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University scholarships help rebuild Indonesian universities

24 April 2009

(left to right) Muhammad Basyir, Cut Famelia, Mahfud, Diana Sari Unie Nesia(left to right) Muhammad Basyir, Cut Famelia, Mahfud, Diana Sari Unie Nesia

A unique University scholarship scheme has given four Indonesian academics the chance to strengthen much needed research and teaching skills before returning home to help rebuild communities devastated by the 2004 Tsunami.

Cardiff is participating in the British Universities’ scholarship scheme, which was established to offer support following the disaster to two higher education institutions in Aceh, Indonesia.

Now, thanks to this scheme 28-year old Mahfud, 24-year old Diana Sari Unie Nesia, 33-year old Muhammad Basyir and 25-year old Cut Famelia are together living their dream of studying in one of the UK’s leading universities, while helping restore academic strengths across Aceh’s higher education system.

At the end of this academic year the four junior academics will return to their home institution - Universitas Syiah Kuala in Banda Aceh - with valuable teaching, learning and researching skills. They will begin the process of bridging the gap left by colleagues who lost their lives in the Tsunami on 26 December 2004. The University lost almost one in ten of its staff and students, and suffered major damage to their infrastructure, much of which is still to be rebuilt.

Cardiff is one of 13 Russell Group universities in the British Universities’ scheme. The universities committed to providing four fully-funded Masters scholarships, covering the cost of fees and living for a full year for young teaching staff from Institut Agama Islam Negeri Ar-Raniry and Universitas Syiah Kuala in Banda Aceh.

School of Computer Science student, Cut Famelia explains how being a student at Cardiff is a great honour for her. "Education is one of our people's major concerns in redeveloping our country. Cardiff University is very informative. It’s like answering questions before being asked and it is the knowledge and skills we have all gained here which will enable us to contribute to the rebuilding of a "better new Aceh" in the future."

Diana who is studying in the School of Social Sciences said: "I always dreamt of studying in the UK, so when the dream came true through this scholarship I was so glad. I hope to return home to develop a science centre in my hometown to promote a better understanding of science to the public."

Muhammad who is studying in Cardiff Business School and hopes to return home to strengthen the education quality of the economics and marketing courses said: "I have a duty to assist my senior lecturer in delivering economics modules to the students in Syiah Kuala Economics School. I believe that I could transfer the skills gained from Cardiff Business School through my institution."

As well as the educational benefits the students have also experienced a welcoming culture in Cardiff. Mahfud who is studying at Cardiff Law School and will be using his experience not only to teach but also to help establish a better legal aid system to the UK, said: Cardiff’s multi-ethnic society has made me feel I am not like a foreigner but like a resident of Cardiff - I have been made to feel like in my home country. It will be an unforgettable place for me."

University Vice-Chancellor Dr David Grant, said: "It has been a privilege to be in a position to offer these students the opportunity to access urgently needed training opportunities for junior staff in Aceh. This scholarship will make a real difference to them, their University and their community."

The British Council in Indonesia provided free English language tuition for the scholars to bring them up to the English language standards required by UK institutions. Participating universities in the consortium are Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield, Southampton and York.