RM4.9 million European fund promotes diversity, multiculturalism, virtual mobility amongst education partners, students & NGO’s in Europe and Southeast Asia
Living in mixed communities in countries across the globe leads to diversity and a multicultural environment which gives rise to the need for a culture of tolerance, mutual understanding and peace, to build a harmonious society. In the case of universities and students, this experience is through outward mobility - where students travel away from their homes to undertake their studies in other countries, currently restricted due to the global pandemic. However, technology has come to the rescue by making possible virtual mobility and intercultural engagement.
Since early 2019, by being part of the European Commission’s ERASMUS+ FRIENDS Project, which is built around the concept of Internationalisation at Home (IaH), APU has played its part in furthering international relations capacities and intercultural engagement to nurture campus diversity – materialising what FRIENDS stands for, as part of ERASMUS+ key action for capacity building in higher education.
ERASMUS is an acronym for the European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students. It was established in 1987 by the European Community. Led by Prof. Dr. Andy Seddon, Senior Director of Partnership and Standards at APU, the prime goal of the FRIENDS project is to develop students’ global competence through the integration of intercultural dimensions into the university’s formal and informal curriculum.
In Asia, there are a total of 12 higher education institutions partnering with the EU for the ERASMUS+ FRIENDS project, namely two in Malaysia (including APU), two in Bhutan, two in Cambodia, three in the Philippines and three in Thailand.
With a diverse international student community from more than 130 countries, and recognised for a multicultural learning experience , APU is well-positioned to undertake the ERASMUS+ FRIENDS project with successful outcomes.
APU FRIENDS Day: international & intercultural festival
The recent 2nd Annual APU FRIENDS Day: International and Intercultural Festival, showcased 190 digital stories on cross-cultural experiences. Ultimately five (5) best stories were selected as winners. The judging panel included Assoc. Prof. Wong Bee Suan, Head of School of Computing and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Jason James Turner, Head of School of Business.
The judges commented, “From the shared stories, we saw a real and personal reflection on an experience that has shaped the student’s attitudes towards other cultures, or how the experience helped them to break down pre-conceived ideas. The winners were chosen based on each student’s ability to demonstrate and create an original and creative story with a clear message which was both inspiring and motivating.”
Besides the digital story competition, ERASMUS+ FRIENDS Teahouse was virtually launched during this festival. It will serve as a meeting place on campus, a hub for the Student Representative Council (SRC), where its members will be able to meet, discuss, and organise events; it will also be an international mobility zone to promote pathways and semester breaks activities, and an area to promote intercultural awareness and cultural diversity module. Students will be able to borrow and use the ERASMUS+ equipment to record and edit their digital stories.
According to Prof Dr Andy, the ERASMUS+ FRIENDS project with an RM4.9 million allocation shared among four European partners and 12 Southeast Asia partners, will continue to be funded until November 2022. “To extend beyond the end of the funding period, the FRIENDS Teahouse will widen its scope to create an ongoing cultural dialogue with local minorities and locals of different cultural backgrounds. In addition, FRIENDS Teahouse will ‘adopt’ a local community group and will jointly develop a Community Development Plan.”
APU FRIENDS DAY: Celebrating Diversity & Inclusivity NGOs
APU FRIENDS Day also celebrated the work done by NGOs with students especially in the areas of poverty, mental health and equal opportunities. The event featured seven NGOs, namely Soroptimist International Region of Malaysia (SIROM), Soroptimist international Club of Shah Alam, Yayasan Health on World, Rumah Ozanam, Campus Hope and Kiwanis KL Central.
The discussion session focused on diversity and inclusivity where APU and its partner university, De Montfort University (DMU), shared a similar outlook on these aspects. Dr Simon Oldroyd, Pro-Vice-Chancellor at DMU, Mrs Elizabeth Hathaway, Associate Dean (International), Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Media at DMU, were among the guest speakers. Besides, Ms Christine Armutlieva, ERASMUS+ Coordinator from Bulgaria, also shared her view on the FRIENDS project.
In the diversified world that we are living in, the key skills graduates need to succeed in a global marketplace are self-direction, adaptability, creativity & innovation, motivation, empathy and have digital capabilities. All these qualities employ both hard and soft employability skills which are developed through internships, international exposure and business engagement. With the above opportunities provided, on top of resources from the ERASMUS+ FRIENDS Project, and the Intercultural Awareness and Cultural Diversity (IACD) module delivered on campus, APU is looking forward to producing well-rounded and versatile graduates with mature ethical development.