PiNet Gathers Momentum

The Postgraduates' International Networkis a new organisation to represent the concerns of postgraduates around the world, provide a resource base and share experience between national representative groups.

Originally set up at a meeting in Budapest in 1997 PiNet was formally constituted at a further meeting in Budapest in October 1998. It was then that a constitution was agreed and the organisation was foormally established. The constitution can be read at the <PiNet web pages> and these pages will become the main means of communication for the organisation.

At the October meeting of the NPC we pledged our support for PiNet and committed ourselves to join the organisation. I should also point out a personal interest in this since I was elected the first Preesident of the Postgraduates International Network on the 3rd October 1998.

I believe that PiNet presents a great opportunity for postgraduate organisations around the world to develop closer links. This allows us to share experience and present a strong international voice forr postgraduate students in the international arena. Many of the issues and problems facing postgraduates are common to all countries. Funding, supervision, training, teaching, facilities and representattion are all things that affect postgraduates wherever they are in the world. Nevertheless there are many different ways that these issues are being addressed and we now have a developing forum to exchaange ideas.

In this article I will outline the projects PiNet is setting up and our involvement with the United Nations conference on higher education in Paris.

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Projects

There are two main projects being developed by PiNet, both of which aim to provide a comprehensive resource base for postgraduate organisations and individuals.

International Postgraduate Guide

The Guide will be aimed at individual postgraduates, institutions and national organisations. Published via the internet, the intention is to provide information on the structure of higher education byy country and an outline of institutions and programmes available. It will further seek to highlight problems and issues in each country and provide information on comparative best practice. Each nationnal representative postgraduate organisation will be responsible for their respective information and PiNet will coordinate and update this information. Areas for potential inclusion are:

  • Structure
    general structure of higher education
    research areas and levels
    structure of the PhD
    entry requirements, length of study etc.
  • Finance
    financing projects and research
    personal finance
  • Contemporary issues
    current problems
    commentary
    policy section by relevant national organisation
  • Work and life
    mobility of research courses
    teaching opportunities
    postdoctoral jobs
    relevant laws / rules / regulations of higher education

International Postgraduate Database

The Database will be a web-searchable database of research topics offering information on individuals' research interests. Individual postgraduates will be able to enter, maintain and update their own iinformation via an automatic referencing page. Notification to update or confirm information will be sent every six months. Issues of security and access are currently being addressed and individuals wiill be able to enter personal details and contact information if they wish. The database will be searchable by user-defined key words.

Both of these resources will be published and contain information in English as the official language of PiNet.

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United Nations World Conference on Higher Education (WCHE)

Apart from internal business the main matter for discussion was to agree a submission to the <United Nations World Conference on Higher Education> , held in Paris, 5-9th October 1998.

The UNESCO WCHE was the first time that the United Nations had addressed the issue of higher education in such a comprehensive manner. It recognised that, "On the eve of a new century, there is unpprecedented demand for and a great diversification in higher education, as well as an increased awareness of its vital importance for socio-cultural and economic development... Everywhere higher educatiion is faced with great challenges and difficulties related to financing, equity of conditions at access into and during the course of studies, improvement concerning the status of staff, skills based ttraining, enhancement and preservation of quality in teaching, research and services, relevance of programmes, employability of graduates and equitable access to the benefits on international cooperatioon".

The PiNet submission stressed:

  • the right of students to organise and represent themselves autonomously
  • student involvement in the decision making processes of higher education
  • the dual role of postgraduates as both students and teaching personnel
  • the importance of appropriate training, resources and support.
  • the role of partnership and cooperation between stakeholders in higher education

There will be a further conference organised by UNESCO on Research in Higher Education in July 1999 to be held in Budapest.

Membership

At the meeting in Budapest there were representatives from Australia, France, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, the UK, the USA. Membership of PiNet is mainly intended forr national student representative bodies but I would stress that any organisation is welcome to join if they have an interest in postgraduate matters.

Membership is only $100 (one hundred US dollars).