Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam have different priorities and issues in their educational systems. This is due to the fact of their stage of development. According to the Global Competiveness Report (GCR, 2016), Cambodia is a factor driven economy and its higher education is ranked 123th out of 132 states. The country is focusing on building skills for learning and providing opportunities for access to technical and specialized skills for the youth. Vietnam is defined as a transition economy, its higher education system is ranked 83th (GCR, 2016). A major concern is outdated curricula, a lecturer-centered method of teaching and learning, a lack of linkage between teaching and research activities. Thailand is an efficiency driven economy. The country has 8 universities in QS World University Rankings 2016-2017. According to GCR, 2016, the higher education is on 62nd place. The main priorities of its tertiary education are strengthening higher education capacity in creating knowledge and innovation, and utilization of networking of higher education institutions as well as public and private partnerships.
Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam are part of ASEAN. In regard to their ongoing integration within this community, it is important to undertake such joint projects which aim to strengthen the multidisciplinary research and exchange of expertise and knowledge. Even though ASEAN manages to promote conventional socioeconomic development in areas such as trade and education, the issues of the region around the sustainable development of natural resources require more cross-sectoral coordination and policy integration. This is an area which ASEAN in its current form cannot operationalize. Therefore, the WANASEA consortium have chosen to improve the cooperation between these states on WNRM. The three partner countries are characterized by a deeply-changing economic and social environment as well as growth with particular pressures on water and natural resources. Water and Natural Resource Management (WNRM) theme raises societal matters of major importance carried by a multi-scalar analytical framework – from local to transnational, transversal and multidisciplinary. It addresses essential aspects such as governance, geopolitics, energy needs, the effects of climate change, dynamic landscape, forms of impacts and risks associated with hydraulic development on societies and the environment, irrigation and drainage, social water management, inequalities and vulnerabilities, food security, water supply and sanitation.
The conviction, supported by experience, which forms the basis of this initiative is that it is urgent to place scientific knowledge at the heart of the processes used for the construction of collective practices and the development of public policies. This common axis of study and training resides at the heart of the development of ASEAN states Therefore, the WANASEA consortium aims to:
- promote the multidisciplinary research.
- foster an institutionally-supported research practice, which goes beyond pure academic research and contributes not only to the creation of new knowledge but to the understanding and treatment of contemporary problems as well;
- help position universities as places for the production and transmission of knowledge, which are open to the world and interact regularly with public and private actors involved in any process of change.
Moreover, the WNRM theme is consistent with the priorities of EU-ASEAN cooperation, as illustrated in the 3rd ASEM Sustainable Development Seminar on Water Management organized in 2014 in ASEAN-EU STI Days (Hanoi, 2016) or, at a larger scale, in the SWITCH-Asia II Programme (launched in 2016), having as its main priority the systematic change towards environment and climate-friendly consumption and production approaches in the GMS. In an original way, the deployed system will promote forms of dialogue and collaboration between academic actors and development operators in a broad sense. It is by integrating the uses and practices related to water and the exploitation of natural resources with new efforts and technological innovation that WANASEA proposes to instill lasting changes.
WANASEA has the following objectives:
1) Enhance the scientific cooperation between researchers, PhD students and non-academic Stakeholders.
A number of training sessions and seminars (ASEAN Water Platforms – AWPs) will be organized. Participants and trainers will be carefully selected based on transparent criteria and clear evaluation process. A set of online tools and applications will be utilised in order to promote exchange of expertise.
We expect researchers from different ASEAN and European countries to undertake joint research activities and publish papers not only in the website of WANASEA, but also in international peer reviewed journals. Synergies with other Erasmus projects and existing research networks will be made.
2) Improve the quality of Master and PhD programs in the Asian partner universities.
Through multidisciplinary and innovative approaches, sharing of good European practises in the higher education, WANASEA is expected to bring long lasting benefits. A report which will include the main gaps in skills and knowledge related to Water Natural Resources Management (WNRM) will be written. Based on the feedback of wide range of stakeholders we expect to come with good operational solutions for partners’ universities curriculum. AWPs will be places to test innovative teaching and research practices on this topic.
