I was delighted to be able to help the Association of Commonwealth Universities run a workshop on “Doctorates, development and and brain drain” at the recent World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) held in Doha from 1st-3rd November. This focused on four key themes:
- the purposes of a PhD and the characteristics of those who have PhDs
- the quality of a PhD; do we need standards?
- alternative modes of delivery for doctorates
- the brain drain
Although the number of participants was small, the discussion was highly interesting, and the mind map below attempts to capture what we discussed (click WISE 2011 for a .pdf version).
I was privileged to be able to attend the CHOGM Opening Ceremony this morning – and privileged is indeed the right word. It was amazing, and the team that put it together on behalf of the Australian government should be congratulated. It was an incredibly moving experience, bringing together many of the traditions that make up contemporary Australia. What made it work so well was not only the fantastic modern graphics and the use of technology, but also the very human scale of the ceremony. I know I was not the only one moved to tears when an elder spoke on behalf of the land that we were all sharing; the special space and time that made that moment in the Commonwealth’s history. The quality of the dancing was superb – I need to take some breakdancing lessons from the true masters who were performing today; the ballet was breathtaking. My pictures below do not do full justice to the spectacle and the emotion, but I do hope that they give a flavour of what was a memorable experience. Thank you Australia – and Perth!
A Saturday free (apart from those pesky e-mails) in Trinidad provided a great opportunity to get to know the island a little better (e-mails should be for offices, and people with nothing better to do!). Thanks to Clint Ross for taking Marcel and me on pot-holed roads, through torrential rain, and avoiding the snake on the way… It has to be one of the first times I have ever taken a spare day after a conference to go exploring. I must learn to do this more often. Sorry to all of those still wanting a reply to an e-mail – I’m thinking of revising my policy specifically to exclude sending e-mails at the weekend! I will have to find time to come back to the Asa Wright Nature Centre and go for long walks in the hills…
An invitation to give the opening keynote address (video) at the “Commonwealth, Human Rights and Development” conference held at Cumberland Lodge from 11th-13th March 2011, gave me the opportunity to pull together some of my thoughts over the last couple of years concerning democracy and human rights. In particular, I sought to address:
- the diversity of meanings attributed to democracy;
- the coalescence of interest between the rhetorics of democracy and the free market following the collapse of the Soviet Union;
- the importance of the notion of democracy in the Commonwealth
- the character of democratic institutions; and
- the need to challenge widely taken for granted assumptions about the benefits of democracy and human rights.
In so doing, I drew six main conclusions:
- Notions of democracy and universal human rights should be contested and not accepted automatically as something ‘good’.
- We need to contest many of the claims to legitimacy of democratic states and rulers. In particular, attempts by powerful states to impose democracy on other states, seem to me to be highly hypocritical.
- Instead of seeking to impose democracy on others, those who believe in democratic values would be better advised to help support the development of democratic institutions, especially elected parliaments, the judiciary and political parties
- Discourses on rights should be balanced by ones on responsibilities; a shift of attention to responsibility might well be able to deliver more for the poor and the marginalised
- The communal traditions of Africa may offer interesting insights to counter the negative aspects of the individualism associated with human rights, democracy and capitalism.
- Finally, it seems to me that a practical focus on how we treat others, especially the poor and the marginalised, is of much more importance than claiming that they have universal human rights.
I remain to be convinced that humans do indeed have universal rights.
Thanks to the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP) Endowment Fund, Commonwealth scholarships and fellowships are now available in more countries than ever. New awards are available in Kenya, Mauritius, Tanzania, the South Pacific, Nigeria and South Africa.
A CSFP Press Release notes that: “Postgraduate students in Commonwealth countries can apply to study in a range of new destinations from 2011, thanks to a range of international scholarships launched this week. The first set of scholarships, set to start between September 2011 and February 2012, are for Master’s degree study in Kenya, Mauritius, Tanzania, and the South Pacific. A three-month Commonwealth Fellowship for an established academic at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria is also available. In addition, two Commonwealth Scholarships for PhD and postdoctoral study are also currently available at the University of Pretoria, in South Africa. These scholarships have been made available by the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan endowment fund. The fund, established to mark the 50th anniversary of Commonwealth Scholarships in 2009, has now raised over £2 million, through contributions from alumni and Commonwealth governments. According to Fund Secretary Dr John Kirkland, the stated aim of the fund is to broaden the range of destinations in which Commonwealth Scholarships can be held: ‘In the 1960s, there was a sizeable number of international students undertaking postgraduate research at universities in developing countries – particularly in Africa. Now, after a period of decline in the 1980s and 1990s, many of these universities are actively looking to recruit international students again’.”