SEAAIR BRIEF HISTORY

Following interaction between AIR and Dr Raj Sharma (founder and Inaugural President of Australasian AIR), Raj organised a meeting on 5th September 2000,of an international group of senior academics from the region comprising Dr Zoraini Wati Abas (Director, Centre for Medical Education and Media, International Medical University (IMU), Malaysia), Prof Somwung Pitiyanuwat (then Vice President, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand), Prof Nirwan Idrus (the then Executive Director, The Indonesian Institute for Management Development, Indonesia), Prof Ken Heskin (then Deputy Vice-Chancellor and CEO, Swinburne Sarawak Institute of Technology) and Raj at the IMU in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the possibility of forming a regional association for institutional research.

The group decided that the time was appropriate for the formation of such an organization and undertook (i) to become the Interim Management Committee (IMC) for the organization and (ii) to organize a conference in late 2001 that would herald the birth of the organization and would attract participants from education, government, public service and industry. Dr Zoraini Wati Abas agreed to be the Chair of the IMC and Raj was elected Interim Hon. Secretary. It was decided that the inaugural conference would be held in Kuching and Professor Ken Heskin, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and CEO of Swinburne Sarawak Institute of Technology agreed to be the Conference Chair. It was agreed that delegates to the conference would automatically become members of SEAAIR and that the SEAAIR Executive Committee (SEC) would be elected at the inaugural General Meeting to be held at the conference. At that point, the Interim Management Committee would cease to exist.

The Interim SEAAIR Management Committee made a few other important decisions that shaped its future as follows:

  • Attempts were made to involve other countries in the region in order to promote the establishment of SEAAIR (all IMC members were to initiate action on this issue).
  • Prof Idrus was requested to establish a website for SEAAIR.
  • The Committee decided to establish an electronic Journal of the Association and charged Raj to action this matter with the assistance of other interested members (critical to this was the joint effort of Dr Gan Che Ng who later became the Editor of the SEAAIR Journal-JIRSEA).
  • Regional meetings of SEAAIR were to be promoted by the IMC in their own countries (it is noted that Prof Idrus organised some of the earliest meetings of such a group in Indonesia and Raj came to Jakarta to present a Seminar on IR). Assistance was to be sought from other sister IR organisations, particularly from AIR where the IR movement had originated some fifty years earlier; indeed SEAAIR was affiliated to the AIR and received some very necessary grants in developing its conferences, the Journal etc. A SEAAIR logo was to be developed and coordinated by Prof Ken Heskin (indeed it was Ken’s daughter, Vicky Fitzgerald, a graphic designer, who designed the current SEAAIR logo). The interim objectives of SEAAIR were endorsed by the IMC.

Due to the relatively large geographical size of the region, the IMC decided to use electronic means of communication for its meetings as far as possible. Two groups of face-to-face meetings were to be held using the opportunities presented by the conference organisation (one face to face meeting with the Local Conference Organising Committee) and others (including the AGM) at the time of the conference.

The inaugural conference of SEAAIR was a great success with around 100 delegates attending the conference in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia. The Local Conference organisation represented a unique partnership between the host institution (Swinburne Sarawak Institute of Technology), the Sarawak Government and the Sarawak Development Institute. It has also provided a useful institutional host model of SEAAIR conference organisation in the future with the SEAAIR Executive Committee taking the primary responsibility for academic aspects of the conference and the local host(s) taking care of the operational and financial dimensions of the conference.

The first AGM of SEAAIR was held on 24 October 2001 at 12 noon in the Sarawak Chambers, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Kuching, the Conference Venue. The inaugural AGM made two important decisions:

  1. It approved the Association’s constitution
  2. It elected the SEAAIR Executive Committee comprising Dr Zoraini Wati Abas (President), Prof Somwung (Vice President), Prof Idrus (Hon Secretary), Prof Heskin (Treasurer) and Dr Sharma (member-at-large) to serve until September 2004.

