The UK’s Chevening Scholarships 2015/16: A Network For Talented Bruneians

The prestigious Chevening Scholarship Award for study in academic year 2014/2015, funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), is currently open for applications from Brunei. Citizens and Permanent Residents of Brunei Darussalam are invited to apply, in order to pursue a one-year taught Masters qualification in the UK.

British High Commissioner, H.E David Campbell said: “With 15th November the closing date for this year’s applications, we hope qualified Bruneians will apply for this unique scholarship award to further their studies and careers. Many thousands of people, from all around the world, have found this to be a life changing experience.”

Chevening Scholarships are the UK government’s global scholarship programme, funded by the FCO and partner organisations. The programme provides a unique opportunity for leaders of the future to build a global network of continuing professional significance and also to establish social, cultural, academic or commercial partnerships with the UK.

Chevening scholarships focus on a broad range of fields and disciplines, in line with the socio-economic development of Brunei, particularly (but not limited to): Islamic Finance; Contemporary Islamic Studies; Defence and Security; Civil Society and Human Rights; Community Development; Sports Development/Management and Energy, Environment and Sustainability.

The ideal candidate would be in their early to mid career, with at least 2 years’ work experience and an excellent record of achievements which showed evidence of leadership qualities. Applicants should be committed to returning and contributing to Brunei’s social and economic development by utilising skills and knowledge acquired in the UK.

The FCO makes the final decision on applications for Chevening Scholarships. Candidates are assessed on academic merit; referees’ letters; proposed area of study and future career – in line with FCO priority areas; leadership potential and potential to further strengthen the UK-Brunei bilateral relationship.

To date, 43 Bruneians have been awarded the Chevening Scholarship, many of whom have gone on to secure high level jobs in the public and private sector and are active members of the Chevening Alumni.

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Siti Nurfateha Abdullah, recipient of the 2014/2015 Chevening Scholarship who is currently studying for a Master’s in Anthropology of Development and Rights at Goldsmiths, University of London said, “I would like to thank the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for giving me the opportunity to learn more about myself and the world through a unique lens. To anyone thinking of furthering their Masters and have a knack for networking with people you can talk about serious issues with: Apply! I have only been here for five weeks and it has been the most eye-opening and fulfilling five weeks I have ever gone through.”

Siti Nurfateha added, “The second you are a Chevening scholar, you are automatically a part of a vast network of unique individuals. Through social media, I quickly made friends with people who have a strong interest in social justice and gender issues. We chatted over things we plan to do, places we have to go, and resources available to us in London before we even received our plane ticket to the city. When the time came to meet them, being friends with other Chevening scholars felt almost natural, like I’ve known them for a really long time or that I’ve found people I can talk issues I have always been concerned with easily. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what gender you identify with or what your beliefs are—being a Chevening scholar means being under an umbrella where the general consensus is to make the world a better place, whether you are an activist, a policy maker, poet, engineer, or doctor.”

(L–R) Siti Nurfateha, Sofija from Macedonia, Fatma from Yemen and Retta from Indonesia, all Chevening Scholars at Goldsmiths

(L–R) Siti Nurfateha, Sofija from Macedonia, Fatma from Yemen and Retta from Indonesia, all Chevening Scholars at Goldsmiths

All those interested in applying for 2014/2015 Chevening scholarship should visit www.chevening.org/Brunei where potential applicants can find out more information on how to apply, register interest to receive alerts about application and candidate guidance, as well as see the priority subjects for Chevening Scholarships. The deadline for applications is Saturday 15 November 2014 at 2359 UK time.

Congratulations Teah! Chevening Scholar 2014-15

On Monday 15 September 2014, the British High Commission hosted a farewell reception for Siti Nurfateha Abdullah who has been awarded a prestigious Chevening Scholarship for the 2014–2015 session and will be pursuing her postgraduate studies in the United Kingdom this month. The farewell event was held at the Residence of the British High Commissioner to Brunei.

British High Commissioner David Campbell with Siti Nurfateha Abdullah and her family

British High Commissioner David Campbell with Siti Nurfateha Abdullah and her family

Siti Nurfateha Abdullah will be pursuing a Masters in Anthropology of Development and Rights at Goldsmiths, University of London. Employed as a Research Officer in the Prime Minister’s Office, Nurfateha selected Goldsmiths as its Anthropology Department is voted among the best in the UK.

Nurfateha, who is also the co-founder of the non-profit organisation Bruneians:Read and webzine Songket Alliance, said

“Goldsmiths’ Anthropology Department takes a critical view of developed countries’ approach to development. Therefore, discussions and classes will be stimulating as it does not view any one philosophy as absolute, but also takes into consideration societal differences.

