UK/US Institution Alliance Aims for Collaborative Growth

Times Higher Education, March 27, 2014 | Go to article overview

UK/US Institution Alliance Aims for Collaborative Growth


Birmingham and Illinois pledge coordination on research from the bottom up. Paul Jump reports

A pioneering formal tie-up between a UK university and a US university promises to be much more than a "mountain that brings forward a mouse", a vice-chancellor has pledged.

David Eastwood, vice-chancellor of the University of Birmingham, said that the strategic alliance between his institution and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was "probably unique at the moment in terms of its breadth and depth".

It is thought to be one of the first substantive links between a US and a UK institution. University College London has a collaboration agreement with Yale University, but it is largely focused on biomedicine. Other major collaborations have taken place with other countries, such as the University of Warwick's alliance with Australia's Monash University announced in 2012.

Professor Eastwood said previous efforts to set up strategic international collaborations had typically adopted a "top-down" approach that had yielded little on the ground.

Instead, the Birmingham-Illinois collaboration - to be known as the Bridge alliance - will be built on four years of bottom-up growth in collaborative projects between the two universities, which now number about 25 in 14 disciplines.

According to Malcolm Press, pro vice-chancellor for research and knowledge transfer at Birmingham, the collaborations were encouraged by the provision of central funding on condition that schools and departments matched it - to make sure "we didn't do anything that didn't make academic sense to colleagues".

He said the formal agreement guaranteed that both universities would promote the scheme and provide three years of further funding to explore additional collaborations, including in teaching and professional services.

"We are almost treating each other as preferred partners, particularly with regard to something like [the European Union's research funding programme] Horizon 2020," he said. …

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