Scholars were urged to aid the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s media freedom campaign at the sixth annual Chevening Conference hosted at the University of Manchester on Friday, 12 April.

2018 was the deadliest year on record for journalists worldwide. Alastair King-Smith, Deputy Director of the Multilateral Policy Directorate at the FCO, encouraged scholars to help to reverse this alarming trend by contributing their ideas, making the case for media freedom in their home countries, and using their networks to raise the campaign’s profile.

Mr King-Smith said: ‘Unless we can defend media freedom and continue to access the truth, we won’t be able to achieve our shared objectives.’

Shaping the future

His speech, also sharing stories and insights from a career in diplomacy, was just the beginning of a fascinating day at the University of Manchester. 150 scholars gathered to share ideas and insights on the conference theme, ‘Pushing boundaries and shaping the future’, a broad topic allowing scholars studying a range of subjects to share their thoughts and research within different categories.

Chevening Conference is the third-largest event in scholars’ yearly programme of events, and it gave attendees the opportunity to learn about leadership from other scholars, as well as to hear talks from Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff and senior academics.

Scholar panel sessions

Scholars then got the chance to present their own research on pushing boundaries in the first of two scholar sessions. The themes for the morning’s panel sessions were human rights, health, media and communications, and the environment. In the afternoon the topics were knowledge and learning, development, culture, and technology.

24 scholars had been selected to present in these panels from more than 160 applications. Each scholar session featured three presentations, and was chaired by University of Manchester and FCO staff.

Topics were diverse and thought-provoking, covering subjects including community mental healthcare, disaster resilience policy, artificial intelligence in banking, sustainable fashion, and much more.

Some scholars presented their research in poster form, and the lunch break gave them a chance to exhibit their informative designs in the university’s Schuster building.

Chevening Alumni pushing the boundaries

Scholars returned after a networking lunch to take part in the afternoon’s interactive panel debate. The session chair posed questions to our panellists, many of whom are Chevening Alumni, encouraging them to reflect on how they were pushing boundaries and shaping the future in their own careers.

The panel was chaired by Dr Admos Chimhowu, Senior Lecturer, School of Environment, Education and Development at the University of Manchester. The panellists were Professor Adisa Azapagic, University of Manchester (Chevening Alumna); Dr Kogila Balakrishnan, Director of Client and Business Development (East Asia) at WMG University of Warwick (Chevening Alumna); Dara Latinwo, Senior Consultant at Deloitte; and Dr Ruben Sakrabani, Senior Lecturer in Soil Chemistry at Cranfield University (Chevening Alumnus).

‘Immeasurable impact’

Kanbar Hossein-Bor, the British Deputy High Commisioner to Bangladesh brought the formal proceedings to a close with a talk about pushing boundaries and shaping the future on an individual level. Mr Hossein-Bor reflected on his career in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as a British diplomat after initially coming to the UK as an Iranian child refugee.

Mr Hossein-Bor said: ‘As Chevening Scholars you can have an immeasurable impact on the communities that you have come from.’

The day ended in the Manchester Museum, with scholars discussing what they had heard during the day under the fearsome gaze of Stan, the museum’s tyrannosaurus rex. Stan is approximately 65 million years old, and scholars demonstrated during the day that they are learning from the past in order to shape the future.

To see more from the day, take a look at #CheveningConference19 on Twitter.

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