UK-Australian TNE: time to prioritise collaboration over competition?
UK and Australia have been both competitors and collaborators when it comes to transnational education, but now could be the time to move to a more collaborative engagement, especially given the reshaping the world is going through since the pandemic, stakeholders have suggested.
“We [UK and Australia] know how to do competition, we have been doing that for a very long time, let’s learn how to do collaboration better — there is lots of opportunities for all of us,” Simon Guy, pro-vice-chancellor Global at UK’s Lancaster University, said at the recently held Transnational Education Forum, organised by the International Education Association of Australia.
Guy was among other leading voices at the event calling for more cooperation and collaboration on TNE between the two countries, which compete for marketshare in a highly competitive space.
“We are in a brave new world,” said Eduardo Ramos, head of TNE at UUKi.
“We have been through massive shocks — we have seen borders closed, international students not being able to enter or leave the country, we are facing many threats [including] climate change and the climate emergencies, that the world has not seen in a long long time, I think there is an urgency now to collaborate and we should [come together] to tackle these challenges together. We can do it.
“There is an urgency now to collaborate”
“Collaboration between the two sectors in the UK and Australia can bear far better fruits, over the long term,” Ramos highlighted, pointing to the “very strong” bilateral relationship between the two countries.
“It’s really promising to see the theme of collaboration really come through strongly from all of the panelists, and I think that’s a really good basis for growth,” opined Sophie Fisher, director for Policy & Collaboration, at Australia’s Department of Education.
Alluding to The London Statement and the Vladivostok Communique (that came out of an APEC meeting), as frameworks for facilitating international collaboration on TNE, Phil Honeywood, CEO of IEAA said that deeper collaboration might necessitate stronger “government-to-government action”.
He said that the recent UK-India and Australia-India arrangements on international education might provide “encouragement to the new government [in Australia]” for working towards establishing a “framework for cooperation [with the UK]”, that will then also encourage the institutions in the two countries to engage in deeper collaboration.
Simon Ridings, deputy vice-chancellor (International) and vice-president at Australia’s Edith Cowan University, remarked that collaboration might get a boost organically, as due to the “growing prevalence of online awards and online degrees”, very soon we might have a situation where “more number of Australian students end up being enrolled in UK universities than those enrolled in Australian universities”, as it all can be done online now.
Edith Cowan, together with the University of Portsmouth in the UK, has been nominated in the progressive education category at this year’s PIEoneer Awards for a dual degree program.
Speaking about the current state of affairs in terms of the government and policymaking, Guy said that “despite the soap-opera in Downing Street”, there is a “consistency in policy” that the sector needs to work with.
“For example the collaboration that happens in the UK through the UUKi and all of the universities, who do work together, that’s where the focus needs to be.
“A good example of that is around India,” he highlighted. “There is so much opportunity in India that we need to look at this as a collaborative opportunity, rather than a competitive space. There is a large opportunity in a country such as Indonesia as well. There is enough [in these markets] for everybody and we are going to be able to mature the opportunities better [through] collaboration, than what we are able to do individually, by struggling over each opportunity — whether that’s university versus university or national government versus national government.
“We can’t just wait for national governments to act. Universities need to lead the way, by finding partnerships with other universities between UK and Australia and working through the detail [towards] getting a shared approach, identifying barriers to collaborative opportunities, and engaging governments,” Guy stressed.
“We can’t just wait for national governments to act”
Speaking to the importance of increasing diversity in the sector, Ridings said that it was important for the sector across the UK and Australia was to focus on diversity, which is in fact most about “[ensuring] sustainability”.
“The graduate route in the UK does something that many people here [in Australia] are now trying to do, and that is, in a constructive positive way, make the point that international education has very positive long term consequences, if you treat it carefully in conjunction with policies on [issues such as] — future workforce, employment, skills gap, and national population strategies. It’s something that in Australia, we haven’t looked at as closely as we [perhaps] should have done,” Ridings opined.
Fisher meanwhile said that the two countries were in the process of enhancing the collaboration in TNE and were looking at adoption of best practices from one another.
“At the government-to-government level, Australia and the UK have quite a lot of collaboration happening… one example is the Lisbon Convention, which enables information exchange to support more informed decision making around qualifications recognition… There is also a body of work underway, where Australian qualifications experts and their UK counterparts are working to exchange information with a view to improving reciprocal arrangements for the Australian bachelor’s and bachelor’s honours degrees.”
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