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Colleagues standing together in front of a painting

New opportunities were forged and long-standing relationships strengthened in a trip to South East Asia. A delegation visited Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. We expanded our global network and explored opportunities to strengthen our partnerships in the region.

Image above: Vice-Chancellor Professor Karen O’Brien met with President Lily Kong of Singapore Management University to discuss research collaborations in AI, climate change and social justice 

The delegation was led by Professor Karen O’Brien, Vice-Chancellor and Warden and Professor Claire O’Malley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Global). The team engaged with regional partner institutions, national government agencies, and funding bodies to enhance and showcase Durham’s priorities for research and development. 

We have long-standing connections and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region. As a global University and a world-leading institution (QS World Top 100), collaboration with a broad mix of partners is central to enhancing global knowledge and developing global citizenship.  

At Durham, our academic staff conduct innovative and impactful research to transform lives and make a difference, globally and locally: research to empower and inspire. Working with partners across the world is invaluable for many of our researchers.  



Two colleagues holding signed documentsProfessor O’Malley and her team met with top Indonesian universities, starting with Universitas Indonesia. We formalised our collaboration with the signing of an institutional memorandum of understanding (MOU). This agreement will promote exchanges of students; staff and researchers; advance joint research activities; and further exchange of information.  

We also visited Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) to discuss opportunities for joint research, education, and exchange. This was our first time visiting UGM. We discussed opportunities for broader collaboration and exploring opportunities for staff and student exchange. 

The delegation also met with Professor Agus Haryono of BRIN (National Agency of Research and Innovation, Indonesia) to discuss opportunities for broader collaboration with Durham research institutes and departments – Durham Energy Institute, Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience, Departments of Earth Sciences, Geography, and Archaeology. 

Colleagues exchanging giftsIncreased engagement with government agencies, such as BRIN and the Indonesian International Student Mobility Award (IISMA), is important for working in the region, alongside developing our relationships with the British Consulate and the British Council. There are significant opportunities for collaboration – including climate change and energy; global health; low carbon and sustainable development; education and emerging technology. 

One of our significant research collaborations with Indonesia was Indonesia: Java Flood One led by Professor Simon Mathias in Earth Sciences, in partnership with colleagues from The Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB). 




Durham has a global and lifelong network of over 230,000 alumni and supporters. We support and develop our alumni community across the world with a wide range of benefits, networks and learning opportunities. We are proud of their achievements and their sense of social purpose and encourage them to help our wider community be the best it can be.  

This trip gave the team many opportunities for alumni engagement activity alongside partnership development in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.   

Professors at eventOne such alumni engagement opportunity was the latest in our Global Lecture Series. Professor Ari Sadanandom, Professor of Biosciences, spoke to an audience in Singapore on how Durham’s strengths in the sciences can support low-carbon, climate-resilient food systems.  

Also in Singapore, the team visited both Singapore Management University (SMU) and A*STAR Graduate Academy (A*GA) for the first time to explore opportunities for research and education collaboration. Our teams are exploring potential postgraduate partnerships between Durham’s MSc Scientific Computing and Data Analysis (MISCADA) and SMU’s Master of IT in Business (MITB), and research collaborations with Durham’s AI and Human Systems Group.   

As well as long-standing connections between Biosciences departments at NUS and NTU, particularly in the fields of plant science and resilient, sustainable food production with Professor Sadanandom’s work, we have many collaborations and relationships in Singapore. Dr Karen Lai (Department of Geography) is currently working with the Singapore Green Finance Centre (SGFC) on Green FinTech and data centres.  



In Malaysia, our delegation attended the QS Higher Education Summit Asia Pacific 2023. Durham University was a key sponsor at the Summit on the theme of Creating the Right Outcomes: Universities and the Future of Work in the Asia Pacific 

panel on stage in sessionProfessors O’Brien and O’Malley took part in panel discussions on ‘Good neighbours: Higher ed's community impact’ and ‘Industrial evolution: New areas in industry research partnerships’. They joined colleagues from some of our partner institutions, including Universiti Malaya, Universitas Indonesia, OP Jindal Global University India, Nanyang Technological University Singapore (NTU) and Singapore Management University. The team shared some of Durham’s global impacts and made many new connections at the Summit.  

Whilst in Malaysia, Professors O’Brien and O’Malley met with partners at Universiti Malaya (UM) to sign a student exchange agreement, testament to the long-standing collaboration between us. We hope to provide a platform for a broader collaboration and opportunities for our students and faculty to make impactful connections to engender cooperation on the transnational challenges facing our world. 

Colleagues with signed agreementWe met at UM’s Museum of Asian Art to celebrate the work by both our teams to develop the joint project of a virtual exhibition roadshow from Durham’s Oriental Museum to UM, National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Palace Museum Beijing based on the collections left to our universities by our mutual institutional ancestor, Malcolm MacDonald.   

There are already important examples of joint research, but we see potential for expanding collaboration to address global challenges and UK-Malaysia priorities such as health, climate adaptation, energy transition, earth science and agriculture, and resilience and sustainability.    

One example of current research is Dr Paul McGonigal (Chemistry) hosting IAS fellow, Prof. Ramesh T. Subramaniam (UM). Their joint research focuses on Energy Storage Devices for Smart Sustainable Cities.   


Find out more 

Global Durham

Research and partnerships in South East Asia

Our worldwide alumni community