Despite the pandemic, several students of the Global Campus of Human Rights Asia Pacific (GC Asia Pacific) were able to successfully defend their thesis between the months of August and September 2020. This is an accomplishment given that students are often unable to travel, or even stranded in another country.

Normally the thesis defenses in the Asia Pacific Master of Arts in Human Rights and Democratisation (APMA) program are done at one of the five universities of the GC Asia Pacific network: Mahidol University, the Ateneo de Manila University, Gadjah Mada University, Kathmandu School of Law and the University of Colombo.  However, travel bans have made this difficult, if not nearly impossible.

Five APMA students have nonetheless recently completed their defense. Sally Escutin, who wrote about trafficking of girls in Nepal, and Saittawut Yutthaworakool, whose research centered on trans women in Sri Lanka, both successfully defended their theses in August. On the other hand, Korima Begum, Thidar Soe and Irshad Ahmed all defended their theses during the month of September.

All the defenses were conducted online with the cooperation of the University of Colombo Center for the Study of Human Rights and the Kathamndu School of Law, as member universities of the GC Asia Pacific, co-organized the said activities. “With the public health crisis going on, it’s been a real challenge making sure that students can get the best education we can give,” said Dr. Mike Hayes, GC Asia Pacific program director.

Many universities, including those under the GC Asia Pacific network, were forced to shut down due to restrictions brought about by the pandemic. Students, including those studying under the APMA program, faced significant hurdles in field research and data gathering. Many had to stay at home or change their research strategies.

“We’re fortunate we have both dedicated students and staff who are willing to go the extra distance despite these challenging times,” said Dr. Bencharat Sae Chua, GC Asia Pacific assistant Program Director. “We’re confident that the network and the universities under it can adapt to the changing learning environment and can successfully guide students in finishing their study programs.”##

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