Professors Sir Steve Smith and Janice Kay from the University of Exeter joined their counterparts from The University of Queensland to formally sign the MOA

Targeted global higher education collaborations more necessary than ever: university leaders

Targeted global higher education collaborations are more necessary than ever as student populations and sources of funding change, the leaders of two world-leading universities have said.

Professor Peter Høj, Vice Chancellor and President of The University of Queensland, and Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter, were speaking at the first annual QUEX Symposium, as part of the cross-continental research institute and think tank, focused on finding solutions to some of the biggest problems facing mankind.

The QUEX Institute, formed by the two universities last June, enables academics on opposite sides of the globe to pool intellectual resources and expertise, as well as training the next generation of researchers through a competitive joint PhD programme.

The virtual institute, backed by millions of pounds of new investment, will accelerate research into key issues including advancing diagnostics and treatments for dementia, climate change and environmental sustainability and supporting populations to become healthier and live longer.

Professor Høj and Professor Sir Steve Smith took part in an event organised during the symposium called Walking Far Together, where they discussed the future of higher education and took questions from academics and students from both institutions.

Sir Steve outlined the importance of the University of Exeter to the regional economy, and how expertise from Exeter’s academics has transformed both the city and wider region. He said future reforms to student fees and the impact of Britain leaving the European Union would not threaten global research collaboration between universities, but would make it increasingly important.

“it is important that we work with others in areas where we are really strong, and the data show academics can be stronger together. These partnerships will be deep, not extensive, and chosen carefully,” he said.

Sir Steve said it was crucial for universities to use data about the impact of research to develop a strategic plan for the future and recognise institutional strengths.

Professor Høj told those at the event that he predicted there would be a relative shift away from Chinese students studying for undergraduate qualifications abroad and an enhanced focus on postgraduate qualifications  - a shift which is already occurring.,In parallel there would be a greater demand for higher education abroad from Indian students due to hundreds of millions of young Indians  requiring a post high school education going forward.. This may lead to Australian universities having to consider affordability of their courses for international students.

Sir Steve Smith said he believed the strong demand for UK higher education for students from China and India would continue, and universities would need to carefully consider how education could be delivered in different ways, including virtually.

With over £2 million of start-up investment, the new QUEX Institute will produce publications and policy insights offering far-sighted, clear and practical policy advice, based on the latest cutting-edge research. 

An innovative component of the partnership is a new joint PhD programme that offers the most talented doctoral students the opportunity to further their research and benefit from the combined expertise and facilities at both institutions. The Symposium was the first time that the inaugural 10 students came together since commencing their programme in January. Professor Høj told the students they should look to engage with organisations outside of academia and Sir Steve said the PhD students would be supported both during their studies and as they embark on their future career.

The University of Exeter is a member of the Russell Group (UK), and and is known for its strong research base. The University of Queensland (UQ) is a member of the “Group of Eight” leading universities in Australia and ranked well inside the world’s top 100 universities. It tops Australia in life sciences, according to the Times Higher Education and Leiden Rankings and was recently rated number one in the world for Biodiversity Conservation by the Centre for World University Rankings.



Date: 24 April 2018

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