Sydney internationalising the student experience in Health Sciences

6 May 2008

Associate Professor Martin Thompson at the signing ceremony
Associate Professor Martin Thompson at the signing ceremony

The University of Sydney's Faculty of Health Sciences has forged new relations with one of Malaysia's most prestigious research-intensive universities, after a two-day symposium on exercise, sports medicine and rehabilitation.

The inaugural symposium, Enhancing Human Performance: The Australian and Malaysian Experience, took place at the University of Malaya on April 16-17 and sought to establish areas of mutual interest with a view to collaborating further through joint research programs, joint PhD programs and student exchange.

"It went extremely well," said Associate Professor Martin Thompson, Pro-Dean of the University of Sydney's Faculty of Health Sciences (International) who delivered a keynote lecture on the limitations to prolonged exercise performance in hot environments.

"There were lively discussions with a lot of interest in furthering the exchange of students and research collaboration, and I think the concrete foundation has now been laid for developing and building upon a relationship with the University of Malaya."

The first building block came into place with the signing of a co-tutelle agreement allowing for the co-supervision of PhD candidates. Two students from the University of Malaya will begin their jointly-supervised PhD's in the coming months, with several more potential PhD candidates to follow in the future.

"It will be great to see these two staff have a good PhD experience not only for themselves but we also see it as part of a pyramid-selling scheme as they are quite senior staff at their universities," Assoc. Prof. Thompson said.

The coming together of students and staff is also likely to create a platform for further collaboration on research beyond the PhD students' research and foster lifelong networks.

"Networking is a feature of going forward and allows you to take advantage of the opportunities that linking up with others provides. I see the interlinking that comes through the co-tutelle as an interchange for collaborative research from academic to academic so I think it's excellent," Assoc. Prof. Thompson said.

And he speaks from experience. The symposium evolved from discussions between Assoc. Prof. Thompson and Dr Ahmad Munir Che Muhamed. Dr Muhamed completed a PhD under the supervision of Assoc. Prof. Thompson before becoming a member of the University of Malaya's staff. Their personal relationship has forged a valuable relationship between these two esteemed institutions.

Another concrete building block came into place with the identification of several potential areas for collaborative research, including stroke rehabilitation, heat stress and performance in hot environments, and exercise as a form of medicine.

Louise Freckelton, Manager of International Relations in the University of Sydney's Faculties of Health International Office, who travelled to Malaysia to outline funding opportunities and ensure the relationship moved forward, said the University of Malaya is very keen to begin collaborative research and raise its profile.

"We've met each other and formed great relationships, now we're very seriously thinking about how we might collaborate around these research areas, honing in on exactly what we want to do and the mechanics of applying some research funding."

The benefits of collaboration are also certain to trickle down to the classroom as the University of Sydney continues to work on internationalising the student experience.

"We're very clear within the Faculties of Health that we want to ready our graduates for an international work experience and international research life," said Ms Freckelton.

"Education and research don't have national boundaries and the symposium is a living, breathing part of it. This feeds back into the classroom; international examples get used, international research is quoted and Australian students are provided with a much more diverse experience."

"We're really at the cusp of things and times ahead are quite exciting!" Assoc. Prof. Thompson added.

Contact: Claudia Liu

Phone: 02 9351 3191