutional project and to enhance a personal leadership-learning portfolio. Senior management team of eleven universities participated in this programme.
These universities are University of Yangon, Yangon Technological University, Medical University 1, Institute of Economics, Sitwwe University, Myit Kyi Na University, Taunggyi University, Mandalay University, Mandalay Technological University, Yezin Agricultural University and Yangon Institute of Education. Under this programme, the first workshop on “ Strategic leadership and management” was held from 21st-23rd November 2017 at Pin Long Hall, UY with the aim to enhance the leadership style and administration skills. The attendees were the senior trainees such as Rectors, Pro-rectors, Professors, senior academics and senior administrative officers from eleven Universities of Myanmar. International experts from Institute of Education, University College of London (UCL), moderated the workshop sessions.
Besides participating in workshops and designing the project to be completely implemented in October, the UY, together with other 11 Universities take part in Live Webinar on ‘Learning Technologies in Higher Education’. The Live Webinar is lived by Institute of Education, UCL, to all eleven universities as a network communication and engagement. It has taken place on the 20th and 26th April, 21st August 2018. This is a great opportunity for UY to participate in the Webinar as an online meeting held via the Internet and communicate with UCL, to listen the lectures and to give feed back of our own institutional project.
The second workshop was held from 19th to 22nd February 2018. It was held with two sessions namely “ Strategic leadership and management” and “Leading and managing research”. The UY participated in developing leadership and management competence, coaching and mentoring, role of research for universities, role of ethics in research. The workshop ended with the preparation of upcoming National Education Conference to be held in June 2018. The third workshop was held from 25th to 27th 2018. It was held with two sessions namely “ Leading and managing teaching quality” “ Leading and managing curriculum design”. The fourth workshop was held from 15th to 17th October, followed by National Education Conference from 19th to 20th October 2018 at Diamond Jubilee Hall. All eleven universities gave presentations on the outcomes of their institutional projects.
As each participating University is required to design a project, the UY designed a project on “ Developing Training on Research Management”. The aim of choosing this topic is to draft research strategy for the University, to provide systematic, ongoing research support for UY staff and students to build their own research capacity and attract research grants. It also aims to achieve a significant increase in the number of domestic and international research grants and domestic and international research publications. The process of designing the project has been spearheaded by the University of Yangon Research team and builds on the experience of a number of previous efforts. The NIHED trainers of UY have spearheaded the methodology of designing the project. The meeting headed by the Rector with Heads of all Departments was held at Council Chamber of UY to find out the strength and challenges in managing research. Moreover, in order to improve the research management skills for the Processors and Associate professors who are the key in transforming the University autonomy, the NIHED trainers of UY conducted a workshop on “Training on Research Management” on 5th October, 2018 at the Science Hall, UY. Forty staffs, two from each twenty Departments participated the workshop. The workshop was held with three sessions and the first session highlighted “Understanding the role of Adult Learners”. The second session explained about “Leadership Style” and the third session focused on “ Research Management”. The workshop ended with findings from their experience in doing and managing research. The challenges in managing research can be explored based on the discussion at the meeting of Heads of Department as well as the findings from the workshop. These challenges are such as limited funding for research, limited knowledge on research procedure, lack of time and inspiration, weak in research methodology and no definite ethics review committee. In order to overcome these challenges, the action plan for research management of UY is planned to be implemented not later than 2020 as follows:-
• University will form University Research Ethics Committee and develop Ethical Research Policies to ensure that ethical standards are upheld.
• The University will develop a list of priority themes and research clusters at UY, which are in line with government priorities, in consultation with the community and professional fields.
• The most active and productive researchers at UY will form
 research groups based on priority themes to coordinate and conduct research.
• The Centers for University Research (CUR) will coordinate and publicize research activities undertaken by UY faculty and students and liaise with domestic and international partners in building research capacity, will attract external research funding and promoting collaborative research projects, will act as a link to industry and coordinator of internships and other tools of experiential learning for students and faculty; 
to develop effective policies and practices to support and reward international, peer-reviewed publications of academic staff; 
to introduce research mentoring schemes between senior and junior academic staff, and improve mentoring of students, including through international cooperation.
Let me highlight how the senior trainers from UY benefit by participating the NIHED pilot programme. The programme includes four workshops, two national education conferences, Webinar lectures and institution-based project. Four workshops namely (1) Strategic leadership and management (2) leading and managing research, (3) leading and managing teaching quality (4) leading and managing curriculum design are beneficial for eleven participating universities in the process of transforming higher education. The workshops provide different models in leadership style such as assimilating, converging, accommodating styles and the role of coaching, facilitating, and mentoring in managing the University. In the area of research, it is useful for the participants to learn how to balance teaching and research priorities, what are the elements of good research proposal and how the role of ethics is important in doing research. The workshops also contribute to design and review curriculum for research-based teaching. Two national education conferences, which were held in June 2018 and October 2018, also help us to understand the clear role of National Education Policy Commission, National Accreditation and Quality Assurance Committee, Rectors Committee and National Curriculum Committee in transforming higher education. The participants also have opportunity to learn the importance of equity in higher education from the international perspectives. The two conferences not only provide us to discuss the challenges faced by many universities but also aid to prepare for the challenges and reforms when autonomy will be granted in the future. The most interesting programme of the NIHED is the institutional-based project. Each participating university is required to complete a project to make a significant improvement in a priority area for itself. As UY is planned to become a research-oriented and research-based teaching University, it is expected that a project on “Developing Training on Research Management” will contribute in drafting a clear research strategy that will fulfill the needs of UY research management in transforming higher education.
Reference:
National Education Strategic Plan (2016-2021), Chapter 12

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