3) Development of relevant multidisciplinary research.
WNRM requires multidisciplinary and transversal approach. We believe that by connecting researchers and/or PhD students having different background and making them work together will increase the quality of research in the partner countries. Moreover, the collaborations with the non-academic stakeholders will help Asian Higher Education Institutes to produce useful research.
4) Strengthening the scientific collaboration between Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Europe
The aim of the project is to improve the research capacity by undertaking joint research activities on WNRM field. Implementation of network animation, training and specific research activities will encourage the cooperation between partners which, as a consequence, will increase the number of joint international publications and degrees. In long run, such collaboration could lead to a set of policy recommendations which will contribute to the sustainable development of water and natural resources and solve some of the current transboundary issues related to fisheries and construction of dams on the Mekong River and its main tributaries.
5) Make Asian and European universities more internationalised
International mobility and all activities within the scope of the project are good for the international image for all partners. The project will allow universities to further extend their cooperation after the end of the project through the continuation of AWPs on an even wider level including Lao PDR and Myanmar.
ASEAN university staff members will enjoy the opportunity to come to Europe and observe good research
Activities and Methodologies
At the beginning of WANASEA, a kick-off meeting was held in Hanoi, Vietnam during January 18 and 19, 2018 at the Graduate Academy of Social Sciences (GASS), where the methodologies, activities, objectives, budget and action plan were discussed and agreed upon.
The first task is to strive to enhance the management and operational capacities of the project. A common agreement regarding the validation of the work plan, organisational chart and the composition of the Project Management Board (PMB) was made. The PMB is responsible for the definition and supervision of the project’ strategies and implementation. Standard operating procedures (SoPs) have been defined to describe the project steps and methods, including the planning of tasks between partners, the number and nature of reports, the templates and list of actions, and the communication tools.
This manual will be presented and adopted during the second Consortium Meeting. In addition, a dissemination plan was prepared. It contains a clear strategy on the promotion of AWPs and trainings, the management of the website, accounts in social media, and the sustainability of the project. A common logo of the project along with clear specifications regarding the website of WANASEA was agreed upon in Hanoi.
The first development package of the project is the needs assessment in WNRM in partner countries.
It aims to emphasize skills and knowledge gap in this field. In that regard, a round table on WRNM will be organised in order to gather together professionals and academics with different backgrounds. The existing multidisciplinary research in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand along with the non-academic stakeholders’ needs will be highlighted. A survey will be conducted among selected stakeholders in order to identify their needs and the main issues in the sector. An up-to-date catalogue of the existing Master’s and Ph.D. degree programs on WNRM will be set. Based on the survey and the catalogue, the report will provide a set of recommendation.
The second development package aims to improve the quality of teaching and research support for WNRM.
Excellence in research in a given research field cannot exist without both a strong research support and a high quality of Master and Ph.D. Programmes. The critical size of research in WNRM cannot be reached by only one ASEAN University. Therefore, it is important to create a large research network sharing different disciplinary research methodologies. This network should not be restricted only to ASEAN Partners. It will be open for stakeholders outside the consortium and also for European partners of WANASEA. This scientific collaboration within the network will be reinforced by the organisation of training sessions and mobility for ASEAN and EU staff.
The third development package aims to build the research capacity of students and young researchers related to WNRM.
The main outcome of this package will be the launch of an annual ASEAN Water Platform (AWP). This platform will be an annual research seminar which will bring together young researcher from Asian and EU partners. Its main objective is to increase their research capacity by learning new innovative methodologies, multi-disciplinary approach to solve complex problems, and by creating durable links between each other. Around 80 people will be selected to participate to this annual 10 days event. The host country will change every year. Furthermore, other countries such as Lao PDR and Myanmar will be contacted in order to expand the AWPs in other ASEAN states after the end of the project.
