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Research mentoring in retirement

Become an academic mentor to a university in Southeast Asia

Join our mentor program for retired academics, and work with universities in Thailand and Cambodia.

The University of Sydney has established a scheme to facilitate the involvement of its retired members of academic staff in research mentoring within universities in Southeast Asia. In the first instance, the scheme will cover Thailand and Cambodia. The volunteers would be engaged in research mentoring typically for a short period of three months (or in some cases one semester). A list of universities which have indicated their interest in the scheme is available from the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre.

Mentor scheme

The genesis of the scheme is the realisation that, while many retirees continue to work on research projects with which they have been associated while in post, others do not have academic commitments but continue to be academically/intellectually active and vigorous. Many of these latter retirees have the sense that the capacities and knowledge they have accumulated over years as academics are going to waste. It is these retirees who are likely to be most interested in the scheme.

The scheme enables retirees to form attachments with universities in Southeast Asia. Such attachments allow retirees to remain active in their disciplines and to expose themselves to academic, social and cultural experiences that hitherto they may not have been able to enjoy.

Southeast Asian universities are able to augment the resources at their disposal to expand research capacities and their capacities to train research students. This contributes to the universities’ meeting the expectations of governments.

The scheme is able, with the help of the Australian Education International (an agency of the Australian Government with offices throughout the region) to introduce interested retirees to interested universities.

Each retiree spends a period taking part in research seminars and research training exercises in the relevant department / faculty of a particular host university and, in general, helping to mentor early-career academics and research students. From time to time a retiree may be asked to present a guest lecture.

The details of each retiree’s involvement are negotiated between the retiree and the particular host university. The retiree may negotiate some assistance from the host university to pay for the visa and in meeting costs of transport and of accommodation (perhaps in a university-owned facility).

Under the scheme, a host university in Southeast Asia has to have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Sydney. 

A retiree who is visiting a host university under the aegis of the scheme is not paid a salary. However, a retiree who agrees to teach a unit of study can expect to receive an honorarium for such casual employment within the host university. Where a retiree does teach a unit of study the duration of the arrangement between the retiree and the host university is one semester. The details of each retiree’s involvement are to be negotiated between the retiree and the particular host university.

The retiree’s attachment to a Southeast Asian university under the scheme is deemed to be part of the business of the University of Sydney which hence bears the cost of the retiree’s health and travel insurance.

The retiree receives the assistance of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre in various ways:

  • in establishing contact and a contract with one or another interested university;
  • by way of an induction procedure covering the culture of the host country and its higher education sector and the particularities of the host university in question; and
  • advice on arranging visas.

Otherwise participants in the scheme do not receive financial or other administrative assistance from The University of Sydney.

To preserve its good reputation, the University of Sydney expects the following of each interested retiree:

  • submission of a CV, along with a brief letter identifying what the retiree believes to be his or her strengths in research mentoring;
  • lodgement of a copy of the agreement reached between the retiree and the designated representative of the host university, whereupon the designated member of the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s Executive Committee will also sign the agreement to signify that it has been accepted;
  • securing of a report from the host dean on the contributions the retiree is considered to have made to the host university over the course of the contract;
  • submission by the retiree at the end of the contract of an evaluation of the mentoring experience, and agreement to discuss the experience with prospective participants in the scheme and the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s Communications Officer.

The retiree is not expected to be able to speak the principal language of the host country or the lingua franca (where that is not English), since most of the more ambitious research activity in the region uses English. However, the retiree is expected (by all parties to the scheme) to respect the host country and culture and to commit herself/himself to the objective of contributing to the research capacity and research training capacity of the host country.

Professor Adrian Vickers

Professor of Southeast Asian Studies
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