Volume 8 Number 5
May 14 - June 9 2012
This month marks the 10-year anniversary of East Timorese independence, and it’s also a significant milestone for the country’s national university, the Universidade Nacional Timor Lorosa’e (UNTL).
Just 18 months before Xanana Gusmao was sworn in as the country’s first president in 2002, the UNTL opened its doors to students, effectively replacing the former Universitas Timor Timur which was closed in 1999.
Resources were scarce, with those classrooms fit for use having minimal furniture, no internet, no library and none of the facilities considered essential in today’s teaching and learning environments.
A legacy of the country’s fight for independence, it was education in its most fundamental form.
Now, more than a decade on, the UNTL continues to build on these foundations.
Through its formal partnership with the University of Melbourne, seven UNTL vice-deans took part in tailored leadership training at the Parkville campus last month.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Warren Bebbington says the program was developed following a request from UNTL Rector Dr Aurelio Guterres to access leadership training for his senior staff.
“Assisting UNTL vice deans with the development of academic management skills is a very practical way we can contribute to growth in Timor-Leste, so we offered to do a brief version of our heads training, coupled with our shadowing programs,” Professor Bebbington says.
“We run these programs every year so this was a simple way for us to further build our engagement with UNTL and strengthen their institutional, administrative and faculty structures.”
Part of the week-long program – prepared by the University’s HR department and the Melbourne Engagement and Partnerships Office - involved ‘shadowing’ sessions where the visiting deans were paired with University of Melbourne staff.
Visiting dean Mr Julio da Costa was paired with the University’s Faculty of Arts Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning) Dr Parshia Lee-Stecum, who says the opportunity to take part in the program had benefits for both parties.
“I haven’t actually participated in a shadowing program before and I’m relatively new to my own role, so I still ask a lot of questions in my day-to-day work,” he says.
“It’s been quite helpful in this program and Julio has been able to come along and hear all of the questions I’m asking, see where the issues might come up and hear the answers from the people who actually know the business and do the work.
“From Julio, I’ve learnt about the most important things you need to consider when providing undergraduate teaching and learning, and student support, because obviously there’s a lot going on in the undergraduate space in the UNTL.”
With around 2700 students in his faculty, Mr da Costa says there are many opportunities to improve and develop the UNTL student experience. He is enthusiastic about taking a number of initiatives and ideas back to his faculty staff to implement, with a specific focus on student services and support.
“It is important for me to learn about the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Arts and take this information back to my staff,” Mr da Costa says. “We only started our national university 10 years ago, it’s still a baby, and there are a lot of areas to be developed.
“I’ve learnt a lot about the activities here which we can implement, like a forum for staff to contribute to developments in teaching and learning.”