During each AWP, researchers and students will be given the possibility to present their research outcomes, proceedings (hard copy and video) will be released. New conference tool such as ConnexMe and other applications will be used to share and increase exchange between participants. AWP will offer an excellent opportunity to connect Asian and European students with ASEAN and European professors.
The first three development packages are not sufficient by themselves to maintain and widen the WNRM network.
The goal of the last development package is to ensure the sustainability of WANASEA.
For this purpose, two tasks will be delivered during the lifespan of the project. The first task, in relation with the second development package, will be to propose specific network animations for researchers and teachers in the consortium, such as on-line training sessions (webinars), up-to-date research presentations, conference calls, grant calls, etc. For example, a webinar will be proposed on the use of innovative research tools, as agent-based method, to simulate flood in the Mekong basin. When appropriate, these animations will not be just restricted to the consortium staff but will include non-academic stakeholders involved in WNRM.
Quality and monitoring of the project will be ensured by annual self-assessment reports. These reports will be based on progress reports. At the end of every year, internal audit will be organised. At the end of the last year, an independent audit will be conducted as well. The Project Manager (PM) will check which objectives have been achieved and which ones have not been, and why. Following every annual report, changes in the work plan and activities might be made. Outcomes, updates and announcements will be communicated internally and externally through the project website. This website will facilitate the scientific exchange between researchers working on WNRM. It will provide also proceedings of the AWP, in hard-copy and Video, and any information relevant for the project. In order to ensure the achievement of the above-mentioned objectives, the PMB will be created and chaired by the PM. Regular meetings will be set. Project milestones are presented in the annual self-assessment report, showing the progress of the project with regard to scheduled tasks, the main difficulties and possible solutions.
A set of online tools and applications will be developed in order to form both singular and complementary activities. This project will build an international network on the central theme of water and natural resources in the Greater Mekong Subregion. The main innovative tools to be deployed are multidisciplinary and transversal approaches focusing and a framework for training and exchange in a closed seminar format. New methodologies will be developed in order to promote agent-based modeling, emergence of an intercultural scientific community which includes public and private development actors in WNRM field.
The main priority of WANASEA is to foster the multidisciplinary research and to improve the cooperation between HEIs, Research Centers, and Stakeholders in WRNM sector. The training sessions and seminars (AWPs) will unite researchers, PhD candidates, professors and professionals from various fields around the topics of water and natural resources. This will rise awareness about the current transboundary issues in the Greater Mekong Subregion regarding WNRM. WANASEA will generate and disseminate new knowledge which goes beyond methodological exchange. Participants on these events will develop their research skills and learn how to work together on complex issues such as WNRM. In this regard, a network of academic and nonacademic stakeholders will be animated. A number of trips (EU-ASIA) will take place in order to promote exchange of expertise. Most of the events in WANASEA will be open for public. This will make the impact of WANASEA broader. In long run we expect to have a positive impact on the regional polices and to improve the dialogue on an institutional level between the three partner countries. The project will create a movement by including stakeholders outside the consortium, non-research institutions and students. With the support of EU partners, Asian HEIs will develop their curriculum and improve the quality of already existing courses in WNRM. Intellectual and cultural openness are the leading principles of the project. In long run we expect to generate many joint-research articles, reports and other proceedings which will eventually bring a positive change to all partners. In order to have bigger impact, some proceedings, videos and reports will be translated into Khmer, Thai, Vietnamese and French. In long run, WANASEA aims to contribute to the decision makers in partner countries. Therefore, WANASEA will seek institutional support from Ministries, Embassies and international organizations in order to disseminate efficiently all research outputs and to contribute to the sustainable management of water resources in the region. Our objective is to integrate courses on WNRM in the HEIs curriculums, which eventually will strengthen the scientific and institutional partnership between the institutions involved in the project. WANASEA will contribute to the dialogue between EU and Asian research institutions. It should lead to better quality of education in partner countries and international recognition of proposed modules and new joint-PhD and Master programs. Finally, all partners of the project have already expressed their strong commitment to work together in order to achieve their common goal, high quality of research, better education, long-term partnerships, closer integration and positive regional change.