Goldsmiths advocates an ethnographic approach to learning about society and basic human rights like education, women’s and children issues, and healthcare. This approach is useful to keep in mind as I will be able to apply what I’ll be learning to Brunei without forgetting its policies, culture and philosophy.

Having previously taken my Bachelor’s Degree at the National University of Singapore, going to the UK will be my first direct exposure to the British education system.

Being awarded the Chevening scholarship was unexpected. I’ve looked up to and been in awe of some of the previous Brunei recipients of the scholarship, so I’m honoured to be a part of that line-up. I’m really looking forward to networking with scholars from other countries’ too! I hope to come back to Brunei bursting with ideas for my work at the Prime Minister’s Office and projects I’m a part of.”

British High Commissioner David Campbell with Siti Nurfateha Abdullah and Brunei Chevening Alumni

British High Commissioner David Campbell with Siti Nurfateha Abdullah and Brunei Chevening Alumni

The British High Commissioner Mr David Campbell, said:

“I congratulate Siti Nurfateha Abdullah on joining our long list of prestigious Bruneian Chevening scholars. 2014 marks not only Brunei’s 30th Anniversary of Independence, but also the 30th anniversary of the British Government’s Chevening Programme. Thirty years of scholarships around the world have created an influential global network of more than 43,000 Chevening alumni in over 150 countries.”

Applications for the 2015/16 Chevening Scholarships are currently open for citizens and permanent residents of Brunei Darussalam. The ideal candidate would be in early to mid career, with at least 2 years’ work experience and an excellent record of achievements which show evidence of leadership qualities. Applicants should be committed to returning and contributing to Brunei’s social and economic development by utilising skills and knowledge acquired in the UK.

All those interested in applying for 2014/2015 Chevening scholarship should visit www.chevening.org/Brunei where potential applicants can find out more information on how to apply, register interest to receive alerts about application and candidate guidance, as well as see the priority subjects for Chevening Scholarships. The deadline for applications is Saturday 15 November 2014.

Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict

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The use of sexual violence in war is one of the great injustices of our lifetime.  It is hard to document, let alone investigate.  Perpetrators do not discriminate, because it’s not about sex, but violence, terror, power and control.  When rape is committed during conflict, it has often been seen as an inevitable part of war, and so it has been allowed to go unpunished.

But even war has rules.  So just as the world could agree that land mines have no place on the battlefield, the world must agree to end sexual violence in conflict.

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In London between 10-13 June, the UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and UN Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie, will co-host the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. Over 150 countries, including Brunei Darussalam, have now supported the UN General assembly Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. Representatives of governments, civil society, the military and the judiciary will all take part in the London Summit.  So too will the public.

Events will also take place around the world, including in Bandar Seri Begawan.  Representatives of Brunei will be asked to commit to concrete action that will help remove wartime rape and sexual violence from the world’s arsenal of cruelty.  Brunei can bring particular influence to bear through its longstanding and highly valued participation in United Nations peacekeeping missions.

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It will be a Summit like no other, because sexual violence is a crime like no other.  Women and men are made to suffer its horrors in conflicts around the world, and shocking as it may seem, many victims are very young girls and boys. Sexual violence carries a corrosive after-effect that lasts a lifetime: an unjust and destructive shame for the victims and their families.

But we firmly believe that this can – and must – change.

The appalling truth is that only a tiny number of perpetrators of these crimes have ever been brought to trial, let alone convicted.   That is why at the Summit we will launch the first International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict.  This will be a practical tool to help improve accountability. The Protocol will help investigators preserve information and evidence in the aftermath of an attack, improve the chances of someone being successfully prosecuted later, and protect victims and survivors from further trauma.

At the Summit this week, we want governments to announce their support for the Protocol and to encourage local activists, lawyers, police personnel, and doctors to use it. We also want governments to make sure that their national laws on rape and sexual violence are in line with international standards, so that there’s a greater chance of securing successful prosecutions for war crimes in their own courts.  The Summit will also look at the role that the military can play.  When sexual violence occurs in conflict zones, soldiers are often the first people on the scene, but are not always properly equipped or trained to deal with this sensitive problem.  This needs to change.  And Armies are often responsible for carrying out these abhorrent acts.  This must stop.  Finally, we hope the governments of the world’s wealthiest nations will announce new funding support, including to local grass-roots organisations which often work at the heart of the most affected communities.

