Dr Mohammad Tarikul Islam, Associate Professor, Department of Government and Politics, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh

Oxford is a world-leading centre of learning, teaching and research and the oldest university in the English-speaking world. Dr Mohammad Tarikul Islam, Associate Professor, Department of Government and Politics, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh, was affiliated in 2018 as a Visiting Research Fellow of this prestigious and leading university. Today, Dr Islam has boarded himself into research and teaching covering local governance and rural politics in the intellectual atmosphere of Jahangirnagar University. Professor Islam proudly shares with readers of Higher Education Digest Magazine how Oxford has enhanced his teaching and research skills.

Professor Islam says, “My interest in the subject came together during my travels as a Visiting Research Fellow at Oxford University in 2018, where I not only had the opportunity to do research on local governance but also the unique opportunity to learn through a different dimension of local government and South Asian politics from a comparative point of view.”

Speaking on his first day of academic affairs at Oxford, Dr Islam happily mentioned “23 April 2018 was my first day at the University of Oxford, reminiscent of a distinctive researcher I went to the Queen Elizabeth House on time where the Oxford Department of International Development is located. My Professor welcomed me offering a cup of coffee and snacks. I spent an hour of time discussing my research undertakings as well as figuring out a work plan to deliver as part of my affiliation”.

Professor then sent out an email introducing me to the scholars who are working on South Asian Studies at the Oxford Department of International Development. Right after my meeting with Professor, I was encouraged to have a round of introduction with faculty members, post-doc fellows as well as visiting researchers at the earliest possible time. Everyone was very friendly and cordially welcomed me on board- Dr Islam added.

As the oldest university in the English-speaking world, Oxford is a unique and historic institution. There is no clear date of foundation, but teaching existed at Oxford in some form in 1096 and developed rapidly from 1167, when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris. The University’s buildings and estate are not only necessary for our academic work; they also contribute to Oxford’s reputation as a city of learning, heritage and culture.

Oxford forms a vital part of the rich architecture of the city and provides a beautiful environment for visitors and Oxford residents, as well as University staff and students. Oxford aims to deliver exceptional education, to carry out world-leading research, and to make significant contributions to society – locally, nationally, and internationally.

Dr Islam was guided by Professor Jörg Friedrichs of the Oxford Department of International Development was is the Official Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford. Taking a broad transdisciplinary approach to academic research, his main interests are in the fields of international relations and political sociology. As a mentor, he provided support, wisdom, and education during my stay at Oxford.

“There have probably been countless moments in my academic life where I relied on him, I trusted for advice or assistance. Professor Jörg had been so supportive to guide, direct, and shape my current situation and future opportunities for the better. Remarkably, in the middle of my fellowship my professor invited me for dinner at his residence and the funny thing is we both cooked a delicious dinner. Since then, Professor Jörg has been generously advising me on my academic advancement. Let’s say, he wrote a foreword to my book on local government in Bangladesh, published by Routledge.”- Professor Islam shared his feelings of joy.

Visiting scholars, professors, and research fellows from other institutions at Oxford plays an important role in the development of research, teaching, and collaboration. As a Visiting Research Fellow, in addition to research opportunities, I really value the teamwork I learn with. Being able to spend time with teaching staff and students, learning and discussing ideas, who come from all over the world and have a wide variety of academic and professional backgrounds, is great. The learning environment was excellent – the students of other courses, the larger staff, and the teacher’s community feel really welcome and a great environment for the course.

During my time as an Academic Fellow, I was able to participate in over 40 lectures/seminars/workshops at Oxford. In addition to Oxford, I attended several seminars and conferences at Cambridge, LSE, and SOAS. Attending the Bangladesh Summit organized by LSE South Asia Center was amazing because, before the Summit, LSE South Asia Center had selected the top 5 articles written on South Asian Blog and one of my articles was among the top five.

From Oxford, I had twice visited Cambridge University to attend seminar and conference hosted by the Center for Development Studies & South Asian Studies, and I am fortunate to hear from the eminent economist and noble laureate Professor Dr Amartya Sen. Professor Sen in an informal session with all of us briefly shed the light on the basic principles and responsibilities of the nation-state for reinforcing and safeguarding the idea of justice as well as the freedom of choice.

The opportunity to conduct mixed-method research was my favorite part of the fellowship. The approach allowed me to see the research question more broadly and to understand the subtleties of the subject. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the Oxford Visiting Fellowship and the range of disciplines of those who teach the course, it really suited me.

I had really come to appreciate the time and the network of teachers, Fellows, and students at Oxford. My day-to-day interactions with Masters, MPhil and PhD level students proved to be extremely effective for me in understanding and understanding the terms and skills of research in cases that are not directly related to me. This was a very valuable asset in my current teaching and research position.

Commenting on the best possible prospects for the young scholars, Dr Islam said, I suggest that young scholars must believe in themselves and know that self-confidence is more important than their imagination – it can change your whole life for the better. They must be devoted to creating, sharing, using, and managing knowledge.

Do not fear failure, as it builds stronger people in the end, so keep trying with confidence. Like many contenders, I came to higher education on a nontraditional path with ups and downs. However, for me, this journey ended with far more than a degree: it is crowned in a distinctiveness that combined my life experiences and culture with the buoyancy and skillset of a promising scholar.

Professor Islam can certainly feel proud of himself as he is perhaps the rare academic with a PhD from Bangladesh who has been affiliated with the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in different prestigious capacities (Visiting Scholar and Visiting Research Fellow). The Higher Education Digest magazine proudly acknowledges the regular contribution of this brilliant South Asian scholar.

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