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International update with Professor Helen Higson: April 2010

Professor Helen Higson

In this month’s column, Prof Helen Higson talks to Aspects about the University’s partnership work and collaborative provision and explains how this work is becoming increasingly important in an ever-changing international market.  

One of the huge range of international activities the University engages in is partnership and collaborative provision. Aston has strong and increasing numbers of international students but the international market is one that is rapidly changing. Factors include the huge numbers of universities opening throughout China (this is Aston’s largest recruitment country) and in India (Aston’s second largest recruitment country). A drive on up-skilling the Indian workforce is taking place and this now is not necessarily being outsourced abroad. These have huge implications for the University.

Helen told Aspects that: ‘One of the ways that Aston can stay ahead of the game is through partnership work. The reputation of the University can be built up in a target country by collaborating with its institutions. Increasingly when staff and international agents are abroad, prospective students quite rightly want to know exactly what they will get out of studying at Aston.

‘We have recently had success in this area through several cross university missions. In 2008, all four Schools sent representatives on an intensive visit to Korea and at the end of last year, a similar mission took place in Vietnam. These intensive visits meant that Schools were able to scope out where Aston could add most value, investigate who we might want to partner with and then choose the best possible connections.’

What became clear was that the University needed to be able to move quickly and so a Collaborative Provision Steering Group was established to ensure that Aston’s support processes were more efficient. Aston has two types of partnership agreement: 1. A mutual understanding with a high status institution or where finance isn’t involved – these involve research collaboration, sharing of resources, exchange of students or lecturers - would mean that we would take a ‘light touch’ approach (non legally binding) and this has helped to make some agreements with high level institutions. 2. These are more risky as they could involve the University investing resources or finances - as a result, the University needs to be more careful (although each collaboration does now go through a risk assessment). Aston currently has 85 international partnership agreements.

Helen continues: ‘Each School is developing these partnerships: EAS is working closely with IIT Delhi to help in the development of IIT Ropar. LSS has an MSc in Translation Studies with a Kazakhstan Institution; LHS is developing 2 + 2 degrees (students spend two years in their home country and two years at Aston) in Singapore and Malaysia; ABS have always had many partnerships but recently the School has applied for EU funding to develop closer relationships with a range of universities in the United States.

‘As we review our strategy for 2020 it is going to be hugely important to focus on partnerships and build on our ability to work effectively and react quickly with these partners.’

View partnerships and collaborative provision guidelines

Words by Louise Russell

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