UK: Call to strengthen UK-US links

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown wants to renew and extend transatlantic links between students, researchers, academics, universities and charities. On the eve of his recent visit to America, Brown said members of his Cabinet had benefited from time at US universities while Bill Clinton was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, and the Marshall and Fulbright scholarships had provided exchanges between the countries for decades. "But I want many more British and American university students to have the chance to study across the Atlantic," he said.

Some universities were already planning to require all their students to spend time abroad as part of their degree, Brown said in an article published in the Wall Street Journal. A group to be convened by leaders of King's College, London and New York University will be looking at how cooperation between UK and US institutions can be intensified.

The PM is proposing cooperation on enterprise with a scheme that champions entrepreneurship among young people in Britain called Make Your Mark, which will link up with the Kauffman Foundation in the US to organise the first Global Entrepreneurship Week in November. He also plans to strengthen research ties in health, climate change and between philanthropic organisations "in the spirit of Andrew Carnegie".

Brown's plans are based on a long-standing tradition of higher education collaboration, not only with America but worldwide. It would be hard to find a British institution that does not have a link of some kind with at least one overseas. Transatlantic ties burgeoned after World War II with the Fulbright and Marshall scholarships.

More recently, organisations such as the Worldwide University Network of 16 research-led universities and the International Alliance of Research Universities, with 10 leading institutions in Europe, China, Australia and America, are promoting links at all levels from undergraduate to senior staff.

Smaller, specialist colleges in the UK are equally involved in international cooperation.

Professor David Baker, chair of GuildHE, whose members include colleges of art and design, education, health, agriculture, music and the performing arts, said his organisation welcomed Brown's recognition of the importance of cooperation between the two countries. "The higher education sector has long been doing this, and not just with the States."

Baker, who is principal of University College Plymouth St Mark and St John (Marjon), said one example of a successful partnership was between Marjon's schools of education and sport and the school of education at the University of North Florida: "We are building on our strengths and common issues in a programme to tackle childhood obesity. We exchange information, staff and students in long-term joint programmes. Around 10 to 12 sport and education students per semester come to Marjon and do placements in local schools, and vice-versa."

UNF and Marjon are talking about working jointly on a teacher education programme in third world Belize, he added.

Alice Hynes, GuildHE's executive secretary, said members would be especially interested in the links around entrepreneurship and business as they took a keen interest in connecting theory and practice. Marjon students are looking forward to the first Global Entrepreneurship Week as they won the last Make Your Mark competition with the idea of a green city.