First formal alliance links universities in UK and Australia

The University of Warwick in Britain and Monash University in Australia have established a joint alliance and on Monday announced that Professor Andrew Coats will serve as the alliance’s first academic vice-president and director.

This follows the signing of an agreement earlier this year between the two universities to create an alliance “that will clearly establish both as globally connected universities”.

Coats, who is an accredited physician and cardiologist in the UK and Australia, has extensive experience in applied health. He was CEO of the Norwich Research Park and a professor-at-large at the University of East Anglia. He was also a visiting professor of medicine at the University of Sydney and a consulting professor for research strategy at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The two vice-chancellors, Warwick’s Professor Nigel Thrift and Monash’s Professor Ed Byrne, said that the partnership would help meet the increasing student, industry and government demand for universities to produce graduates with a global education, as well as undertaking research to address “world relevant and strategically important problems that have proved too big for any one institution to address”.

They said a core priority was to deliver “a seamless international experience for students, and prepare them for life in a globally integrated labour market". This would lead to a range of jointly delivered degrees with students undertaking study at both universities.

“Each university brings their own network of international locations that will enhance the other's position as globally connected universities,” Thrift said.

“I believe this will be a highly sought after model for research-led universities.

“The world will sustain perhaps 50 such globally networked research-heavy universities in many locations, which do research in many locations, and which will produce students who will live, learn and research in many locations,” said Thrift.

Byrne added: “Higher education is in a state of great transition globally. Twenty years from now the definition of a university and the nature of tertiary education will be vastly different from what it is today.

“We’re moving towards a future where globally networked university ‘systems’ will be needed to meet rapidly increasing demand in research and education. This alliance anticipates this need and delivers both universities an important first-mover advantage.”

Key initiatives already under way include:
  • • £500,000 (A$775,000) awarded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council under its 'Building Global Engagements' programme for connections in the physical sciences.
  • • A$100,000 (£66,000) received from the Australian government to support student mobility.
  • • A$320,000 (£200,000) from the Australian Research Council to build collaborations in engineering.
  • • Green Steps, Monash University’s sustainability education programme, ran its first international course for students at Warwick in July, with a larger programme planned for 2013.
  • • Students from both universities will co-produce Reinvention, Warwick’s online peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the publication of high quality undergraduate student research from all disciplinary areas.
  • • A joint PhD agreement with course applications and regulations IS being finalised to enable recruitment from late 2012.