S4-PRO6-2 - Finding a new and different partner: The exchange programme between Royal University of Bhutan and Uppsala University

1. Innovative Practice Work In Progress
Anders Berglund1 , Tsheten Dorji2, Kristina von Hausswolff1, Dekar Lhamo3, Phurpa Tshering4, Karma Wangchuk2, Tandin Wangchuk2, Yeshi Wangchuk2
1 Uppsala Computing Education Research Group, UpCERG, Department of Information Technology, Uppsala University, Sweden
2 College of Science and Technology, Royal University of Bhutan, Bhutan
3 School of Science, Edith Cowan University, Australia
4 Royal Bhutan Airlines, Bhutan

This WiP paper discusses difficulties, but also gains, in starting new collaborations, particularly when the universities differ: different natures of their strengths and weaknesses, acting in different contexts and having different international recognitions. At the same time, it is the differences that make exchanges fruitful and opens for new learning experiences. An example of a collaboration between asymmetric partners can be found in the Department of Information Technology, Uppsala University (UU), Sweden and College of Science and Technology, Royal University of Bhutan (RUB). 

The collaboration started with four students from RUB finding scholarships in the EXPERTS - SUSTAIN project, an EU funded Erasmus Mundus Action 2 project beginning 2014 and closing 2018 to UU. The students did academically good but stood out for their engagement and moral commitment, not only for their own learning but also for the learning of their peers and for the success of the course. After the exchange period, two of the four students authored publications with a professor from UU. Moreover, they were instrumental in establishing academic contacts between RUB and UU.

The second generation of students from RUB to UU continued in this tradition and brought Bhutanese values into the exchange. RUB also observed that the students were more open-minded and engaged after the exchange programme. The students shared their academic experiences, learning of CS, the importance of generating knowledge, and the research culture amongst other students at RUB.

As a part of the teacher exchange two teachers from UU held a two-week course at RUB during the spring of 2019, on subjects related to computer science education research methodology, with a particular focus on ethical considerations in IT. The manor of teaching encouraged the RUB students to talk in front of their classmates, arguing from different ethical standpoints. It became obvious to everyone, students, as well as teachers, had a lot to learn from each other.

The teachers from CST going to UU were exposed to the teaching and learning environment of UU, meeting new values, cultures, and the social life in Sweden. The faculty took an active part in the teaching at UU, as well as presentations of studies in Bhutan and the Bhutanese tradition and custom. They were also discussing how teaching took place at CST and UU, participated in seminars and interacted between scholars from different regions to build international partnerships. These activities gave a sense of belongingness, the importance of globalization, and appreciation of foreign cultures, customs, and values.

The teacher and student exchanges as resulted in extensive visits between the partners with upcoming exchanges and to new projects evolving, among them a Bhutanese Ph.D. student studying Information Science in Uppsala, some joint publications, and EU Erasmus Plus Capacity Building application, “EThICA” to be submitted in Feb 2021.

The collaboration between the two universities brings various positive impacts in the teaching-learning approach for both universities with both similarities and differences coming to the fore. This leads to personal development and future expansions of international relationships.