Research Mentoring in Retirement in Southeast Asia

The University of Sydney has recently established a scheme to facilitate the involvement of retired members of the academic staff of The University of Sydney in research mentoring within universities in Southeast Asia. In the first instance, the scheme will cover Thailand and Cambodia. The volunteers would be engaged in research mentoring typically for a short period of three months (or in some cases one semester). A list of universities which have indicated their interest in the scheme will be available from the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre (SSEAC).


The genesis of the scheme is the realisation that, while many retirees continue to work on research projects with which they have been associated while in post, others do not have academic commitments to the University but continue to be academically/intellectually active and vigorous. Many of these latter retirees have the sense that the capacities and knowledge they have accumulated over years as academics are going to waste. It is these retirees who are likely to be most interested in the scheme (the RMR scheme).

What do retirees get out of the scheme?

The scheme enables retirees to form attachments with universities in Southeast Asia. Such attachments allow retirees to remain active in their disciplines and to expose themselves to academic, social and cultural experiences that hitherto they may not have been able to enjoy.

How do participating universities benefit?

Southeast Asian universities are able to augment the resources at their disposal to expand research capacities and their capacities to train research students. This contributes to the universities’ meeting the expectations of governments, such as in the case of the government of Thailand which has recently nominated a number of state universities as research universities.

How does the scheme work?

The scheme is able, with the help of the local officers of Australian Education International (an agency of the Australian government with offices throughout the region) to introduce interested retirees to interested universities. The AEI officers involved in the first instance will be those in Bangkok and in Hanoi (the officer there having responsibility for Cambodia as well as Vietnam).

Each retiree spends a period taking part in the research seminars and research training exercises in the relevant department / faculty of a particular host university and, in general, in helping to mentor early-career academics and research students. From time to time a retiree may be asked to present a ‘guest lecture’.

The details of each retiree’s involvement are negotiated between the retiree and the particular host university. The retiree may negotiate some assistance from the host university to pay for the visa and in meeting costs of transport and of accommodation (perhaps in a university-owned facility).

Under the scheme, a host university in Southeast Asia has to have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with The University of Sydney. Where no MoU has already been established with a prospective host university, the business of doing so can be expected to be straightforward.

Will participants in the scheme receive any income?

A retiree who is visiting a host university under the aegis of the scheme is not paid a salary. However a retiree who agrees to teach a unit of study can expect to receive an honorarium for such casual employment within the host university. Where a retiree does teach a unit of study the duration of the arrangement between the retiree and the host university is one semester. The details of each retiree’s involvement are to be negotiated between the retiree and the particular host university.

The retiree’s attachment to a Southeast Asian university under the scheme is deemed to be part of the business of The University of Sydney and hence the University bears the cost of the retiree’s health and travel insurance.

What role does SSEAC play?

The retiree receives the assistance of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre in various ways:

  • in establishing contact and a contract with one or another interested university
  • by way of an induction procedure covering matters to do with the culture of the host country and its higher education and the particularities of the universities in question, including their particular histories; and
  • advice on arranging visas.

Otherwise participants in the scheme do not receive financial or other administrative assistance from The University of Sydney.

Expectations of participants in the scheme

To preserve its good reputation, The University of Sydney expects a number of things of each interested retiree. These are as follows:

  • the submission of a CV at the time of indicating interest in the scheme, along with a brief letter identifying what the retiree believes to be his or her strengths in research mentoring
  • lodgement of a copy of the agreement reached between the retiree and the designated representative of the host university as soon as that has been established, whereupon the designated member of the executive of SSEAC will also sign the agreement to signify that it has been accepted by SSEAC
  • the securing of a report from the host dean on the contributions the retiree is considered to have made to the host university over the course of the contract
  • the submission by the retiree at the end of the contract of an evaluation by the retiree of the mentoring experience, and agreement to discuss the experience with prospective participants in the scheme and the editor of the SSEAC Newsletter

The retiree is not expected to be able to speak the principal language of the host country or the lingua franca (where that is not English), since most of the more ambitious research activity in the region uses English. However, the retiree is expected (by all parties to the scheme) to respect the host country and culture and to commit herself/himself to the objective of contributing to the research capacity and research training capacity of the host country.


Any person interested in participating in the scheme should contact . If you have a retired colleague who would not normally read this notice, but who you feel may be interested in the scheme, please alert them to the scheme.