But government action alone is not enough.  We need every family and community to change the culture that stigmatises survivors and to be united in their abhorrence for these crimes, so that any man with a gun will think twice before ordering or committing rape.  Will you add your voice to the global call for decisive action? You can join the conversation on twitter @end_svc using #TimeToAct.

It is time to support survivors, shatter the culture of impunity and ensure that justice is done, both now and in the future.  It is #TimeToAct.

Baroness Warsi Visits Brunei

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Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for Faith and Communities at the Department for Communities and Local Government, The Rt Hon Baroness Warsi had a number of public engagements to promote Islamic finance, education and training in the UK to relevant Bruneian individuals and academic institutions. The Minister also had the opportunity to visit the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque and had a meeting with the State Mufti, Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia (Dr) Ustaz Hj Awg Abdul Aziz.

Baroness Warsi hosted a roundtable discussion with staff and students from Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) and Sultan Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Centre for Islamic Studies (SOASCIS), Universiti Brunei Darussalam. Also present at the roundtable were British High Commissioner H.E. David Campbell and Deputy High Commissioner Sunny Ahmed.

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Baroness Warsi sought to enhance contacts between Brunei and UK academic institutions, including on Sharia implementation. The Minister highlighted that the UK is a global leading provider of sector specific education and research with world class academic institutions offering a range of specialist courses and qualifications in Islamic finance.

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Baroness Warsi then attended an Islamic Finance focused dinner hosted by the British High Commissioner to Brunei, H.E David Campbell. Guests included Deputy Minister of Finance Dato Paduka Awang Haji Bahrin bin Abdullah, Deputy Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office Dato Paduka Haji Ali Hj Apong, Bruneian Global Islamic Finance and Investment Group member Mr Javed Ahmed and others from the government, banking and academic sectors.

Baroness Warsi explored opportunities for UK and Brunei collaboration within Islamic finance, education and training with guests at the dinner. The Minister also highlighted UK’s Islamic finance activities and investment opportunities. The UK has been providing Islamic financial services for over 30 years and Government policy over the last decade has created a fiscal and regulatory framework that encourages the growth of Islamic finance.

More than 20 international banks operating in the UK are working in Islamic finance. Six of these are fully Sharia compliant, more than any other country in Europe. British banks are also active in the international Sukuk market. Global Sukuk issuance in the first quarter of 2012 was US$43.3 billion, almost half the total for the whole of 2011 with UK banks playing a major role. Domestic banks are also meeting the demand for Islamic finance services through the expansion of their Islamic finance offering.

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Islamic finance is increasingly being used in major infrastructure projects in the UK such as The Shard of Glass, the Olympic Village and the redevelopments of Chelsea Barracks and Battersea Power Station. There is potential for further funding of the UK’s infrastructure requirements given the Government’s positive and progressive attitude towards Islamic finance.

The UK is a global leading provider of sector specific education and research, and Durham University is just one of the UK’s World class academic institutions offering a range of specialist courses and qualifications in Islamic finance.  Cardiff Metropolitan University and the Islamic Banking and Finance Centre UK work in partnership to address the educational and training needs of professionals and institutions across the globe. Islamic finance is a key research interest at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, and the Centre also organises annual conferences on Islamic finance in cooperation with the Securities Commission, Malaysia.  Aston Business School, Bangor Business School, Cambridge Judge Business School at the University of Cambridge and the London School of Business and Finance also offer a range of courses in Islamic Finance at different levels.

Chevening Scholar Norali Wrote…

Inside FCO London

Looks like it’s my turn this year to share my personal experience as a Chevening scholar! As you read on, you’ll notice it’s going to be slightly different because you’ll be reading from the unique point of view of a scholar who happens to be visually impaired.

Though this is round two for me in the UK, it is still my first time studying in central London. So far all I can say is that it’s definitely a big change from the peace and tranquillity of Exeter University where I spent a year doing my in-service PGCE course back in 2010. This time round I chose King’s College London, where I’m currently taking a one year full-time Masters course in Inclusive Education and Technology.

A Taste of City Life

Arriving in London just a few days before the start of my course was rather hectic but exhilarating nonetheless. Sure I was exhausted after the 16 hour flight but the hustle and bustle of city life was more than enough to wake me despite being jet lagged. Everything just seemed new and exciting and the apparent cultural differences of this super diverse city were so overwhelming! Just imagine finding every language and culture, and I do mean every nationality of the world in one huge busy concrete jungle!

