A vision for the Bruneian postgraduate community in the UK

Vance Tan sets out his priorities for the Brunei postgraduate community in the UK and at home.

His Royal Highness Prince ‘Abdul Mateen ibni His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah and research students at a showcase during the Get-Together Ceremony with citizens and residents of Brunei Darussalam at the London Hilton Hotel in 2019 | Cover photography: Brunei Postgraduate Society (courtesy of)


Following my appointment as Postgraduate Secretary for the Brunei Students’ Union in the United Kingdom and Éire, this blog entry sets out my priorities for the Brunei postgraduate community in the UK and at home.

Over the past decade, I have followed the activities of the Brunei postgraduate community closely through the Brunei Postgraduate Society (BPS) to gain some insights into how our research scholars are contributing towards Brunei Vision 2035 (Wawasan Brunei 2035). Brunei Vision 2035 was launched in 2008 as a national vision with three overarching goals, which are achieving: (i) a ‘highly skilled and accomplished people’, (ii) ‘a high quality of life’ and (iii) ‘a dynamic, sustainable economy. 1 Indeed, those three goals have underpinned core components of the flagship Brunei Students’ Research Symposium that the BPS annually hosts. 2

A Titah of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has provided a catalyst for students to elevate their efforts towards realising Brunei Vision 2035 3 – see quoted text below.

“Students are the pillars for progress and excellence centred on the knowledge-based economy and innovation in line with the country’s vision to develop knowledgeable, skillful and civilised citizens and residents.”

An excerpt from a Titah by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam on 30th December 2012 / Translated by the Brunei Postgraduate Society

When I moderated one of the sessions in the sixth BSRS (held at Imperial College London), I was pleased to witness the tremendous innovations that my fellow researchers were pursuing and the applicability of research outputs within a Brunei-specific context. ‘The Physiology of Depression’ by Md Zulfan Farhi bin Haji Sulaini, in particular, captivated the audience’s attention through his explanation of the subject from first principles.

Postgraduate Secretary and the BPS portfolio

On 1st September 2021, I received a letter from the President of BSU confirming my role in the Union as Postgraduate Secretary. For the uninitiated, this role is typically bundled ex officio with the BPS portfolio and the holder is entrusted with direct oversight of the Brunei postgraduate community in the UK and Éire.

Photo credit: Rosaria | Location: Library of St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford

In pre-pandemic times, the Postgraduate Secretary would establish a committee to convene the annual BSRS event at a physical location such as the Royal School of Mines at Imperial College or similar.

However, we ought to contend with the rapidly evolving changes that have sadly caused the BSRS to be abandoned in 2020 and 2021 4. There are some challenges ahead, especially uncertainties surrounding the ever-changing landscape of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a Society, BPS will have to be agile and respond by making a number of adaptations to its current operations.


PRIORITIES FOR BPS

Drawing on my 15-year experience in student leadership roles, I have mapped out a number of immediate priorities for BPS and further directions that my successors can build upon. Broadly, my recommendations fall under three headings: (i) welfare provisions for our postgraduates, (ii) accentuating our Bruneian identity in research, (iii) connecting Brunei researchers around the world.

1 – Welfare provisions for our postgraduates

One of my top priorities for BPS is to help foster a community spirit in a post-pandemic world that would enable researchers to thrive either in a ‘work-from-home’ or hybrid setting, or a combination thereof. This means ensuring Brunei postgraduates are well-equipped with the tools and resources to help them cope with the demands of academic work all the while having to acclimatise to new surroundings. I have kickstarted progress on this front with the establishment of our BPS WhatsApp community that members can request to join through official channels.

2 – Accentuating our Bruneian identity in research

In recognition of the need to prepare our scholars for an increasingly competitive world, our activities should be in line with the aspirations of Brunei Vision 2035. We should continue to underpin our flagship symposium using the three Vision goals, and encourage research works that can accelerate progress on those three fronts. In 2022, I will launch a series of mini-seminars in Humanities, MPLS (Mathematics, Physical & Life Sciences), Medical Sciences and Social Sciences. The categorisation of these seminars is modelled after the University of Oxford’s academic divisions. To encourage wider participation, these mini-seminars should be held online with due consideration for the time zones of our target participants.

3 – Connecting Brunei researchers around the world

The BPS should work closely with local universities (UBD, UNISSA and UTB) and local research organisations to encourage collaborations and exchange of ideas between Brunei researchers at home and abroad. Given the capabilities of electronic conferencing tools, the BPS should explore different variants of BSRS such as the hosting of parallel sessions to support meaningful discourse across the Humanities, MPLS, Medical Sciences and Social Sciences categories.


The new academic year will hopefully provide a renewed sense of focus for many student researchers at home and abroad. I look forward to sharing more updates about progress from the Bruneian postgraduate community over the coming months.

References
  1. Ministry of Finance and Economy, Government of Brunei Darussalam, 2020. Voluntary National Review Report of Brunei Darussalam. 2020 United Nations high-level political forum on sustainable development. [online] Bandar Seri Begawan: Sustainable Development Goals, p.2. Available at: <link> [Accessed 25 December 2021].[]
  2. BruDirect.com. 2016. 2016 BSRS Held to Enhance Students’ Research Qualities, Quantities. [online] Available at: <link> [Accessed 25 December 2021].[]
  3. Brunei Students’ Research Symposium. n.d. BSRS 2019. [online] Available at: <link> [Accessed 25 December 2021].[]
  4. Brunei Postgraduate Society, 2020. [image] Available at: <link> [Accessed 25 December 2021].[]
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