Foreseeing the future needs of higher education and research society in the light of social challenges and disruptive situations
Higher education is being transformed to repond to the disruption caused by the current pandemic. The entire sector of higher education inlcuding the government sector, universities, industry and inernational partners are working together and all becoming the frontline to consolidate their research to tackle the current critical social challenges while maintaining their research capacities and sustain their reseach collaborations during and after the crisis.
The British Council had a conversation with the policy makers from universities and government institutions, who took part in our collaborative programmes called Higher Education Partnerships and Newton Fund. The discussion aimed to gain insights on a possitble shift towards research priority areas and collaborations across sectors including universtiy research.
There has been an increase in the COVID-19 research agenda and ‘intersectoral collaboration’, a cross-disciplinary work, is now emerging. For example, 1 health approach; researchers are now tackling the pandemic issues together with 6 ministries for greater achievements.
Dr. Banchob Sripa - Khon Kaen University
Q: What will internationalisation look like post COVID-19?
Dr. Jackrit (Mahidol University): COVID-19 can be considered somehow as the catalyst to enhance the collaboration process and fully pushes forward online learning in Mahidol University. It also changes the perception of the university’s policy makers in making strategic policy change to work across multiple disciplines and faculties. Developing core competencies, expertise, collaboration and research funding are the main strategies of the university to help develop their excellence.
Dr. Banchob (Khon Kaen University): HEIs will focus more on having and utilising their international network post COVID-19. KKU is now making the use of available network in regional tropical disease network such as NRAS+, Asian Liver Fluke Network, NTDAsia Network in 11 countries to exchange the protocols, platform, news and research advancement to handle the current situation and university itself transitions to completely online learning which responds by Deputy President Digital Department.
Q: How has COVID-19 impacted on the research agenda and priority areas?
Dr. Kallaya (BIOTEC, NSTDA): As a researcher in the NSTDA I am working on the shrimp epizootics in Thailand, where shrimp industry has a high value of more than 100,000 million Baht annually. COVID-19 has affected the research field team by putting it on hold and we are finding the solutions to continue our research, otherwise Thailand will lose the benefits of exploring cost reduction research on shrimp diseases.
Dr. Jackrit: As I have mentioned earlier, as COVID-19 increases the collaborations and partnerships, researchers in the university will have more time to focus on their collaborations and Mahidol offers support as a frontline research team to help in the COVID-19 situation in Thailand and there’s been discussions about standard procedures to protect medical staff.
Dr. Banchob: There has been an increase in the COVID-19 research agenda and ‘intersectoral collaboration’, a cross-disciplinary work, is now emerging. For example, 1 health approach; researchers are now tackling the pandemic issues together with 6 ministries for greater achievements.
People are now educated about the ‘new normal’ of personal hygiene, and it would be a good opportunity to highlight further benefits from this enthusiasm, such as smart city projects where digital literacy helps identify the source of disease and to provide timely treatment or even prevent another wave of the pandemic before it actually occurs.
Q: What other skills should researchers develop?
Dr. Banchob: Researchers need to strengthen their capacity in building and Digital literacy skills development because young, middle and senior researchers would crucially be needed. In addition, researchers must be able to communicate their work to society to create a better impact and raise further research recognition to the public.
Dr. Jackrit: Researchers should possess interdisciplinary skills to share and work with each other with a broader focus on tackling global issues and the knowledge to develop tools and software for research, especially in A.I.
Dr. Kallaya: Researchers should be prepared with Intellectual Property knowledge because it is a crucial preparation for them to step into the digital era of information access. The establishment of the IP centre in the university has a very crucial role to step in, be the middle person, and provide the assistance for the researchers’ benefit.
Q: What should university develop to help the researchers?
Dr. Jackrit: Intellectual Property (IP) requires more attention, especially among local companies in Thailand, however the late emerging trend of venture capital has begun to flourish, and companies have begun to collaborate with the researchers recently, but we are still far behind the others. One of the complications with local patent registration is the time factor; the longer it takes for the IP to be registered, the more risk from the replacement of another technology before the IP is in use.
Thailand should have a supportive ecosystem for patent registration for researchers. The knowledge exchange or training programme should be conducted to strengthen the knowledge of IP between IP departments and IP registers. This will attract more n researchers to engage in local IP registration.
Thai researchers and academics expect to see more support with
Dr. Jackrit: Meeting with UK partners in person is an eye opener and was very useful opportunity. It was the first step to help initiate collaboration with the UK. The British Council could facilitate and bridge the interests of both institutions for further collaboration and support the connections with expertise from many fields of research.
Dr. Banchob: We see a much greater chance for research collaboration using a partner match maker, especially from visits to the UK’s government and institutions in person. Promotion of funding opportunities, news and research information are a must for the researchers’ network.
Dr. Kallaya: The previous event hosted by The British Council can help to reunite researchers at all levels to get to know each other and network which is the fundamental part to initiate collaboration. The British Council could provide the expertise for each field of research funding for intersectoral collaboration and further visits with partners in person could essentially strengthen the growing collaboration and allow them to happen.
Comments from the British Council
Managing your network resources – COVID-19 has halted physical engagement which is the crucial key to strengthen research partnerships. Researchers will have to evaluate their existing resources to respond with the current situation, exploring the existing partnerships and collaborations from the existing partner which would indeed be good practice to minimise and benefit the resource and could be a new opportunity to further the strands of research with even stronger partnerships.
Working collaboratively – New priority areas in the research agenda have been shifted in all levels to correspond to the pandemic situation, including higher education. Universities are now working together in the multidisciplinary practice to encounter the critical issues disrupting their work. This could subsequently be a demonstration of how the higher education sector strives for the ability to adapt and encounter the disruption.
About the Higher Education Partnership Programme
To find out more about HEP and TNE programme, please visit our website
Thank you to project leads from the British Council’s Higher Education Partnerships programme
- Dr. Jackrit Suthakorn Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University
- Dr. Banchob Sripa Senior Research Fellow at the Faculty of Medicine, Khon Kaen University and the Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Research and Control of Opisthorchiasis (Southeast Asian Liver Fluke Disease) at Faculty of Medicine, Khon Kaen University.
- Dr Kallaya Sritunyalucksana Principal Researcher and Lab Head, National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC)