The recent visit of Dr Ahmed Khalfan Al-Rawahi, Chancellor of the University of Nizwa to La Trobe University was a significant moment in the relationship between the two institutions.
After touring the University Dr Al-Rawahi met with La Trobe’s Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar to sign a renewal of the memorandum of understanding between the two universities.
The renewal will see the two universities work together to further develop their overarching and productive partnership. Significantly, the University of Nizwa is the only university in the Gulf and Middle East with which La Trobe has such an agreement.
‘I feel there are opportunities to collaborate in various fields of education, learning, teaching and research through student exchange and faculty exchange,’ stated Dr Al-Rawahi as he toured La Trobe’s Melbourne Campus.
‘Through joint research projects we can activate and accelerate that interaction.'
On his tour of La Trobe Dr Al-Rawahi was particularly impressed with La Trobe’s Institute of Molecular Sciences (LIMS), stating that he liked how it had been designed to foster collaboration.
‘It is very dynamic. One of the good ideas I saw was in the research labs, they have open research labs for the faculty as that allows a multi-disciplinary environment and I think that is a good idea that we might accommodate,’ said Dr Al-Rawahi.
Also visiting La Trobe alongside Dr Al-Rawahi was Rose Bahou, a Melbournian who after moving to Oman to teach English is now employed by the University in Quality Management.
‘The University is fantastic, said Bahou. ‘The one thing I specially love is the date trees that are located throughout the campus. You can just pick them off and have them with a coffee. The combination is delicious.’
Located in the Dakhiliyah Region of Oman, Nizwa University has grown significantly since its opening in 2004. Its student population has increased from 1300 to 6700 – eighty per cent of whom are young Omani women – and the university is now involved in some 20 international academic cooperatives and mutual partnerships.
Significantly, the university has recently established a joint research chair in materials science with Cambridge University. It is also building its reputation by hosting Arabic-language students from elite American universities, including New York University, Princeton, and Yale.
As one of the University of Nizwa’s founders, Dr Al-Rawahi is most pleased that the university has reached out to overseas students and it is something he encourages in Nizwa’s own students.
‘We have initiated a program that we call ‘international horizon’. This encourages our students to taste the world and get experience across cultures and learn by not only visiting but actually learning with others.
‘Over the last several years so many of our students have gone abroad, mainly to Europe, the USA and recently to Malaysia and many Arab countries,’ said Dr Al-Rawahi.
'We hope also that some will come to La Trobe. And I hope through our reciprocal arrangement that Australian students will take the opportunity to come to Oman.
'I know some will think that the Middle-East is not safe but Oman is really a different story. Our culture and our people are really very open and they accept others and it is really a very safe place.'