REDI PhD candidate awarded international research opportunity

REDI PhD candidate Dr Mehr Mohsin Raza is heading to Germany in May for a 3-month research stay at RWTH Aachen University. His visit will be funded by Aachen’s Advanced Research Opportunities Program (AROP) and represents a remarkable opportunity to foster his academic development as well as deepen and extend collaboration between Deakin University and RWTH Aachen University.

Dr Raza has already achieved a great deal in his career and life. He grew up in a village in Pakistan and went to the Regional University of Sargodha as a student and later worked there in several roles including Secretary of the Admissions Committee, Assistant Director Academics, Deputy Director Planning and Founding Manager Facilitation Center. During that time, he started his first PhD which focussed on service quality and higher education services.

Dr Raza has now embarked on his second PhD at Deakin, supervised by REDI’s Associate Professor Radhika Gorur.

“My supervisor in Pakistan suggested that I seek international experience, so I searched for academics working in my field. I found Deakin and specifically Associate Professor Radhika Gorur, who was working in governance and policy and the Global South. She has a great reputation in education policy and has many connections with universities in Pakistan and India. She accepted my PhD proposal, and I was all set to come to Australia, but a few days after I got my visa everything stopped due to COVID-19,” said Dr Raza.

Dr Raza was finally able to begin his second PhD in February 2022, and has just completed his second year. His research project is on governance issues and the challenges of public universities in Pakistan. In the first year of his PhD Dr Raza was awarded a placement with the National Assembly of Pakistan as part of a Deakin International Career Development Placement supported by the Victorian Government’s International Education Resilience Fund (IERF). Pakistan’s National Assembly placed Dr Raza with its Standing Committee for Higher Education, Professional Training, National Heritage and Culture to understand governance issues and challenges faced by universities in Pakistan.

“In Pakistan, the critical issues related to higher education are access and quality. Greater transparency and less bureaucracy in the system will improve equity and access for the people of Pakistan, particularly the lower middle class and the poor. Research is key to supporting policy change that will address these issues.

“The visit to Germany is a fantastic opportunity and will enrich my PhD dissertation. My host supervisor will be Professor Jared Sonnicksen, a Professor of Political Science at the Institute of Political Science,” said Dr Raza.

The goal of the AROP is to develop and strengthen bilateral relations between RWTH Aachen University and international universities and research institutions of strategic relevance. There are many areas of common interest between the Institute of Political Science and the work being done at REDI by Associate Professor Gorur. Professor Sonnicksen is an expert in comparative government and politics and his central research focus is federalism and governance in multi-level systems. Pakistan is a federal country, and the higher education system as well as individual universities are embedded in multi-level governance constellations.

“Universities have a certain level of autonomy, but they cannot do everything alone. They need federal and provincial governments to have expertise in new institutional theories. Working with Professor Sonnicksen will help me build a suitable analytical framework to apply to the case of higher education in Pakistan,” said Dr Raza.

During his time in Germany, Dr Raza will participate in research colloquia, attend social science Masters courses, guest lectures and other events. He will also deliver a seminar on his research. His main focus will be analysing data and writing his dissertation project with the advice of Professor Sonnicksen and Associate Professor Gorur. His visit may also lead to a joint publication with Aachen University and Deakin University that will draw on his expertise in education systems and education policy in Pakistan.

“My focus is to improve education in Pakistan. If you want to have a healthy society, you must give young people equal opportunities for higher education. Pakistan has a population of over 240 million people and more than half of them are aged between 15 and 29 years. Higher education is one of the sectors that can offer many opportunities for people to change their circumstances, through better jobs, entrepreneurship and even by developing their civil and social skills,” said Dr Raza.

“I hope that my visit to Aachen will help me make an impact in this important field. This may also be the first of many collaborations between REDI and the Institute of Political Science.”

Dr Mehr Mohsin Raza

News 6 March 2024