At London Eye

Me and Big Ben

walking Tour at St. James Park

Mobility & Independence Training

Within a week I managed to settle into my cosy flat apartment in Bayswater, which by chance happened to be a minute’s walking distance to both Bayswater and Queensway tube stations. To get to King’s, all I had to do was walk straight to either one, which might have been easier if I still had my sight. Fortunately, the Chevening secretariat had already considered this and so arranged for an orientation and mobility instructor to get me started.

The weekly mobility training sessions commenced almost immediately, covering the basic route to the nearest tube with much of the training taking place underground. All stations have a VIP (Visually Impaired Person) service that provides assistance to get on and off the train – but not to accompany you whilst on the train. Just show up at the ticket floor and a gracious member of staff will always be there to lend a helping hand.

waiting for the train at Bond Street

I remember my first time travelling alone on the tube. It was my first taste of independence after all the training and the realisation of being unaccompanied by my instructor was a frightening one. Sure my father was around but he was advised against interfering with the set programme – except for taking candid pictures while hiding in the background. So it forced me to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. But as the nerves slowly started to slip away I found myself gaining the courage and the confidence, and I knew then that I could do anything in the world if I just took the time to move out of my comfort zone. By mid-October, I was moving back and forth to KCL and other key places on my own. And now the tube has become my own personal playground!

Life at King’s College

My MA course officially started on the third week of September. At first I was overwhelmed by the amount of critical reading we had to do but after a while I developed a good routine and even made friends with other international students. So far the course has been insightful and I was initially dumbfounded with how little I knew about the subject of e-inclusion. But this is exactly why scholars travel abroad- to grow and learn and think outside the box.

With regards to my unique learning needs, the support I received at KCL has been nothing short of amazing. Here inclusion wasn’t just lip service – a culture of accessibility was evidently seen as the norm rather than an afterthought. All my core readings and hand-outs for instance were provided as needed, and in a format that I could easily access.

To make full use of KCL’s wealth of academic resources, assistive technology rooms equipped with high-tech equipment’s were readily set up in the library to level the playing field for students like myself. Support workers were allocated if or when I needed sighted assistance during field work or in class. My lecturers are delightful to work with and are always willing to make adaptations to their teaching styles. Even my all-ladies course mates did their part by rallying each other around to wait for me at the Waterloo tube station so we could walk together onto campus.

Surviving and Thriving

Though studying is my main priority, the Chevening experience isn’t just about cramming tonnes of theories and ideas into my head. Being in central London, there is obviously so much I can do and learn beyond what is given in my reading list.

As soon as I had settled in, I set out to join the KCL running club. By then winter was close approaching so I needed to burn that extra belly blubber. Despite being blind, and my apparently bulging mid-section, the club was still enthusiastic about having me on board! As if that wasn’t enough, I even joined the local gym at Bayswater which was a convenient 5 mins walk from my flat. Sure registration was easy, but when it came to showing up for the sessions, procrastinating took over immediately!

Meet the KCL & UCL running club

Looking around, inclusive practices weren’t just limited to university life and the underground tube. The city environment is reconditioned with accessibility in mind. Conveniently, walkways have tactile markings on the ground to guide and enable mobility for the blind. Access ramps for wheelchairs are everywhere and not outrageously placed behind buildings anymore. In the cinema, certain movies would be audio described and I especially loved it when I found out that my Sky box at home offered the same feature for no extra charge!

My personal favourite was the touch tours at the British Museum where I was encouraged to literally trace my fingers all over the ancient Egyptian artefacts. Even logging on to internet banking became an easy experience because, unlike back home, the bank provided me with a talking security key!

Reflecting back, the past few months has certainly changed me in more ways than I thought possible. One thing for sure is that I’ll never again complain about the humid heat back home! I still have a long way to go but I think it’s safe to say that my brief time here has opened my mind to new perspectives on what it really means to be an inclusive society.

With two other Malaysian chevening scholars

At the United Nations, Geneva

Clearly, living in the city has opened up more doors for me. I feel more empowered here and I believe that it’s this society’s positive interpretation of diversity that has made social inclusion for me a reality. By no means is it perfect but it’s what I’ll take away from my experiences here that will hopefully encourage me to one day embark on initiatives that will make a positive difference in the lives of our differently able community back home.

Like many things in life, I’m glad I went all the way for the Chevening scholarship. My heartfelt gratitude goes out especially to the members of the Chevening committee at the British High Commission in Brunei for presenting me with this prestigious scholarship award. Special thanks also goes to my Head and Deputy Head at the Special Education Unit, Ministry of Education for their continuous support and unfaltering faith in my work. Last but not least, my utmost gratitude to my loving parents and family for always encouraging me to pursue my dreams despite the odds and challenges ahead.

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