The SEAAIR Executive Committee has been conscious of the fact that its membership has been drawn from a wide region and hence has deliberately rotated the conference host country/sub-region including peninsular part of Malaysia-Kuala Lumpur (2002), Bangkok, Thailand (2003) and Wenzhou, P.R.China (2004). Future conferences are expected to be held in Bali, Indonesia (2005), Tagaytay city or Subic Bay, Philippines (2006), Langkawi, Malaysia (2007) and either Chiangmai or Songkhla, Thailand (2008).

At its AGM during the 2004 SEAAIR Conference, the organisation elected the following office bearers (namely, the SEAAIR Executive Committee or SEC) for a term concluding at the 2007 SEAAIR conference: Assoc Prof Zoraini Wati Abas (as President, now of Open University Malaysia), Asst Prof Teay Shawyun (as Vice President, of Assumption University, Thailand), Dr Raj Sharma (as Hon Secretary, of Swinburne University of Technology, Australia), Prof Nirwan Idrus (as Treasurer, now a Quality Assurance consultant),and Dr Jean Tayag (Philippines) and Dr Dyah Kusumastuti (Indonesia) as members-at-large. As provided by the SEAAIR Constitution, the President co-opted Ms Dai Jing of the International Affairs Office at Wenzhou University, China as the third member-at-large and thus forming the full compliments of the SEC.

The major purposes of the South East Asian Association for Institutional Research are to benefit, assist and advance research leading to improved understanding, planning and operations of institutions of post-secondary education in the region. Research focused on a single institution and also research that is concerned with groups of Institutions both fall within these purposes. In keeping with the dynamic nature of institutions of post-secondary education and the rapidly changing global environment in which they operate, the Association will encourage the application of appropriate methodologies and techniques from many disciplines. It will encourage comparative research into national higher education systems in South East Asia. It will publish and exchange information with respect to institutions of post-secondary education with a view to illuminating current and developing issues of common concern and raising the standard of post-secondary educational management, planning and policy development at all levels.

Its aims include:

  1. The advancement of research leading to improved understanding, planning, and operation of institutions of post-secondary education;
  2. The dissemination of information and interchange of ideas on problems of common interest in the field of institutional research;
  3. The continued professional development of individuals engaging in institutional research, institutional management and post-secondary planning and policy development;
  4. The fostering of unity and cooperation among persons having interests and activities related to institutional research, management, policy and planning;
  5. The advancement of post-secondary education and the improvement of the quality of post-secondary educational outcomes.

SEAAIR has been addressing its aims through a number of programs and activities including:

  • The annual SEAAIR conference
  • Pre-conference workshops on areas of interest to members
  • Electronic annual publications of two editions of its journal (JIRSEA)
  • Publication of SEAAIR Newsletter or other periodical bulletins to members
  • Awarding of the Best Conference Paper prize that includes a subsidized presentation of the paper at a special session of the AIR Forum in the United States
  • Presenting regional meetings/workshops for members from time to time
  • Liaising with other IR sister organizations including participation in the International IR Network meetings
    Developing and implementing other strategies to benefit the membership as the financial position of the association strengthens in the future
  • Including a good mix of keynote addresses at its annual conference representing local, regional and international speakers
  • Instituting an international IR Panel at its conference to consider the conference theme from a global perspective

SEAAIR is still the “baby” of the international IR family with other multi-national organizations such as AIR, EAIR, AAIR and SAAIR having been formed earlier as well as such national bodies as Dutch AIR and the Canadian association (CIRPA-ACPRI). SEAAIR looks forward to working with these organizations to internationalise the cause of Institutional Research.

As at October 2004 SEAAIR has published 4 issues of its electronic journal (JIRSEA). Over the first 4 annual conferences, SEAAIR had attracted a total of no less than 550 participants who by virtue of their registrations at the conferences are members of SEAAIR.

October 2004